15:07 | The RPG that severed Joe McDonald’s foot didn’t kill him. The machine gun fire that hit him as he still tried to help others didn’t kill him. The grenade taped to his hand might have killed him if the VC had found his hiding place.
Keywords : Joe McDonald Civil Affairs Team Montagnard VC Viet Cong sapper .45 pistol air evac amputation
Draftee Joe McDonald was in the infantry but suddenly found himself in medic training. Then less than 6 hours after landing in Vietnam, he was on his way to the field.
After his first combat experience, medic Joe McDonald was told he was not required to pull wounded soldiers from live fire, but he felt differently. His chief task was to stop the bleeding and get the wounded stabilized for evacuation.
Just as he heard of his promotion, medic Joe McDonald narrowly missed the mortar blast that claimed the life of his friend. Back in combat, rushing to relieve a unit under attack, he stumbled upon a scene of horrible atrocity.
In Vietnam, Joe McDonald helped Montagnard villagers engineer their water supply and increase their crop yields. But back home, speaking at schools, the parents didn’t believe him, saying in Vietnam we were only bombing and killing people.
Joe McDonald served 6 months each in San Antonio, Ft. Meade, Vietnam, and the hospital. Unfortunately, he had to face the public abuse known to so many Vietnam vets.
Medic Roger Lutz was young and idealistic. He enthusiastically participated in many Medical Civilian Action Programs, or MEDCAPS, while he was in Vietnam. He really enjoyed treating the villagers, more than he did treating the scammers trying to get sent to the rear with a self-inflicted injury.
It wasn't any ragtag Viet Cong, it was a battalion of NVA that was assaulting the artillery battery where Sammy Davis was stationed in the Mekong Delta. After an RPG hit his gun, he regained consciousness and found his position nearly overrun. After firing every round he had, he saw a wounded American on the other side of the river. He knew what he had to do and his actions brought him consideration for the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.
When you're under fire, you drop to the ground. When you're the medic and someone is shot, you have to crawl on the ground to the wounded man, hence the term "Lizard." Roger Lutz describes the job of a Lizard in Vietnam, when he was doing exactly that.
When someone at work made a comment that America had lost the Vietnam War, Roye Wilson was shocked. Our soldiers never lost a battle there. The politicians decided they would leave and they did. To him, it was an honorable enterprise and the only right course at the time and it is his belief that it contributed to the fall of Soviet communism.
It was the most intense action he saw during the war. Mike Morris describes the hour long battle with an NVA unit that made an unusual frontal assault. When daylight came, it was a grim scene, with hundreds of enemy dead.
Following a harrowing first day of combat, Tom Buchan was surprised to find hot food flown in and cots to sleep on. He managed to finally get himself on a tank crew through sheer will and intelligence. It was the day he helped out one of the APC crews, though, that earned him recognition.
It was hard to find the enemy. Charlie would disappear into his holes and only come out once the Marines of Mike company had left. Richard Jackson's men tried probing the ground with sharp sticks, but they broke too easily. What they needed was steel. Thus was born the "Mike Spike." Part 1 of 2.
There was incoming fire all the time, recalls medic Roger Lutz, whose unit was fighting its way toward Khe Sanh where Marines were besieged. He was way too close to a B-52 strike and then he was cut off from all resupply for days during this hard fought battle. Part 2 of 3.
While he was beginning his shift as the night duty officer, Lawson Magruder would marvel at the wrecked helicopters brought back to base. The brigade had moved and tactics had not been adjusted for the fact that there were anti-aircraft batteries up near the DMZ. He relates the story of LT Dick Anshus and a downed pilot who were captured.
The Air Force rescue crews flying the big helicopters known as the Jolly Green Giants began to get respect among the pilots of other services because they excelled at retrieving downed airmen. Pilot Dave Oliver was on one such mission, which was going badly, when the commander asked if was he willing to go in without waiting for backup. The situation was dire for the men on the ground so the answer was affirmative. He would be awarded the Silver Star for this action.
