Saber Article Index

2001 Sep-Oct

MEDEVAC 15th Med\15th FSB
Mike Bodnar
307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522
1704 254-542-1961
E-mail: mbodnar27@juno.com

Thomas BREAUX TLBREAU@AOL.COM from Natchitoches, LA writes in that he was in C Co. 15th MED '68-'69 and was a Medical Specialist in the ward. He Would like to hear from anyone from Charlie Company.

Dennis STANKIEWICZ DENNY1CAV@WEBTV.NET who was in Phuoc Vinh '68-'69 wrote in to say, "I know this is a long shot but I desperately need to find anyone who remembers treating my left arm for a small wound in either April or May '69 at Phuoc Vinh. I need this to obtain my VA claim. Please help!"

LTC Carle E. DUNN, USA-Ret. CDUNN7738@362AVNCO.COM from SC whose Web site: "362nd Aviation Company- The Last Hookers" HTTP://www.362avnco.com responded to the MEDEVAC\15th MED Assn. Web site: "An absolutely excellent site that pays homage to the most important group of Army Aviators in history. They were everyone's lifeline that never failed."

MSG (Ret) Bill DOLINGER WADOLINGER@WEBTV.NET from Petersburg, VA says that he was in HHC and Co A 15th MED Bn '68-'69.

Julio A. MARTINEZ CHESSFREAK182@AOL comments: "I was in the 15th MED C Company from '82 to '85. Any of you crazy guys out there? I remember all of you."

I got snail mail from Randy CAVANAUGH, P.O. Box 87161, San Diego, CA 92138. I believe that I mentioned Randy before in the Saber. He says that he was a Medic in C Co 15th MED Jan to Dec '68. He writes that he would like to know how many WIA and KIA came through C Co in '68. He says that somebody kept a record of that. If anybody reading this kept those records please respond. The National Archives may have that information; write to them, call them, see if they are online.

Randy reflects: "Sometimes reading the Saber I get the feeling people are thinking being with the CAV was a big, fun Boy Scout campout! I didn't have any fun-it was a nightmare- getting out and home with your body in one piece was the best you could hope for. Does anybody remember Graves Registration? So many young men-who looked all alike. I can't forget."

I know what Randy is talking about. Medics like myself, Jim HALL, Joe DENNISON, and others whom I cannot name did our best out in the field humping in the infantry and then flying on MEDEVAC to keep those wounded men alive. Sometimes it was beyond our control and they were KIA.

On the less serious side, which is how I learned from the grunts to take it, but I rarely did, that is how they were. Make the best of your situation. There seemed to them to be no purpose suffering anymore than one had to, so make it as fun as possible. I think that G.I.s have always been that way for the most part. As they say in TX: "If you ain't having fun it's your own damn fault."

When it came to being serious, those grunts, and I am sure everyone in the CAV, knew how to turn it on, as the CAV usually prevailed. I saw more than one F.N.G. gets his mind blown on his first day out in the field. They expected hell and instead found a bunch of good old boys who had made it home.

I remember one time in Cambodia flying around during the day, basically on call, and monitoring one CAV grunt unit who was in contact, hearing the screams and panic over the radio when they and the cache they had captured suddenly were attacked by numerous N.V.A. Later that night we went in to extract at least one individual who was a Medic in that unit. They had him in a straight jacket because he went crazy after his buddies had been WIA/KIA. That is what I assumed from what was said.

In those incidents, and life in combat in general, you have to forget about it and just move on. If you do not, you are next!

I received follow up snail mail from MEDEVAC crew chief, 10- '71 to 01-'72, Doug CAMPBELL, C/0 389 Monaco Avenue, Union City, CA. He wrote say thanks for being included in the Saber. Of course, that's the idea. He said that it is important for him and his "guys" to be: "Included with the MEDEVACers who went before and established the high level of dedication to the mission that we felt and tried to sustain."

