Saber Article Index

2015 Mar-Apr

MEDEVAC 15th Med\15th FSB
Mike Bodnar
307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522
1704 254-542-1961

I received e-mail from Daniel Gillotti who said, "I write the 30th FA column in the SABER [18th Year] on page 10. I read your November\December 2014 article regarding PFC Walter L. Wonnacott.

"I pulled him up on the Coffelt Database and they have listed as CO C, 15th Medical Bn. Notice the comments on the last line. This has to be the Trooper you identified. Accordingly, he was from Downey, CA, assigned to C-15th MED Bn., and died with 1-7th Cav."

William McCarron replied, "Mike, Dan: Thanks for responding to my request regarding Walter J. Wonnacott, a soldier whom I believe was killed when he was sent into battle as a replacement Medic to our company during the battle of Gia Duc 1 in Binh Dinh Province on December 28, 1966.

"I have done quite bit of searching and had discussions with several persons who were in the battle and all of us have come to the conclusion that Wonnacott was with us. I know the record in the Coffelt data base reflects he was with the 15th MED and that he may have been killed while serving with the 1-7th Cav. I don't dispute he may have been assigned to the 1-7th in early December 1966.

"I have talked with another Medic who arrived in Vietnam at the same time as Walter. Both initially were assigned to the 15th MED, then to D Company, 1-8th in October 1966. In early December a levy came down for one of the Medics to be reassigned to the 1-7th. The two Medics flipped a coin and Walter lost. He left for assignment to the 1-7th. The individual who remained with the 1-8th did not know if he ever made it there. He learned of Walter's death in late January 1967.

"I have researched pretty extensively and from this search learned that the only units in the Cav who were in contact on the 28th were B, C, and D companies of the 1-8th. The 1-7th was not engaged with the enemy on that day as far as I can ascertain. B Company made initial contact with an element of the 22nd NVA and immediately took moderate casualties.

"I know from the Staff Journal the company immediately requested two Medics. The journal does not say if or when they arrived. It was during the battle that one of our soldiers came upon a Medic, whom he did not recognize. The individual had been shot in the neck and was bleeding profusely. Our man tried to stop the bleeding and at the same time called for a Medic. The wounded individual told him he was from California, was a Medic, and had been a biker in civilian life before entering the service. He also had a lot of tattoos on his arms.

"Due to the heavy fire no other Medic could get to them although the head Medic attempted to and he himself was shot in the chest. The injured man then expired. The Medic who had served with Wonnacott in D Company in October and November said he and Walter had become good friends and that Walter had told him he was from Downey, California, had been a Hells Angel, and was heavily tattooed. This is what has led us to believe Walter probably was one of the Medics the company requested and that on arrival was hit almost immediately.

"It may remain a mystery, but I will keep looking to see if I can resolve this. I thank both of you for your help and I thoroughly enjoyed your articles in the latest SABER. Honor and Courage, Bill."

I personally know that official records do not always keep up with an individual. I 1040ed to the 1st Cav from a rear unit in Long Binh, was assigned to the 2-20th ARA in the 1st Cav, and I had to verbally request to be assigned to a field unit which became 2-7 Cav because they were in for Palace Guard around Phouc Vinh where I was with 2-20 ARA and division HQ was.

I spent a lot of time sending the forms into Government Records to correct my 201 file. My unit movements were not noted correctly in my 201.

When it gets even more complicated as in combat when personnel are moved to fit the needs, notwithstanding sudden death, it may end up as word of mouth records. This could be the case as Bill McCarron describes.

Terry McCarl e-mailed, "Mike: I thought that you might like to mention this in your column.

"CPT James G. Shover, MSC, Optometrist with HSC, 12\68-12\69, sent me all his photos, slides, and some 8mm movie film from his time with 15th MED Bn. It had two rolls of movie film transferred to a DVD and I have posted it on Youtube. 

"This video shows MEDEVAC operations at Phuoc Vinh. The approximate date is July, 1969. There is nothing very dramatic about it, but I think that many veterans would find it interesting. To see it, search on youtube for '1st Cavalry Division, 15th Medical Battalion Medevac, Phuoc Vinh, Vietnam-1969.' It is about 15 minutes in length.

"If anyone has any questions or comments, especially if they can identify anyone on the video, please ask them to contact me at . Thanks! FIRST TEAM!"

I watched the YouTube video Terry uploaded. It is a stark reminder of what it was like. There is even "Charlie" the rhesus monkey. It could be a different one, but they all look the same. It has to be him though, he's grabbing for someone's bowl.

It's truly amazing how technology advanced because GIs fought to preserve liberties. We went from 8mm home movies and MARS calls home to recording the battle on your cell phone and narrating it in real time via Skype. Think nothing of it.

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

Mike Bodnar C 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70

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