Another tale from 'Nam
I was working in the rear area this night. We had a 1st Calvary Division rear R&R area for forward troops who needed a break. Sometimes just a couple or three days.
Enough time for them to feel safe and let off a little steam.
This night one of the guys let off a little more steam than was necessary, and had climbed up on top of a sandbag bunker where the assault helicopters were parked. I guess he was playing “King of the world,” Like DeCaprio in “Titanic.”
He fell off the sandbags to what amounted to about fifteen feet, and fractured his back in a couple places we learned later.
His comrades brought him to my dispensary and I placed him on a back-board, secured his neck and immobilized him. He wasn’t so drunk as to understand he was hurt, and was cooperative.
I called my 1st Cavalry Med-Evac choppers that were just across the base from us because I didn’t want to risk an ambulance trip. Plus, I wanted to get him to the Evac Hospital as fast as I could. By ambulance it would have taken about forty-five minutes to get him to the Evac Hospital with bumpy roads all the way, and by chopper it would take only ten, or less.
There were two kinds of medical choppers in our area of operation.
One was ours, the 1st Calvary Division. Our medical choppers were called Med-Evac, and I believe we were the only division with our own medical choppers. The other was called Dust-Off.
Dust-Off was MACV, Military Assistance Command, Viet-Nam.
The only real difference between the two was that, Dust-Off carried no armament, whereas our 1st Cavalry Med-Evac choppers had sixty-cal machine guns on each side of the bird. Our Med-Evac birds weren’t held in the highest esteem among the other medical choppers in-country, because we carried guns.
The reason our birds carried armament was simple. The Viet-Cong and North Viet-Nam regulars didn’t give one schit about the bright red cross on the helicopters, and would shoot us out of the sky if they could, they seemed to have never heard about the Geneva Convention.
So the 1st Cavalry Division commandant decided, if they are going to shoot at our birds, we shoot back. Fair enough, don’t ya think?
Anyhow, unbeknownst to me, someone had called Dust Off. Because the helicopter pad was across the street from the 1st Cav. Dispensary, at a MACV medical facility, I suppose they thought he was in effect their patient.
A few minutes later I saw the Dust Off bird heading in on final approach to the pad. I knew this wasn’t the direction our chopper should be coming from and asked about it. I was told that Dust Off had been called.
I didn’t really care who got the patient, and said, ok, because the Med-Evac chopper hadn’t arrived yet.
There were maybe eight to ten people standing around the pad, two or three medics, and soldiers from the patient’s unit.
As the Dust Off bird was on short final, our Med-Evac chopper swooped in and landed, causing the Dust Off bird to make a violent left turn to avoid a collision. What I saw unfold in front of my eyes made me cringe, because a collision would have killed ell eight crewmen of both choppers and probably most of us on the ground.
Now 1st Calvary Med-Evac pilots were fearless, sometimes even to be point of being labeled “Cowboys.” I knew this particular pilot, and I asked him, as they loaded the patient, if he saw the Dust Off bird. He said, “Hell yeah, I saw him but I wasn’t about to let one of those Dust Off pukes take my patient.”
There was someone looking out for everyone involved that night, because it could have been a major disaster.
After everyone had left, I heard one of the MACV medics talking on the PRC-25 radio, presumably to the pilot of the Dust Off chopper and it sounded like someone on the other end was cussing and screaming.
I’ll just bet there was hell to pay, for someone, but I never heard a word about the incident from my superiors...ever.
© 2007 Walt Hardester
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|Reviewed by Randall Barfield
|Good write. What's that schit about Viet-Nam regulars? Schit? typo?|
|Reviewed by Michael Guy
|It's amazing all the "stuff" that happens in a war besides the actual war - which is bad enough. It's amazing anybody survives them! And, your stories "really" are short. Some of us, can't do that!|
|Reviewed by Sandra Mushi
|Interesting write, Walt!
|Reviewed by Susan de Vegter
|You should write these stories and give them a voice. I'd buy the book as it was my era too.
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Powerful story, Walt; very well penned! BRAVO!
(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :)
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
|Reviewed by Tinka Boukes
|Happy to know every one was safe at the end...how lucky can one get??
Love an harmony all around!!
|Reviewed by D Hicks
|Walt that was very clean clear and to the point.
Would be interested in getting more of a feel for the surrounding environment along with the story: How warm was it? Was the R&R base in a rural jungle area? You gave some hint of this telling us that the ride to the hospital would take 45 minutes over bumpy roads.
This is all to say that I like your work! So whatever you can add to help me feel "there" will make it even more interesting.
|Reviewed by Karen Vanderlaan
|interesting story-amazing that the disaster was avoided|
|Reviewed by Rebecca Lerwill
|Holy crap! What a story!
I've been to DC and spend sad moments scanning over the long list of names on the Vietnam Memorial. I'm just glad to read your's here, Walt.
|Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner
|KMS, eh? You did what you had to do to. So what if it wasn't SOP, you did it, what you had to do. :) Good on you, Walt, excellent story, you carried me there to 'Nam with you.
(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.