At the end of his Vietnam tour, medic Roger Lutz extended it because he just couldn't leave his guys. When he did get home, he found that no one wanted to talk about the war or recognize and honor those who fought it. It was different when he volunteered for Desert Storm.
It could be tough getting resupplied in the field in Vietnam. Medic Marvin Cole nearly had a Chinook land on top of him in the fog. He and his medical platoon performed missions treating civilians in their villages and he relates a chilling story of a child used by the enemy to attack one of these operations.
Platoon leader Bill Pearson sent out a squad to set up a night ambush and when they made contact, it was with a much larger VC force. With the rest of the platoon, he set out to find them and bring them back. When he located the besieged squad, the battle became intense and they were in danger of being wiped out. In a desperation move, he called in artillery on his own position.
Finally, they were in Khe Sanh. As his unit arrived to relieve the besieged Marine base, Roger Lutz remembers getting apples from the ARVN troops after having no resupply for days. After clearing the area of enemy, the next destination for the air mobile was the A Shau Valley. Part 3 of 3.
His company command at the Cua Viet River was just the way Richard Jackson liked it. He was given free reign to take care of his area. He describes the tactics he used to fight the enemy and recalls one memorable fight in which his men and an NVA unit charged at each other in darkness.
After the column was devastated by an NVA ambush, wounded Americans were scattered in the darkness. After his captain heard one such group calling for help on the radio, Freddie Owens joined a patrol to find them, guided by a gunshot every few minutes. Once there, medic Daniel Torres volunteered to stay with those who couldn't move and protected them through the night with medicine and a machine gun.
Just as his company was getting involved in some heavy action in the Iron Triangle, medic Roger Lutz was transferred to the battalion aid station. He had been in the field for eleven months, the promised six month rotation never happened for him. After he left, his company was nearly wiped out when they inadvertently landed right in the middle of an NVA stronghold.
One night, while Laurie was eating dinner, the USS Sanctuary got a call about a plane crash. She vividly remembers the patients coming aboard, and the aftermath of this incident, including one boy who was MIA. However, as difficult as this experience was, this was nothing compared to the Tet Offensive. They had new wounded coming in constantly, and trying to care for all of them at once was emotionally exhausting. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
In a letter home, Tommy Clack expressed his worry that something bad was going to happen and it did when his unit engaged the NVA near the Cambodian border. He saw the enemy soldier stand and fire the RPG that changed his life forever.
The 7th Cavalry was constantly in the field. You slept on the ground and kept on the move. Medic Roger Lutz recalls treating the wounded as the unit moved to support operations in Hue during the Tet Offensive.
As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
It was at LZ Pepper that a Chinook crashed right on top of medic Roger Lutz. He was fine but there were others who were seriously injured. Shortly after this, he had a hard time dealing with the death of a soldier who fell prey to a Bouncing Betty.
The RPG that severed Joe McDonald’s foot didn’t kill him. The machine gun fire that hit him as he still tried to help others didn’t kill him. The grenade taped to his hand might have killed him if the VC had found his hiding place.
They were hunkered down after fierce fighting when the call came from "Ghost 4-6." It was a group of wounded men who had pulled themselves together after the ill fated march to LZ Albany and were lost in the dark. George Forrest sent a patrol to find them, and in an incredible act of bravery, medic Daniel Torres stayed through the night with them and saved many men. Captain Forrest still had to write a gut-wrenching letter to the mother of a missing soldier. Part 3 of 4.
When medic Roger Lutz arrived in Vietnam, he was assigned to the 7th Cavalry, which he found out later was George Armstrong Custer's old unit. He was first based at Phan Thiet, where the action was light, then the unit moved to the Ia Drang Valley.
When your time until rotation is short, you get a lot more cautious. Lucio Lopez remembers when his time in Vietnam was almost up and he went to visit a wounded friend in the hospital. That Marine was bitter about getting hit so close to leaving. (Caution: coarse language.)
Roger Lutz was having a good life in northern California when he was drafted. Cars and girls gave way to training, which turned out to be OK, thanks to lasting friendships he made there. The young medic then shipped out from San Francisco, headed to Vietnam.