War Stories 7
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To: The Officers & Men of the
15th Medical Battalion
From: Bravo Company, 2/8th Bn., 1st Cavalry Division.
It is well known that for every infantry soldier in the field, over ten
support personnel are needed to carry out combat operations. However, if you
asked any “grunt,” on the top of that list are the Medics, the doctors, and
the staff back at the base camp.
In the Vietnam War however, there
was a unique element that we counted on for survival. That was the Medevac
helicopters that flew into Hell to rescue and retrieve our wounded and get
them to a medical facility or surgeon for treatment.
If you or one of
your brothers was wounded during a firefight, the first call heard was,
“Medic.” I think every infantry unit called their Medic “Doc.” While Doc
performed his miracle among all the whizzing bullets, a radio call also went
from our Command Post to nearest base that had Medevac helicopters.
In the 1st Cavalry Division that meant that within just a few minutes, a
helicopter, equipped to extract and treat the wounded was bound for your
location. For those of us on the ground, the call for “pop smoke” was
quickly followed by “Medevac chopper inbound,” and we knew that the 15th Med
was coming to take our wounded comrades to safety.
For us, no sweeter
sound existed than that staccato “wop-wop-wop” beating the humid jungle air.
You guys were coming to help. You guys were going to hang your ass out to
come get us. There is doubt in any of our minds in the 1st Cav that our best
friends were our Medics, the Medevac crews, and all those in the 15th Med
back at the base camp.
On behalf of all the Troopers of Bravo
Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, of the 1st Cavalry Division,
we wish to extend our undying gratitude to all the members of the 15th
Medical Battalion for their dedication and support. The knowledge that if
any of us was hit – that you guys would be on the way – gave us a certain
peace of mind, allowing us to perform our duties under almost any
As we celebrate our Bravo Company reunion this year in
Washington, DC at the same time you are meeting in Franklin, Tennessee, we
extend our gratitude for your actions from over 40 years ago. We wish all
your members the best for the incredible job you performed so well, and so
Rest assured that this week we will toast you, our comrades
forever. To good health, to good friends, and to many more reunions!
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From Your Grunt Brothers
By Pete Genecki
On July 24th, 1968, our Bravo Company, 2nd Bn., 8th Cavalry was attacked
by a numerically superior NVA force near LZ Carol (Hill 927) in the southern
tip of the dreaded A Shau Valley on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
initial attack resulted in us taking several casualties, and the call went
out for medical evacuation. The enemy had already closed in on our position
along three sides, and would soon have us surrounded. Then rain, along with
a hazy mist closed in over Hill 927. Things were getting bad.
minutes, above the clatter of the heavy small arms fire, we could hear the
sound of a single helicopter approaching. “Medevac 21” was responding to our
dire situation and was coming to get our wounded. I was his radio contact on
the ground; call sign Eager Arms 26 India.
Despite the adverse
weather conditions and the intense enemy fire, the chopper continued its
steady approach to help us. Unfortunately, the heavy fire quickly took its
toll on the Medevac bird. The co-pilot took shrapnel wounds in his arm from
bullets ricocheting off the Aircraft Commander’s seat, and the Door Gunner,
Specialist Jerry Dick, was shot in the head. The enemy hits also resulted in
multiple systems failures in the aircraft, forcing the Medevac ship,
with no alternative, to return to Camp Evans.
Although we have not
met, we know that Jerry carries the wounds inflicted that day, almost 44
years ago. We are all certain that if you asked him, Jerry would tell you
that he was simply doing his job. Well, the men of Bravo Company, 2/8th want
Jerry, and his entire crew to know that we are damn glad you were doing your
Few things are more important to a “grunt” than knowing that if
you are wounded, that the angels called “Medevac” are coming to get you, no
matter what. As one of those guys on the ground, I want you to know that we
remember what you endured on July 24th, 1968, coming to our aid.
behalf of the entire Company, I would like to say that we will never forget
you, and you shall always remain in our hearts and prayers.
God bless you, brother.
1st Air Cavalry Division
Republic of Vietnam, 1968
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COL Floyd Harold “Hal” Kushner
The Only U. S. Army Medical Corps Officer in the Vietnam War
to Have Become a POW
By Terry A. McCarl
As the Historian of the 15th Medical BN Association, I am privileged to research, read and write about the heroic and meritorious acts of members of the 15th Medical Battalion. There is an abundance of such stories.
