4:51 | Can I cut the mustard? Tom Agnew was apprehensive on the way to Vietnam and wondering if he was up to the task. He was assigned as a medic in a helicopter evacuation unit, known as Dustoff. On one of his first missions, he learned not to triage the wounded too quickly. (Caution: coarse language.)
Keywords : Tom Agnew medic Vietnam Chu Lai I Corps Americal Division Montagnards Harry Newling Graham Bose John Dilman Jimmy Powell check ride Dustoff
Tom Agnew was an Army brat who always wanted to be a soldier and a hero. When it was his term to serve, Uncle Sam decided he would be a medic. He was apolitical, so it didn't bother him that he may go to war in Vietnam. He would be going to try and save lives.
You could get a lot of ground fire when you were going in to land at a hot LZ. Medic Tom Agnew remembers a lot of them, especially the one which he departed dangling from the end of a cable. While he was out there, a tracer round went by his head and made him angry, so he took out his pistol and fired back, which must have greatly amused his antagonist.
After a huge typhoon devastated Chu Lai, Tom Agnew was sent to a different Dustoff unit at Da Nang. The job was the same, medical evacuation. This late in the war, it was more often ARVN troops.
Something good can still come out of a bad war. Modern EMS was borne from lessons learned in Vietnam by combat medics such as Tom Agnew. He passed on those lessons while training emergency medical personnel in his postwar career. First he had to deal with protestors and a tendency to hit the deck when he heard a loud noise.
Paul Jacobs, who commanded several ships during the Vietnam War, muses over the need to kill the enemy in the course of his job, as well as the need to pivot towards humanitarian duties when required. The sorry spectacle of politicians managing wars when it should be left to the military is a sore point with him.
Already a capable engineer and a pilot, Al Matheson moved into classified work when he joined the Air Force and was soon flying huge circles in planes full of electronics. This sophisticated operation led to a grand scheme known in the Kennedy administration as the McNamara Wall.
They tried to put fighter and test pilot Bob Titus in logistics, but he wasn't going to sit at a desk and order supplies. He managed to avoid that fate and went to his third war in Vietnam to test new planes in a combat situation. Once that was over, he extended with another unit and scored three MiG kills.
Army engineer Jack Martin was offered his choice of assignments. It could be Korea or Vietnam but he hated cold weather so much, he chose Vietnam. His first assignment was at a desk in Long Binh, but his career got a boost when he was offered command of a battalion. He jumped at the chance and faced a host of challenging situations. (This interview made possible with the support of BARBARA SHELDON in honor of Joseph Graham.)
After his Vietnam tour, Arthur Hurst continued stateside as an Army Air Traffic Controller. Then he had to go on temporary disabled status when he developed lung problems from handling Agent Orange at air fields in Vietnam. He responded to new medications but was forced to retire form the service. He describes how he was exposed and how he could spot booby traps when he was there.
"We don't want your equipment!" Communications engineer Mac McCahan was trying to improve military telephone service in Vietnam and he had to repeatedly reassure units that he wasn't tying to take over, just trying to make the system work better.
While setting up base camp, communications officer Bud Alley had to take on extra duty as mess officer, taking over from his friend John Howard. When the commander heard that Alley was asking to go out on combat patrols, he told him to assemble a squad from all the headquarters and support personnel and give the cooks a taste of life outside the wire. He also accompanied medics making sick calls to the local civilians.
After his initial aviation training, Dick Dyer was sent to Fort Rucker, where he learned to pilot Hueys, the Bell UH-1 helicopter used by the Army. He knew he was slated for Vietnam and he was prepared for that. What he was not prepared for was his father's reaction.
Bruce D'Agostino's most vivid memory of Vietnam is leaving. Instead of waiting on a commercial flight, he hopped a military plane to his home base in Japan. Climbing aboard in darkness, he was startled when the lights came on and revealed the plane's cargo. His life was changed during that flight.
Marine Paul Van Riper explains some of the problems associated with the M-16 rifle and how they were addressed in Vietnam. His issued weapon was a .45 pistol, but he always carried an M-16 and advocated for all officers to do so. His advocacy of daily ice cream in the mess hall got him into a bit of trouble with his battalion commander.
Newly commissioned out of ROTC at Dartmouth, Beirne Lovely went to the basic school at Quantico where he received a lot of grief for switching over from the Army. Soon, he and fraternity brother John Feltner were on their way to Vietnam, concerned that all the combat jobs would be gone before they got there. Not a problem, as it turned out.
Pat Richardson's helicopter was blown up at Phu Loi, but he wasn't in it and it wasn't the enemy that blew it up. While it was up on the rack for maintenance, from out of nowhere a rocket screamed in and it erupted in a huge fireball. As the men on the base scrambled for cover, it became clear that it wasn't Charlie shooting at them.
The best day of his tour in Vietnam was the day he got the hell out of there. He had missed his tight knit family, particularly during the holidays. But before John E. Walker could see them, he had to face a gauntlet of angry protesters. Now, after a long career which included Desert Storm, he appreciates the apologies he sometimes hears.
Marshall Carter went for the Marines when he graduated from West Point to escape the family business. His father and grandfather were both West Point graduates who were in the Army. They considered the Marines a small service with limited career opportunities, but to Carter, that was no problem.
Jim Lawrence could only watch as A-1E Skyraiders turned the tide at the battle of Landing Zone Albany. He'd been shot in the head and couldn't move his legs. After evacuation, the first doctor he saw had a bedside manner that was lacking. Part 5 of 5.