Doug also wrote to correct that while he was there they were only "talking about painting the MEDEVACs white." Doug says that they did not do that while he was still there. Looking over the book: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam, I do not see any definite date when that happened. It mentions them "talking about it in mid-1971," as Doug states, and that it was approved in August for the Army Medical Command in Vietnam and some of their aircraft. It may never have happened to MEDEVAC unless someone can confirm that and when it did go into effect.

If ever I do not include an address for someone, like Doug's in the last Saber, remember, as members of the 1st Cav Assn. you can get information on any other member from them. You can call them at 1-800-234-9313. They are user friendly.

I somehow completely forgot to take advantage of that option when I mentioned in the last Saber the death of Jim HALL. I wanted to include his address to better identify him in the event that there would be any confusion. I tried to contact Doc MCNANEY for that information because he had relayed to me the original notification but I could not contact him. Jim's MEDEVAC PSG from 1969, Gordon RUSSELL GRDNRUSSELL@AOL.COM contacted me to confirm if it was the Jim HALL who had served under Gordon. I figured it was but I just found out that the Assn. had that information when I asked them to confirm that from a 1992 Reunion sign in roster sent to me by a 15th MED veteran, Dick GLOAR, who knew Jim. And so, Jim HALL, whom I had mentioned, was from P.O.B. 952, Lillington, NC 27546. He signed into that '92 roster as 15th MED '66-'73.

I had heard that Jim had been in and out of 15th MED-on MEDEVAC-a lot and that he had been a Medic in the 7th Cav. He may have left just before I flew on MEDEVAC from Jan-Jul '70 and he may have returned, but not until I had left. I think that he retired from an Army career, as a FSG. The times when I met and saw Jim at the Reunions he was quiet, passive, and a nice guy. But, I think that the tiger lurked within.

Dick GLOAR  of 2613 92nd St. S, Lakewood, WA 98499, who sent snail mail in response to my quest for necessary input from 15th MED veterans, also retired as a 1SG. Dick says that he rode out to the Cambodian border on Jim HALL's MEDEVAC and was almost left behind when he got off to help with the wounded. A helpful act, but not one recommended if you want a guaranteed ride back. That, I think, was up north in Vietnam and not in III Corps.

Dick says that he joined B Co 15th MED on the Golf Course at An Khe. He mentions names like the "Turkey Farm" by II Corps HQ and in the Fall of '66 operated out of Oasis, which was by the Cambodian border in II Corps. He says they then went to base camp at the beginning of '67 and was made HQ 1SG under LTC William DONNEY (Could be Denny. If there are any inaccuracies here it is because I am deciphering handwriting; e-mail or typing is always better). He says that he had to supervise a lot of building to get out of their tents. There was no help from the Engineers so it was work done by those who benefitted from it, including the quarrying of cement gravel from Hon Cong Mt. and then mixing and pouring it.

Dick says that as long as they were working their butts off he felt that morale deserved a boost and put up the sign: "Through These Doors Passed the Best Damn Medics in the World." He says that a MEDEVAC crew once brought in a wild pig by litter which had to be roasted in a pit BBQ and eaten.

Dick mentioned his former 15th MED B Co at LZ English in June '67 was right next to the ammo dump with only a dirt berm between them when it blew up and that only deep bunkers and overhead saved a lot of lives. He says that he went back to B Co in the Fall of '67. The battalion commander, LTC Rex DAVIS, picked him up there, bag and baggage, and flew in a full maintenance helicopter, with no room to spare, up to LZ Baldy. Dick says that on the way they spotted a body on the beach so they stopped to pick it up. He says that he had to give up his seat and stand in the bent leaning rest position. Also, the body had been in the water for 12-15 days and smelled of decay. The maintenance officer pilot then flew map of the earth all the way to Baldy to avoid any extra maintenance like patching up holes, to say the least.

Upon arrival at LZ Baldy Dick says that the "colonel" informed him that he was to be 1SG of the company there. Company improvement seemed to be nothing new to Dick. He was also later told that body they had picked up was a Marine.