Recently, I became aware of a story about extreme courage, fortitude, endurance, and resourcefulness by a medical professional from another 1st Cav unit, that I feel compelled to share with the veterans of 15th Med BN and other medical personnel who served in the Vietnam War.
Such is the story of CPT Floyd Harold “Hal” Kushner, who served as the Flight Surgeon for
1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (1/9th Cav) in 1967.
A friend of mine, CPT Aubrey C. Hall, who was the CO of HSC, 15th Medical
Battalion from Aug 68 - Aug 69, mentioned to me that one of his medical school classmates at the Medical College of Virginia had served with the 1st Cavalry Division and had been a POW. Upon hearing about this, I was more than a little intrigued, and set out to find out more.
CPT Kushner became a POW on 2 Dec 67 and was not released until 16 Mar 73, nearly 5 ½ years later. He is believed to have been the only Medical Corps Officer to have been a POW during the Vietnam War.
CPT Kushner arrived in Vietnam and reported to 1/9th Cav in August 1967 as its new Flight Surgeon. His predecessor had been KIA. The unit HQ was at LZ Two Bits in Bin Dinh Province, northeast of An Khe. He was immediately flying constantly, performing his duties as Flight Surgeon.
CPT Kushner had been transported by UH-1 D helicopter from his home base at LZ Two Bits to Chu Lai on
30 Nov 67. The irony of the story is that the trip was made to teach a class to pilots on the dangers of night flying. A storm was brewing and after the class, at about
2000, Kushner and others on the flight suggested staying overnight at Chu Lai until the weather cleared. The aircraft commander declared that the aircraft had to be returned to LZ Two Bits for a mission the following morning, so they took off in the storm.
The aircraft got off course and crashed on a mountaintop. CPT Kushner was the sole survivor of the crash. The A/C, MAJ Stephen R. Porcella was killed in the crash, Copilot W01 Griffith B. Bedworth died while waiting for rescuers with CPT Kushner, and the Crew Chief, SSG Kenneth D. McKee, the only one not seriously injured, was killed by VC while going for help.
CPT Kushner was captured by the VC on 2 Dec 67 and taken to a POW camp located about 50
Km west of Tam Ky in Quang Nam Province, southwest of Da Nang. He and other prisoners were moved around among several other prison camps until when in 1971, they were marched 900
Km to Hanoi, a trip of 57 days to a prison camp called “The Plantation.” In Dec 72, they were transferred to the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He was released on
16 Mar73, as part of a massive POW Release called Operation Homecoming.
During those 5 ½ years of captivity, he and his fellow prisoners were subjected to unspeakable physical and mental torture, propaganda bombardment, malnutrition, and sickness and disease with general withholding of medical care by the VC. As a medical doctor, CPT Kushner was officially not allowed to treat his fellow prisoners. However, he did treat them as best he could without any medical equipment other than some razor blades that he used to perform minor surgery such as lancing boils and other injuries. He encouraged fellow POW's to fake malaria and dysentery to obtain at least some medical supplies from the VC. These supplies were secretly stockpiled by him for future use as needed.
Unfortunately, without proper medication and equipment, all he could do was provide comfort to fellow POW's who were dying of various illnesses, as the VC would not provide them. His supervision of his fellow POW's in matters of diet, personal hygiene, and sanitation no doubt saved many lives.
Perhaps the crowning achievement of his military career, on 29 Jul 71, he saved the life of a fellow POW who was having a heart attack. For this, he was awarded the Silver Star.
COL Kushner returned home in 1973 and served on Active Duty until 1977. He served in the Army Reserves until 1986 at which time he retired at the rank of COL. He has since been in private ophthalmology practice in Daytona Beach, FL.
In 2001, the 1/9th Cav Medical Clinic at Ft. Hood, TX was named in his honor. Besides the Silver Star, he received the POW Medal and the Soldier’s Medal. He was inducted into the
Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001.
To read COL Kushner's complete story in his own words, go
Sadly, his home was severely damaged by Hurricane Matthew, and he is in the process of rebuilding.
If anyone would like to contact him, please e-mail me at
firstname.lastname@example.org , and I will relay your message to him.
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