Saber Article Index

2019 May-Jun

Mike Bodnar
307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522

When I had written about the 1st Cavalry Division’s recommendation for the Valorous Unit Award for the 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) for its action in providing support to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) under hazardous hostile conditions in the III Corps Area of Operation on the 11th and 12th of August 1969 in the 2018 JAN\FEB Saber and following issues, I started to look for more books through my Kindle eBook reader which searches all of Amazon and offers suggestions. I downloaded a lot of free sample and decided if I wanted to continue reading them or not, and then purchase them if I did.

One book I bought and read in its entirety was Into Cambodia by Keith William Nolan who is now deceased but was a prolific writer of the Vietnam War campaigns. I found his book to be thorough - including all the important units involved in the Incursion. His narratives are hard to believe although they are probably based on a lot of interviews, and do depict the seriousness of the struggle. I’ve seen reviewers say he is almost fiction-based on true incidents. His method seems very similar to S.L.A. Marshall.

I own and have read most of S.L.A. Marshall’s books. I have also talked to several 1st Cav veterans whom Marshall wrote about. They all said he got it wrong. S.L.A. Marshall conducted a lot of interviews, from WWII, through the Korean War, and Vietnam as the journalist he was, but he tended to be like a Hollywood script writer. In his memoirs he mentioned when someone had expressed their concerns if they remembered correctly, he’d tell them, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

With these types of writers, it recalls the saying, “Believe half of what you hear or read, and all of what you see. It’s easy to take what they write as factual, but it’s not always the case.

As for books about the Cambodian Incursion I had also many years ago read Incursion by 1st Cavalry Division veteran J.D. Coleman. J.D. Coleman didn’t rely on narratives like the other two authors mentioned for his accounts, but more on factual documents. J.D. Coleman was in 1st Cav P.I.O. so had the experience to know where to research.

S.L.A. Marshall had written about J.D. Coleman in Marshall’s book: Battles in the Monsoon when J.D. Coleman was the company commander of B 2-8 Cav in ‘66. Again, a lot of narrative. I asked J.D. Coleman at the 1st Cav Reunion in Orlando in 1988 about what Marshall had written and J.D. Coleman told me, “Marshall made up a lot of stuff.” Fill in the blanks.

So, what I am getting at is about another Vietnam book I downloaded a free sample of on my Kindle reader. This other one sounded of interest and I bought and read it. This other one is called, Eleven Bravo: A Skytrooper’s Memoir of War in Vietnam, by E. Tayloe Wise, published Jun 28, 2010.

When I spoke to Sergeant Howard Anderson from my C 2-7 Cav platoon after I had written in the Saber about our incidents on LZ Jamie in 1969 and he referred to his diary that he kept throughout his field experience I said to him he should write a book. He said that was the plan. He was going to call it “Eleven Bravo.” It appears someone else had the same idea.

Instead of reminisces from meticulous diary notes like Sergeant Anderson kept, E. Tayloe Wise recalls from the multitude of letters he wrote and kept about his time in the Army, B 2-8 Cav, and the 1st Cavalry Division.

I won’t get into everything he wrote in his book, I’ll leave it to be read if it is of interest. E. Tayloe Wise arrived in the 1st Cav in 1969 in B 2-8 Cav just after 2-8 Cav had been hit hard at LZ Caroline. He then moved with them to LZ Barbara and LZ White. I had never heard of LZ White, but looked it up on the list of LZs and plotted it on the map. LZ White was about seven clicks east of LZ Grant, and nine clicks south of LZ Jamie, just a click and a half south of where Highway 13 from Dau Tieng to Tay Ninh intersected with road 244 which LZ Jamie was built on and ran north to road 246 which ran perpendicular from An Loc to Bo Tuc and Katum.

After leaving LZ White 2-8 Cav went to build LZ Becky just three and a half clicks south of Bo Tuc. E. Tayloe Wise thought that was a disaster in the making. He noted their green line-berm line was at one place only two hundred and fifty feet from the wood line.

The author was very bitter in his writing about his whole grunt experience. He said it was his own fault for enlisting. Like so many others in that situation and at that time, he didn’t have many options short of going to Canada, which he said he even thought about, but didn’t want to disgrace his family. He said he could have joined the Air Force or Navy, or perish the thought, the Marines.

He mentions being small in stature so having to initially hump the M-79 with its ammo was an extreme burden, as well as his rucksack with everything he needed to survive. I know Howard Anderson, like so many other 11Bs, was not happy about it, but made the best of it. I had no complaints as I was out there just clicks away from where this author was, at about the same time, but I was a medic, and had a different purpose. I had also asked for it.

The author experienced the worst when the North Vietnamese launched their campaign on August 12, 1969. Things weren’t bad enough for him when LZ Becky received more punishment than anyone else due to its position. The author was on LZ Becky when the full onslaught was unleashed and the main target was the bunker his platoon was assigned to. He only survived because he went over to his sleeping hooch he had built, and observed the direct hit on his bunker, killing all his friends inside. He also describes all the carnage that ensued and learned how to deal with first aid on the job.

