Preserving The Oral HistorIES of Combat Veterans


Bill Gessner | 1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Attached) - Navy

5:04   |   He didn't hold onto a lot of names from way back then, but Bill Gessner did serve in Vietnam with a few men who made an indelible impression on him, both Corpsmen and Marines.

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Keywords   :     Bill Gessner    Corpsman    Vietnam    Cobra    snake    Frank Shafer    Francis (Frank) Shafer    Charles (Chuck) Boynton    David (Dave) Wethington

Videos ( 9 )
  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Attached)  |  6:04

    After an idyllic youth growing up fishing, swimming and boating, Bill Gessner had a rude awakening when his first job out of high school was in a hot, miserable factory. A few weeks of that and he began talking to a Navy recruiter. At eighteen, he signed up and was singled out for his test scores and it was suggested he be either a Yeoman or a Corpsman.

  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  Multiple Units  |  4:07

    Bill Gessner was at the advanced level of Navy Corpsman training when the reality of Vietnam hit home. Leave was cut short and orders were cut for him to join the Fleet. There was a huge need for replacement Corpsmen in the expanding war. He got lucky and served a Mediterranean tour first, which gave him a chance to train hard with a Marine unit. This may have saved his life later.

  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Attached)  |  3:23

    Before Navy Corpsman Bill Gessner was attached to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, they already had the nickname, The Walking Dead, based on their high casualty rate. When he arrived at the unit, an artillery barrage was just beginning. Welcome to Vietnam.

  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Attached)  |  4:52

    The terrain was eerie, old banana plantations with encroaching jungle. Navy Corpsman Bill Gessner was on a sweep near the DMZ and had no action on this operation. It was his next patrol that turned into a full blown firefight during a VC ambush. A slick outflanking maneuver took care of that.

  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Attached)  |  7:23

    Navy Corpsman Bill Gessner was treating wounded in the field near Camp Evans when the call came, evacuate the company by helicopter back to Camp Evans. The entire battalion was being airlifted to Khe Sanh, where he would spend the next 77 days in intense fighting and artillery barrages.

  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Attached)  |  4:29

    One of the first things you learned at Khe Sanh was when it was safe to go to the bathroom. Bill Gessner remembers that and other lessons like learning the difference between incoming and outgoing artillery. There were bad things, like the occasional shortages of food and water, and good things, like B-52 strikes on the enemy.

  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Attached)  |  3:15

    During the long series of battles around Khe Sanh, Navy Corpsman Bill Gessner treated many wounded Marines. In one operation, after assaulting a hill, they found an enemy supply complex, with ammunition and medical supplies used to support the enemy attempts to evict the Americans.

  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Attached)  |  8:45

    The fighting was hard. One company was ambushed and the other two were having a hard time breaking through to support it. Corpsman Bill Gessner was in the thick of the fight and as he was treating a wounded Marine, a hand grenade came into the hole and wounded him and killed two others.

  • Bill Gessner  |  Vietnam  |  Multiple Units  |  6:57

    He didn't have any unpleasant encounters with anti-war protestors until he was out of the service and enrolled in college. Ex-Navy Corpsman Bill Gessner also began to experience symptoms of PTSD, which he overcame with the help of his wife. Despite his tough experience in Vietnam, he loved being a soldier and sought a second military experience in the Army.

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