Saber Article Index

2019 Nov-Dec

Mike Bodnar 307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522 254-542-1961 E-mail:

I received an email from Joel Chase who said he was a platoon leader in D Co 1-5 Cav. On 14 Jun 70 he was on perimeter guard at FSB David in Cambodia. The NVA sent a reinforced company to attack David and left behind twenty-six dead with no U.S. KIA. Joel said he was the worst of the U.S. WIA. You can read about the attack on their website: <https://>.

The 1-5 Cav Battalion Surgeon then, Jon G. Walker, says: “On June 14, 1970, I, Jon G Walker, was CPT, Medical Corps, U.S. Army and I was the Battalion Surgeon of the 1-5 Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division. At FSB David my Aid Station was located near the woods on the southeast perimeter and consisted of a partially below grade hole dug by backhoes. My medics and I gained enough vertical height to stand by creating pillars of sandbags on the edges of the hole and laying logs across the pillars. We then laid PSP strips on top of the logs, covered them with plastic and more sandbags. The hole was maybe ten by twelve feet. My head medic, an E5 named Rick Fortune, and I had cots in the Aid Station.

A couple of other medics had built a ‘hootch’ out of corrugated culvert raised up on sandbags which abutted one corner of the Aid Station. “I had just gotten orders for my R&R and planned to hitch a ride to the rear area on June 13th to call my wife to make reservations for Hawaii. I never got off FSB David because the weather on June 13, 1970 was so bad that no one was flying.

“For some reason neither Rick nor I were sleeping well that night. Around 2:30 am we heard an explosion followed by M16 fire coming from what seemed like the northeast perimeter of the base. We were immediately up, and it seemed then that all hell broke loose. Some of my medics came down to the Aid Station. I was standing near the opening where the hootch abutted the Aid Station when there was an explosion right outside that knocked me across the Aid Station and onto the floor. We assumed it was a grenade and that another one would soon be lobbed into our hole. That didn’t happen so I eventually stood up and shined my flashlight into the hootch fully expecting to be shot. What I discovered was that an RPG had landed at the other end of the hootch and the hootch directed the concussion into the Aid Station where I was standing. Around that same time, we began hearing calls for ‘Medic!’ “I was ready to go out when cool-headed Rick Fortune told me to stay put. I was the only doctor on the base and he and the other medics needed to know where I would be.

“Shortly thereafter I started receiving the wounded. It was chaos, the ground was muddy, and it was still raining. We were next to a mortar pit so as they unwrapped the plastic from their ammo, they would throw it over to us for use as covers.

“I quickly assessed each Soldier and tried to determine the extent of the injuries and what could be done. My supplies were meager…Kling wrap, Ace bandages, gauze, Vaseline gauze, sterile saline and syrettes of morphine (imagine a small tube of toothpaste with a needle attached. You put the needle in the patient then squeeze the morphine out of the tube).

“Certain injuries remain in my memory: a SGT who was shot in the thigh with an AK-47, the entry wound was small but the exit wound in the back of his leg was huge. I packed it with gauze and wrapped it tightly with an ace wrap which seemed to control the bleeding; a Soldier with a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and all I had to plug the wounds was Vaseline gauze (maybe LT Chase?); a Soldier with multiple shrapnel wounds on his chest and face who was awake and looked at me when I spoke but didn’t respond; a Soldier who didn’t look too bad initially but had a massive scalp wound on the back of his head. I cleaned it with saline then replaced the skin flap and wrapped his head with Kling holding the flap in place. There were numerous broken bones and lacerations. We splinted what we could and dressed the wounds but didn’t have the time or the supplies to suture.

“All told we had thirty-three wounded Soldiers for about three to four hours. We had no air support because of the weather and no way to evacuate anyone. When the weather cleared a little around 6 am the first chopper in was a Huey MEDEVAC chopper. I tried to evacuate the most serious on it and was able to get nine men (as I recall) out. Shortly thereafter I got word that a Chinook had just delivered artillery ammo to the other side of the base and was coming over to evacuate the wounded. They settled down just outside the perimeter and I was able to get everyone else on board. So, within five minutes we went from thirty-three wounded to none.

“As I gradually came back to reality, I didn’t fully comprehend what had just happened. I was relieved but other emotions just swirled. I still remember blood just running in rivulets across the ground. I eventually went for a walk with Rick Fortune and viewed at least twenty-eight enemy bodies outside the perimeter, many of them just blown apart. We thought we heard an AK-47 near the Aid Station at one point and, indeed, found spent AK shells on the ground. I assume that the shooter was on the roof of the Aid Station. Was he the one who was shot?

“I later found out that Rick Fortune went out without his ‘steel pot’ to identify him as American. The sergeant major (whose name I can’t recall but would like to know) told me that he had Rick in his sights but recognized him at the last minute and didn’t shoot.

“We didn’t lose any GIs at the base and I subsequently learned that all survived I’m especially pleased to know that. I eventually got a Bronze Star with a V, which was certainly, a novelty at my next assignment in the Out-Patient Clinic at Fort Gordon, GA.

“And, that’s my story. I haven’t been able to find my name anywhere in the records but occasionally look. Again, I was the only doctor on FSB David on that infamous day. I left the Army in the fall of 1971, specialized in Urology and am now retired after practicing in Lancaster, PA, for over thirty years. Jon G. Walker, MD.