After this happened-and I had written in the Saber about the 1st Cav Pathfinder’s recollections of the events bringing in MEDEVAC to help save as many as possible-2-8 Cav moved to where 2-5 Cav had left LZ Ike and reopened that.

The author didn’t get much respite as things for his Blackfoot Platoon and B 2-8 Cav just got worse. Due to his experience with treating wounded on LZ Becky and the fact that their designated 91B Medic DEROSED, E. Tayloe Wise assumed the unlikely role of combat medic. The 2-8 Cav Bn. Aid Station apparently did not have any objection due to the circumstances, and virtually sanctioned the move almost to the point of changing his MOS. The author said he felt so much more fulfillment being out there as an Eleven Bravo being able to help his fellow Eleven Bravos, saving lives, and doing even more, he felt, than his Medic who left had done.

Things got very bad in September of 1969. September 5th to be exact, was a very bad day for them. It sounds like it was a bad day for MEDEVAC as well as they of course were very busy with this activity and on one of many occasions of hot hoists and taking fire, one MEDEVAC was shot down in flames carrying one of B 2-8's lieutenants to his death dangling from the hoist. This was in the book, so if it didn’t happen, that’s what was written. I don’t doubt it happened because this author has no reason to not get it right. I would like to see the DA 1594s for 2-8 Cav at this time to know where they were on the map and what was documented. As I’ve written previously, getting any after action reports about the MEDEVAC pickups is almost impossible. It would have to be word of mouth, and I doubt if anyone who knew is reading this. I’ll find out one way or the other, possibly.

I checked the <> site for those killed in Vietnam on 05 Sep 69 and I did find too many names from B 2-8 Cav as the author writes about. The lieutenant whom he had mentioned they called Lieutenant “K” because he was from Hawaii and his name was hard to pronounce. He was First Lieutenant John Kuulei Kauhaihao of Hawaii County, Hawaii.

Scott DiBariI also found a MEDEVAC crew chief who was killed, Specialist Five Louis Scott Di Bari of Santa Clara County, California. Mark Drake <HANDBIKEAMERICA@YAHOO.COM> posted “Louis was a Crew Chief on one of the MEDEVACs assigned to A Company 15th MED when he was killed by antiaircraft fire. We became friends as we were both from Northern California. Louis was the only KIA at the fourteen months I was with A Company 15th Medical Battalion 1st Cavalry, Tay Ninh. I still think of him and our friendship.”

I know of a lot of shoot downs that occurred in 1969 just from what I’ve heard. These incidents with 2-8 Cav in September ‘69 had to have contributed. MEDEVAC 8, Charlie Holmes, who left in 1970 when I first joined MEDEVAC, was said to have gotten shot down seven times. Door gunner Dave Parks uses the email as one of those shot down more than once, and take it light.

The good ending to this author’s story is he finally got a coveted rear area job as no less than a waiter in the 1st Cav Division Commanding General Elvy B. Roberts’ mess. The author says he almost didn’t take the job because being a combat Medic was so rewarding to him but decided he wasn’t that crazy in need of fulfillment over survival, even though he had contemplated it. He had done enough. And, with the bitterness he displays in his writings, more than enough.

One of the grunts in my C 2-7 Cav platoon, Bill Christenson, from St. Paul Park, MN, also got a rear area job for the 1st Cav Division Commanding General. Bill was General Casey’s door gunner. Not all rear area jobs for the 1st Cav Division Commanding General worked out good as General Casey’s helicopter crashed in bad weather while making his rounds in July ‘70, killing all on board.

I later read several reviews of this book and some were by the author’s fellow Eleven Bravos. Some by them were good reactions and others were not. Everyone’s experience was different. Everyone took it differently. Those who served I knew were all different. I didn’t fault anyone for the way they felt. Like they say, lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. Personally I tried to do all I could to make it easier on the others I had served with. I know many others who did the same, whether it was as an Eleven Bravo, or flying on MEDEVAC, which this author seemed grateful for all that the MEDEVAC crews did for them, and further down the line all the units of 15th MED doing what they did.

Donald C. BartonThis author is a scholar and displays it in his writings. His vocabulary and educated references are well above average. He has become a college professor but took the time to pen his thoughts and experiences for all to read or disregard.

I don’t think I had noted the Final DEROS of 15th MED veteran Dr. Donald C. Barton, M.D. of Corbin, KY, 7 Apr 18 at age 83. Dr. Don entered military service in June 1966, and received basic training at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX. In 1966, he was assigned to Fort Campbell, KY before transferring to Vietnam in 1967. He was assigned to the 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and became Company A commander from May ‘68 to ‘69.

He participated in numerous engagements, including: An Khe, LZ Baldy, LZ Evans, LZ Stud to support the liberation of Khe Sanh, A Shau Valley, and LZ Sharon at Quang Tri. He received the Air Medal (1968) and Bronze Star (1968). Dr. Don was discharged in Seattle, WA in June 1968, with the rank of CPT.

I had to double take because the MEDEVAC PSG when I joined MEDEVAC in 1970 was L. Don Barton. He was E-7 Mud Medic in 5th Cav previously.

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

FIRST TEAM! Garryowen Bodnar 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70

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