Saber Article Index

2006 Mar-Apr

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

Cory SCHAEFER csny79@gmail.com of Commack, NY writes: "Did anyone here serve with or know my father, Charles SCHAEFER of New York? My Dad was a Spec 4, HSC, 15th Medical, 1st Cavalry Division Air Mobile, '66-'67, An Khe. He was also a handyman and cook. He's now happily retired in South Florida, after 40 years in the construction field. His e-mail is: nikkiboyz@aol.com . Please respond if you knew him or served with him. Thank you..."

Anthony CRAWFORD <crawford1872001@yahoo.com> from Vaux Hall, NJ signs in: "Cpl., B Co, 15th FSB, Desert Storm."

Art SEVELIUS art_sevelius@hotmail.com replied to me: "Mike, I believe we exchanged e-mails several years ago. I took Tim JACKMAN's place as executive officer of Headquarters and Support Company (HSC), 15th Medical Battalion, from November 1970 to May 1971 taking the battalion colors back to Ft Hood. I worked both operationally and administratively daily with the MEDEVAC platoon. FIRST TEAM!...Art"

15th MED Assn. President Murray GIBBS wrote to inform everyone that the Silver Club Hotel & Casino is going out of business at the end of March, and it's necessary to move to a new hotel. The 2006 Reunion will be held at the Sands Regency Casino & Hotel on the same dates, June 22-25, 2006. Room rates are a little more, but the dinner is still the same price.

Murray says, "We just happened to have our Reunion during the same week of the Rodeo and other activities. It was a little more difficult for our VP/Reunion Coordinator Jim CALIBRO to relocate our Reunion location during this time and period, but considering redoing it again, he did an excellent job.."

To find out the latest 2006 Reunion information go to the Website at: <http://groups.msn.com/15thMEDASSOCIATION/reunioninfo.msnw>

Charles SCHAEFER, a member of the 15th MED Assn. is looking for information about a Vietnam soldier buddy. His name is Robert BURKS. We have his address, but no phone number. If any of you can provide any information or BURKS' phone number, please e-mail Charles SCHAEFER at: nikkiboyz@aol.com  Database Operator John CRESPI has changed his e-mail address to ekkdog@sbcglobal.net . Please make a note of that or change it in your address book.

Gunner GIBBS also started an inquiry about the variations and use of red crosses on the MEDEVACs. During the process he also raised a question of M-60s on DUST OFFs, like 1st Cav's MEDEVAC used. I again referred him-like I do everyone-to the Government Printing Office book, DUST OFF: ARMY AEROMEDICAL EVACUATION IN VIETNAM by Peter DORLAND and James NANNEY, CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY UNITED STATES ARMY WASHINGTON, D.C., 1982. Although out of print, it is available to read, and download, online at: http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/vietnam/dustoff/default.htm  That is the researched, footnoted, documented history of U.S. Army aeromedical evacuation in Vietnam. It tells the whole story. I would say, and it's implied in this book, that DUST OFF never even considered guns. Maybe some pilots flying with them thought it would be a good idea, when they took fire, but no one, not even the 101st's EAGLE DUST OFF, had documented guns, so that says something.

The 1st Cav was premier in many ways. With the Air Ambulance Platoon they were the only aeromedical evacuation unit in Vietnam to deviate from the DUST OFF call sign, with MEDEVAC, and also the only one to mount M-60 machine guns.

DUST OFF was a call sign taken by the first U.S. Army aeromedical evacuation unit in Vietnam, because it had a non- combat connotation. With that in the mindset, why would they consider mounting guns, contrary to Geneva Convention rules as well? Ty CHAMBERLAIN, who transferred as a pilot from MEDEVAC to DUST OFF told me that he didn't feel safer with the guns, that he got shot down more with them.

Mel ALLEN and Bud DAVIS were two of the first MEDEVAC door gunners in Jan '66. They've told me the story when and why M-60s were added. I've mentioned most of this before.

Notwithstanding the documented history, new verbal evidence has come in with someone else's experience. Jim REYNOLDS, MEDEVAC35, 6-'66 to 3-'67, responded from Houston, TX: "Hi Murray, I might be able to shed a little light on DUST OFF flying without M-60s.

"In August, 1966, 3rd Bde of the Cav was engaged in Operation Irving which was a follow up to the first Ia Drang incursion. We had a field camp set up at LZ Oasis on the eastern edge of the valley. There was a 25th Division operation going on to the northwest of, and almost adjacent to, the Cav AO.

"Mid-afternoon one day we received a radio call from the 498th DUST OFF out of Pleiku. A 25th Division platoon had been pinned down for two days and extraction had been impossible due to weather, but improvement had occurred over the past couple of hours and an extraction plan was underway. The plan called for a rapid extraction with the 498th going in first to recover the wounded followed immediately by 179th slicks to get the rest of the troops. The 498th only had two ships on the mission, but, while en route, they received reports of as many as 15 to 20 wounded. Because of this they contacted our OIC (Capt. Frank GILLIAM) and asked if we could supply them with two 15th MED ships to assist in the extraction. Frank agreed and within about 30 minutes the 498th ships landed at our pad. There was a quick meeting to get coordinates and determine the order of going into the LZ. We then cranked and followed the DUST OFF ships to an IP point to meet up with the 179th slicks. I was flying peter pilot for Frank and I do not remember who was flying the other 15th MED ship. The only crew I remember on our ship was the gunner, a black guy named LOVE, and the Medic whose name was Tom.