Dick's new company was A 15th MED, in G-P medium tents, on the side of a rice paddy. Graves Registration was in the company area, also in a tent, which provided more odors so he says. He says that they had no room for the MEDEVACs to land so he had to have the Marine Engineers make the rice paddy smaller and the MEDEVAC pad bigger. He says that he had a fine M.D. as CO., That was CPT Donald BANTON (could be BASTON or BARTON, again, I am deciphering).

In the Fall of '67 Dick says that they moved from Baldy, through Danang, over Monkey Mt., through Hue, up to Camp Evans, just before Tet '68 when he finished his second volunteer tour to get out of Ft. Sam Houston. He retired after twenty-five years as FSG of the Medical Holding Company at Madigan Army Hospital with 1800 patients.

Dick then worked for the Veterans Administration which explains why his five page letter to me was written on VA Form 7051b DATA SHEET. He says that although he now makes WA state his home he was born on a ranch west of Childress, TX and raised in East TX near Yantis. If you want to call him he gives (253)584-6625.

I had recently researched the military unit awards books in the 1st Cav Assn. office to correct and update my DD-214 which I finally managed to do after thirty years of trying with the military records department. I noticed a unit citation for 15th MED in an Army update which is not in a previous edition. I had not known about that and the military records department did not include that when I had originally applied for the medals awarded to me that I had never been issued.

If you were in 15th MED-all companies-from 1 May 70 to 31 Jan 71 then you are authorized the Meritorious Unit Commendation. This according to DA PAM 672-3 UPDATE from the TAPC MIL UNIT & CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION REGISTER. Someone must have thought that we were doing an extra good job then. If you e-mail a request to me I will send a scanned copy of that above award evidence by e-mail which you can print out and submit to the records corrections department if it is not already on your DD-214. It worked for me.

I have looked at many, many Web sites and one of the best sites that I have seen yet is for C 2\5 Cav HTTP://www.tallcomanche.org . I had seen the link for it on a 1st Cav Assn. Web site Guestbook sign in that was by their Webmaster or someone close. I look at most of those unit Web site links that veterans post but that unit in particular struck a chord because I knew it to be the unit that James ESTEP was briefly the CO of from Dec '67 to Mar '68 before he was severely wounded as Comanche Six. That is also the name of his excellent and believable book which I was reading at the time.

When I first went to their site there was hardly anything on it. The next time that Webmaster, or close associate, signed into the 1st Cav Guestbook I took another look, as a reminder, even though I had bookmarked it. This time I saw myriads of information that chronicles by years, months, and days, the history of C 2\5 Cav from its arrival in Vietnam until it departed, with after action reports, names of participants, photos submitted by them, and extra, personal stories.

I initially looked over some selected dates and more specifically the times in 1969 when my field company, C 2\7 Cav, was in regular contact not far away. For those times I noticed some praise for MEDEVAC by C 2\5 while they were also in heavy contact. For June 19, 20, and 21 ('69)-you can read the full text on their Web site; I realize that many readers are not yet online so I include here:

"Comanche was again working out of LZ Ike in the vicinity of the Mustang trail...Both the Platoon Leader, LT PAUL, and the Platoon Sergeant, SSG Richard FUJIWARA, were severely wounded. The 'L-T' was taken over to the company CP with a sucking chest wound. The only way he could breath was to prop him up. He even wanted a cigarette, but some strong words from the company commander and the senior medic helped change his mind. LT PAUL would have died that night if not for the bravery of a MEDEVAC crew. Though there was no place to set down a helicopter, a small LZ was blown with C4 wrapped around the right trees. Even with some sniper fire coming in, and the tips of the blade slapping the trees, the bird came in and got him. During the night, we had Spooky on station. At our FO's direction, he would hose down an area with mini- guns."

For July 21 - 22 ('69): "A call was made for MEDEVAC and a bird came in and hovered over a bomb crater that we illuminated with trip flares. We loaded the wounded, and off they went. The next day a resupply bird refused to land in daylight where a MEDEVAC had landed at night while taking fire."