”Mike Crutcher, E 1-5 Cav CO, responded that the sergeant major then was CSM Bell. The doctor followed up with: “CSM Bell…that’s right. I really liked and related to him. As an MD in an infantry outfit I always felt out of place. He would go out of his place to talk to me!”

Joel Chase apparently, indeed, was the Soldier with the collapsed lung. He says, “The first shot fired on David on 14 June came from an M16. A trip went off and a guard on a bunker in my sector took a shot when he thought he saw movement in our wire. There was no return fire, but I was convinced we were in for trouble. A thirty-minute visual search produced no results, and everyone wanted to pack it up. Mortar and trip flares thrown simply created eerie glows in the fog. Then, a guy standing next to me said; ‘2-6 what is that?’ and pointed about thirty feet out. I was sighting down his arm when a burst of AK-47 fire erupted. The sapper was inside our wire and he decided to drill me a new ‘innie’, but the rounds skimmed off the berm and grazed the top of my head.

“Then all hell broke loose with red and green tracers piercing the darkness. I jumped on the horn to the mortar guys and requested they begin their preplanned fires in the ravine and walk them up the ridge. Then I called Bill Vowell and gave him a sit-rep when a chi-com frag rolled up next to me with the fuse sparkling. It went off right in my face with a flash of light and pop. The pain was tremendous.

“I tried to get up and run but couldn’t see nor hear. My legs had multiple shrapnel wounds and collapsed, so I attempted to crawl, but my right elbow was pulverized and simply flapped around, so I slithered like a snake until I found some sandbags for a little cover. It was of little use as I got hit several more times by either B-40 or mortar shrapnel.

“While I didn’t know it at the time, I took three pieces of shrapnel to my heart (two of which are still there) and one piece got pumped into the brachial artery of my arm. Additionally, my right lung was punctured, my liver was lacerated, kidney cut up, and my eyes were perforated. But I made it somehow and have led a relatively normal life with just one eye. The Army decided they didn’t require my services any longer and retired me at one hundred percent disability.

“So, there you have the true story of how the battle for FSB David started. Those who fought did so heroically and professionally.” It’s important to note that during that attack the defenders had no external artillery nor air support, because of their location and weather conditions. J.D. Coleman in his book Incursion says that the 1st Cav 1st Brigade had turned over its AO in Tay Ninh to the 25th ID and moved with two battalions into the O Rang area, which was due north of the II Corps-III Corps boundary. “In mid-June the 5th VC Division sent a couple of its 174th Regiment on a mission of death directed against FSB David, the command post for Bob Kingston and his 1st Brigade headquarters. For two hours the NVA had a go at David, but found that a 1st Cav firebase, even in Cambodia, was too tough a nut to crack. The NVA lost twenty-eight men; the cost to the Americans was twelve wounded.

”It sounds to me that Joel Chase, being the worst of the wounded, should have gone out on the MEDEVAC that got in at 6 am. That’s what MEDEVAC was for, to take out the most urgent first. But I wasn’t there and don’t know what exactly transpired. Fortunately, all the wounded survived.

Rethinking what I’ve read, Joel could have gone out on the MEDEVAC. But, he writes, “When the hook delivered much needed mortar ammo, I was loaded on board for a ride to FSB Buttons. I was totally out of it but have learned that the hook landed on the Huey pad and blew their tents all to hell. Nobody seems to know who the hook crew was because they probably came from Quan Loi.” If he was totally out of it, as he says, he may not have remembered if he was on a Huey or Chinook.

My MEDEVAC crew went up to FSB David every day when it was first built and parked it until we were called. I’ve included photos that I took with my Instamatic of FSB David from the air and on the ground beyond the berm. You can see the lushness of the area and the ravines the NVA used to infiltrate. Color versions are better and can be viewed on my webpage: <http://>.

I remember on one occasion, probably tired of just sitting there, we took off and burned some fuel on call in the air. I think I remember the pilot was Ray Zepp. Mr. Zepp was monitoring the radio and had it on the intercom. We picked up on a grunt unit getting into a firefight. The screaming and yelling was gruesome. I think that was B 5-7 Cav at Shakey’s Hill, which was 23 May 70. I don’t recall going in when they needed a MEDEVAC, but we would have if called, as any other MEDEVAC would when the time came. Unfortunately, I don’t remember many of our pickups. There were dozens of them, they say you only seem to remember what was most traumatic.

Joel Chase wrote, “Several years ago a member of that 15th MED Bn Assn contacted me and invited me to their reunion. I said no but after some thought I decided to attend to show those incredible people that some of us survived. While I have not been able to discover the pilots or crew who evaced me, perhaps nobody wants to accept the blame for doing so. After attending two reunions of the 15th MED Bn Assn, let me say that it was a humbling experience just being in the same room with those true heroes. They are the real deal. Thank you 15th MED Bn”

I wasn’t able, yet, to find out who knew about Joel, and who invited him to the 15 MED Assn Reunion. As he stated, he doesn’t know who MEDEVACed him, but according to him, he went out on the hook. It would still be nice to know what MEDEVAC crew did get into FSB David at 6 am on 14 Jun 70.

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

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

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