"The two 498th ships did have M-60s and slung them from bunji cords attached to the roof which was the same way we used our M-60s at that time. We (15th MED) did not install the regular door mount kits until about October of 1966.

"The LZ was small and in heavy jungle. It could only accommodate one ship at a time. The two 498th ships went in first with Frank and I to follow, and then the other 15th MED Ship. The first DUST OFF reported fire as he was leaving the LZ and both the CC and the DG opened fire. Then there was all sorts of hollering on the radio as the RTO began screaming cease fire and that DUST OFF was firing into their positions. Then a second DUST OFF went in and I do not remember any further fire. We came in just as the second DUST OFF was clearing the trees and while the wounded were being loaded, a Lt. ran up to my side of the aircraft and motioned for me to take off my flight helmet. When I did, he started screaming not to fire on the way out because the first helicopter had already shot some of his men.

"We followed the DUST OFF ships back to the hospital at Camp Holloway, offloaded the wounded, refueled, and then went to the 498th area. The folks there told us that the first DUST OFF ship had hit four GIs with their fire and had killed one of them. We left right away to return to Oasis because everyone was very upset and it just didn't seem like hanging around was very appropriate.

"About two or three weeks after that, a 498th ship landed at our pad at Oasis to clear some of our wounded back to the Pleiku hospital. They did not have M-60s. They still had a crew of five, but the crew chief and door gunner were armed only with M-16s. Later, back at An Khe, I was told that the division commander of the 25th was really upset over the friendly fire incident and had personally gone to MACV insisting that the DUST OFF ships not have M-60s. Supposedly, they also wanted us to give up our M-60s too, but the Cav's commanding general refused. In fact, right after that we got the door mount kits." Gunner GIBBS replied: "Hi James, You have given me an answer that I have been wondering about a long time. What you have just described of DUST OFF loosing the M-60s is very historical information. You being there makes it even more factual to witness this.

"When I first starting flying in Sept '67 I heard that DUST OFF lost their guns due to shooting friendlies. I didn't know where and when, but I sure do now. I know I was told to shoot only in defense of the MEDEVAC. I lived by those rules, except I had a greater advantage over the crew chiefs and other door gunners. I can remember only one person who was color blind like me and that was Crew Chief Randy Brewer.

"I was so fast at the triggers the pilots never heard a bullet hit let alone the muzzle blasts because all they could hear was my M-60 blazing away. I always heard them say what are you shooting at? Yes, I had a good target and it was shooting at us. I just did my thing and never stopped to tell them what it was until we were out of harms way. I am glad I had some good Medics and crew chiefs. Not only did they see what I was shooting at, they were glad I was in defense of the MEDEVAC. I don 't know how many times they told the pilots that I had a target when I was shooting. Sometimes the ground unit had to tell our pilots to get out of this hot LZ we were in during night missions after I had shot at a muzzle blast on my side.

"I don't know exactly why a muzzle blast looked brighter to me than to the rest of the crew. I have been told by doctors many times that vision like mine tends to filter out the normal colors of backgrounds, thus you see things that appear abnormal a lot better than normal vision guys. Many times my witnesses were the bullet holes that nobody heard. No doubt many pilots had thoughts of grounding me from flying thinking I was shooting at ghosts.

"I didn't pass the color charts. The doctor then took this soda can and asked me what the different colors were that his was pointing too. I identified them all. My problem was with hues of color. Put two different greens next to each other, and if there was the slightest difference, one would stand out more than the other. That maybe is why camouflage didn't work with me. I could see deeper into fog, rain, or mist than others. I could see the blimp of smoke popped very far out that would be smaller than a pin head, and identify it. I thought my vision was normal, and to me it was, but to others, it wasn't.

"When that incident happened with DUST OFF it must have been their nightmare. I know that shooting a GI for me would have been my worst nightmare. I am glad I knew what I was shooting at. I know that each one of us have had our individual nightmares about Vietnam. It would be almost impossible to live with yourself if you were responsible for shooting a friendly, and worst yet if you killed one. The mistake of one incident surely sets the precedence of all the other DUST OFF units. The pilots pounded it into our heads about shooting in defense, and almost making us good gunners. I thank the pilots whom I flew with, and I am sorry if I scared many of them. Some times after I had made Sgt., I gave a few pilots a hard time, but it was to save the MEDEVAC.

"Up on the Vietnam Veterans' Website of MSN I have been in the discussion about DUST OFF and MEDEVAC. Part of the discussion was that DUST OFF never had guns, and MEDEVAC did. James, could I use part of your message in the discussion on another Website? It is history to me, and may or may not mean much to many, but it will clear the air of the truth of guns on DUST OFFs. Murray"

MEDEVAC35 replied, "Murray, Feel free to use my message in any discussions you have on other message boards. The only caution that I would give you is that the part about the 25th Division Commander going to MACV and raising Cain about DUST OFF hitting his troops being the determinate factor, is strictly hearsay. That is what the scuttlebutt was among the 15th MED guys, but since I didn't sit in on meetings with generals, I cannot swear to it. The friendly fire incident itself though, I can vouch for, because I was there."

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