That was the MEDEVAC that I knew as a field Medic and my 11B buddies had also praised, and why I extended to serve in their team to do more. I noticed that MEDEVAC door gunner Mike SMITH signed into the C 2\5 Cav Web site Guestbook:

"Mike 'tater' Smith MVANCO@AOL.COM  Greenleaf, Id USA I was assigned to C 2\5 Cav from: no Comments: I served with 1st Cav 15th Med "Medevac" as a door gunner 69-70 and had the honor to pull a few missions with the C 2\5. I was shot down in Cambodia during the big push in 1970 and Medevaced back to the world. If it hadn't been for the brave 'grunts' on the ground I would have been killed or captured. There were a lot of brave men in Vietnam and I welcome them all HOME!

Mike 'tater' Smith President of The 15th Med assoc. - Tue Jul 17 11:45:47 2001"

My CO from C 2\7 Cav '69, Bob MEAGER, is writing his own book and asked me for my view of a mortar attack we had on May 01, '69. I always wondered why so many men in the prone and supine positions were so badly fragged, KIA and WIA, other than the sheer force and killing power of the 82mm mortars. For June 20th, '69, the same day that C 2\7 can note in the bad casualty column and have that burned in our minds, I noticed a comment on the C 2\5 Web site for an almost identical incident of theirs' as our mortaring on May 1st that I referred Bob to:

"When the mortar attack came, it was very heavy. 3/6 caught the brunt of the attack, and one mortar round landed in the CP foxhole. During the attack, many of the rounds burst in the tree branches overhead, showering us with shrapnel. Even if you were down in your hole, you could get hit."

That could very well have been what happened in our situation. Tree bursts could have done the damage that we had experienced. I was only about twenty meters from where the rounds landed. I did not hear anything that sounded like high detonation but it could have happened. The results were evidence even though the worst casualties were at the impact area.

We even had one direct hit on a hole as C 2\5 did. Our Daily Journal lists six line ones and five line twos, plus me. I was not with the company after that to critique the reason why guys laying on the ground were hit so badly. I spent the next eleven days in the 93rd Evac hospital, receiving a Purple Heart, while they continued to bring in more casualties from C 2\7 and my platoon needed me. The information on the C 2\5 Web site was useful after all these years.

As well as identical incidents between C 2\5 and C 2\7 Cavs, our jungle flora was probably also identical. 2\5's LZ Ike was at XT338719 and 2\7's LZ Jamie was at XT482715, adjacent A.O.s, only about fifteen klicks Echo-Whiskey. Where C 2\7 got mortared on May 1st was at XT420789 which was about as close as possible to 2\5's A.O. and probably somewhere near where C 2\5 was mortared. Sprague TAVEAU, whom I have mentioned before, was then the CO of A 2\7 whom we took over from on May 1st and they had been working with the 11th A.C.R.  clearing out a N.V.A. hospital complex. That is where we had set up, next to bloated, dead N.V.A. piled up like cord wood, and a pile of G.I. equipment which indicated that there had been a battle there.

Bob MEAGER was an Airborne Ranger and had been a platoon leader in the 101st in '66 op-conned to the 1st Cav at Tuy Hua. I introduced him to Chan DURYEA at the 54th Reunion in June. Chan was CO of C 2\7 Cav in '66 and working the same area at the same time where Bob was in the 101st. They had a good talk.

EVERYONE has a story. I and the other Saber readers want to read your CAV stories. So get your creative energies going and send yours to me; preferably e-mail, it is easier to cut and paste your exact words. Typed snail mail is OK, and handwritten is better than nothing. Anything MEDEVAC\15th MED 1st Cav for this column. You may have more to be proud of than you think! Write two or three; also, it has to be true! Remember, carpe diem! That does not mean dead fish, it means WRITE your heart out, and be famous, it's later than you think!

Always remembering our 1st Cav troops on duty around the world; over and out.

FIRST TEAM!
Garryowen,
Mike Bodnar C 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70
SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE