Saber Article Index

2000 Sep-Oct

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

"Good morning Mike," writes Jim BRODIE JBR8519738@AOL.COM . "I was given your name by Art JUNOT. Perhaps, you could help me locate an old friend. His name is Carl N. RAY, SFC 67N40. We were stationed in Germany, Fort BENNING and Vietnam at the same times.

"We were the first few in 11th MED Bn. Evac. with 11 Air Aslt., then went to Nam with HHC 15th MED Bn. MEDEVAC 'Sept. '65/ Sept. '66. He was the Maint. Sgt. and I was the TI. Haven't seen him since. It would be nice to know how he is doing. Any advice or help is appreciated. Thanks." Jim's second e-mail to me was, "Hi, Jim BRODIE again. I found my friend Carl RAY. Something made me start looking for him. I talked to his wife and he is dying due to agent orange. My friend Bonin last year and now Carl. I almost wish I didn't know. Thanks again for your time. Jim BRODIE."

I know how Jim feels. I just had a C 2\7 Cav buddy, Bob HACKNEY, die on Aug 22 of the same Vietnam waste. I had seen so many guys die in Vietnam and I would always numb to it the way that the U.S. Army trained me, to get the job done and move on. But the war is over and it is especially hard when you have broken (Audie) MURPHY's LAW, and gotten so close to someone. Perhaps in the future dubious wars like Vietnam will not happen if we have better diplomacy. Study hard diplomats!

Bruce A. DAVIS BADDAVE@LIGHTSPEED.NET writes, "Mike, Do you have anything on a couple of guys who went to Korea with the 15th MED Bn in June '50 by the names of Wm 'Bill' CAVANAUGH and 'James?' PIKE? Also an SFC in the 15th who had his widowed, dependent, mother at Camp DRAKE (Momote Village) with him. They were both former Sfc's, who made WOJG in 1950 as we left Camp DRAKE. I knew many of the older 15th MED guys at Camp DRAKE at that time as my wife, Lee, and I spent a lot of time in their NCO club. We were assigned temporary quarters next door to that club. We lived in a converted officers (BOQ) Quonset hut. We were there 1948-49. Also knew 1sgt SHAHADY (B troop?) who went ZI a few months before we went to Korea. I was the Chief Clerk of the Div AG Sec at that time. Many of we NCO's & spouses played poker every week at each other's quarters. Would appreciate getting their names and addresses or N&A for others there during that time that may have N&A's on folks of the 15th." If anyone can, please help Bruce out; that was before my time.

Gordon RUSSELL writes in again but now has e-mail: , and still snail mail: 25ll Blan St. Columbus GA 3l903. Gordon reminds us, "Mike I was with MEDEVAC Dec '68 to Dec '69 as MEDEVAC PSG." Now it is easier for everyone who served with Gordon as PSG to drop him a line. You know that he would like to get some e-mail from you.

James L. "Jimmy" MINISH JLMINISH@BELLSOUTH.NET from Greensboro, NC, MEDEVAC crew chief in '69 writes, "I got in late on the conversation of 'no show MEDEVACs.' It hit a nerve with me also. Was in DC and a comment was made about a 'no pick up.' I chalked it up as a smart comment but maybe there was something to it. I read the Saber today, sounds like things may have been different in the early stages. I know, like you, that we never let anyone down. I remember besides the hot missions (got shot up a few times and went down once-really a quick emergency landing) that we took over some of DUSTOFFs missions because they were making the grunts go to a better location-we told them to stop and we would pick them up where they were. We did have an advantage-60's on our sides where DUSTOFF didn't. Got to go will talk later."

That is correct, if everyone remembers, with MEDEVAC it was, "If you got hot action, pick up the phone!" Rest easy MEDEVAC brothers, you did good-all of the time! SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE!

I have researched more history and I will mention that. First, though, I must say, that MEDEVAC was more than just a ride to the hospital. MEDEVAC was vital stabilization and life sustaining. The Medic on board made all of the difference to an urgent casualty.

In those several minutes from the pickup site to 15th MED, the flight Medic-I speak from experience-performed all of the vital sign checks and maintained the life supports of the wounded. They would take over from the field Medic, if there was one at the casualty site, and sometimes even performed the, first, aid.

Doc MCNANEY told me that his policy as Division Surgeon in '69-'70 was that NO casualties were to be evacuated on slicks; unless of course he did not know about it. That to me would be sound policy because if casualties were urgent then it would be better for them to remain with a Medic in the field, or forward battalion aid station, who could stabilize those wounded.

If a Medic had to go in with the urgent casualty on a slick then that would take him from his unit which needed him. To just throw casualties on slicks to get them out of there and a ride to the hospital was reckless and a panic situation. It might easily end up being a ride to the morgue. It was always better to wait for the MEDEVAC to get in.

One of the most important things on the MEDEVAC was the starting of blood replacement. MEDEVAC always carried many bottles of Ringer's Lactate. We had bottles of it hanging all over the helicopters. My first PSG, SFC L. Don BARTON, who had inherited the 1st Cav's Air Ambulance Platoon from PSG RUSSELL, introduced me to a better way to administer the Ringer's IVs.

On MEDEVAC we used a long catheter out of its sterile package which threaded through the injected needle up the casualty's vein which was much better than just the needle alone. With all of the casualty movement in the helicopter; from it, and to the first surgeon at 15th MED, the IV connection was much more secure that way.

Maintaining blood pressure with blood replacement fluid ASAP was the most important thing, after stopping the bleeding, to prevent deadly shock. Any auto mechanic out there knows how important it is to keep oil pressure up to critical levels in a vehicle any way acceptably possible in an emergency. You know what will happen if you do not. That is the same thing that will happen to a human-kaput!

Ringer's Lactate was such a simple yet important tool that I even carried it in the field in 1st Platoon C 2\7 Cav. I once ordered from supply on log day an empty U.S. Army gas mask cover that is worn on the outside of the left thigh. In that gas mask cover instead of a gas mask I carried a bottle of Ringer's Lactate with IV works. That was my idea. I wore that everywhere I went; on patrol, on goat ambushes, everywhere that I might have needed it for the worst case. At the June 1986 Chicago Vietnam Veteran's Parade I got together with my buddy and main MEDEVAC door gunner Ricky GOODSON. We stayed at the house of MEDEVAC Medic Bill WALSH; with Bill, his wife Fran, and two young girls: Melissa and Meggins. Bill at that time was a Chicago policeman, born and raised in Chicago. Bill had the unique distinction of following my tracks in Vietnam. He was a replacement Medic in C 2\7 Cav right after I had left in Dec. of '69, and then he also put in for MEDEVAC. Bill was introduced to me as a fellow C 2\7 Cav Medic the day that he came in to be interviewed by Cpt. HAGERTY for the job of MEDEVAC Medic. Bill again took over where I had left off in MEDEVAC after I was gone by Jul '70 and he also flew a lot with Ricky GOODSON. They became very close.

So at the Chicago Parade reunion Ricky told me that he was so inspired by watching me shooting IVs to all of the wounded guys on MEDEVAC in flight that he switched places with Bill. Ricky played-for real-MEDEVAC Medic and Bill WALSH flew as the door gunner. Ricky is a big guy so he would be hard to argue with. Ricky then did all of the shooting up of IVs with the important yet simple Ringer's Lactate. You can read about Ringer's on the Internet by running an engine search. Once it does its job of replacing blood volume it is less harmful than drinking a beer. If I am wrong on any of this I will be corrected by one of the doctors, but that is the way that we were instructed with it and it worked.

Ricky GOODSON used his self taught MEDEVAC Medic skills after he got out of the Army. He was driving a truck for a living and his wife, the love of his life, Ann, told him that he was going back to school. So she paid the bills while Ricky studied and became a lab tech which he was doing in the hospital where they live in Ashdown, AR, where he was also a city councilman, the last time that I checked. I managed to find the out of print Government Printing Office book that I mentioned before, online, complete and free for the taking. You can read for yourself the history of the subject. The book, whose correct title is: DUST OFF: ARMY AEROMEDICAL EVACUATION IN VIETNAM, by Peter DORLAND and James NANNEY, can be found at: <HTTP: vietnam /dustoff> I suggest not only bookmarking it but also saving it to text and/or html file, as well as printing it out because you can never tell when it will disappear from the Internet.

The first author, Peter DORLAND, flew as a pilot for "Eagle Dust Off" of the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) from '71 to '72. The book has a good bibliography so you can always read further if you have any questions about their interpretations of events.

The book mentions that "Dust Off" was the original call sign of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance), "The Original Dust Off." They took that in 1963 from the then in country available call signs, one that did not have a combat connotation, but did have helicopter references. That call sign stuck with all other aeromedical evacuation units in Vietnam from then on except the 1st Cavalry Division's Air Ambulance Platoon whose call sign was MEDEVAC. The 1st Cav's MEDEVAC was also the only aeromedical evacuation unit in Vietnam to have mounted M-60 machine gun armament.

This book has its own version of the first MEDEVAC K.I.A., Cpt. Charles F. KANE. This book also gives credit for the improvement of the 1st Cav's aeromedical evacuation system in Vietnam-to add to his contributions to improvements in 1st Cav and U.S. Army combat tactics there-to then LTC Harold G. MOORE. From the book:

"In his after-action report, Colonel MOORE described another problem he had met in his medical evacuation: the heavy enemy fire and the dense 100-foot high trees had prevented the platoon from evacuating men from the spot where they were wounded. The ground troops had had to move many of the wounded to a single secure landing zone. MOORE reported: 'I lost many leaders killed and wounded while recovering casualties. Wounded must be pulled back to some type of covered position and then treated. Troops must not get so concerned with casualties that they forget the enemy and their mission. Attempting to carry a man requires up to four men as bearers which can hurt a unit at a critical time.'"

The book continues: "The solution, which came later, involved a technical innovation rather than restraining the soldier's natural concern for his wounded comrades." That was as it should be, the wounded were the Medics' job: TO PRESERVE THE FIGHTING STRENGTH; not the distracting concern of the combat arms.

That was also my thinking right along, that some commander had to have used the chain of command and his reports to make improvements. As well as the after action reports of all of the field commanders in the process, who better to give credit to than LTC MOORE with his well applied West Point trained mind, which we all know and love him for.

As they say in the Army, there is a right way to do things, a wrong way, and the Army way. I am not quite sure how that works but the use of LTC MOORE's and others' reports were the right way and the Army way.

This book mentions that the Air Ambulance Platoon was working under strength during 1965, as were most of the units, e.g. 1\7 Cav at LZ XRAY was an under strength battalion; re: PLEIKU by J.D. COLEMAN, page 186.

More from the book: "At the start of the Ia Drang campaign the Air Ambulance Platoon operated twelve aircraft. One was destroyed on 10 October 1965, four were usually down for maintenance, two were required for division base coverage at An Khe, and two supported the operations of the Republic of Korea (ROK) forces east of An Khe. To support the nearly three thousand men of a reinforced brigade, which was the average strength committed at any one time to the Ia Drang, the 15th Medical Battalion now had only three aircraft to site forward. The casualties varied, but averaged 70 to 80 a day, with 280 on the worst day. Fortunately the troop ships carried the less critically injured men from the landing zones, easing the platoon's load."

"By mid-November the 15th Medical Battalion and its Air Ambulance Platoon were short five pilots and fifty-six enlisted men. Of the twelve Medical Service Corps pilots authorized the platoon, one was dead, one was injured, and the battalion commander had placed two on his staff and had reassigned another who had only four months remaining in his tour of duty. The commander asked for replacements, but none could be found because all units were short of men."

Also mentioned is the next MEDEVAC K.I.A., WO1 George W. RICE, on 18Dec65 in an unescorted and unarmed MEDEVAC. That is when I started to become skeptical of this book. When I joined MEDEVAC in 1970 I was told that MG Kinnard said that he was not going to have any of his helicopters flying around without machine guns, so that is when M-60s went on, and stayed on. Although that may have been a legend, it could have been said in Jan of '66 when, as Mel ALLEN confirmed to me, he and Bud DAVIS went to MEDEVAC from the 8th Engineers to become two of the first door gunners, because M-60s were added then.

Mel also confirmed that his first MEDEVAC night pickup was in Feb of '66. Larry GWIN mentions in his book: BAPTISM, on page 258, that MEDEVAC made a night pickup for A 2\7 Cav in April of '65 when they had an ambush accident with C 2\7 Cav. Some have said that night MEDEVAC pickups did not happen in the first year. Also with the addition of M-60s in Jan '66 much bolder responses were possible not that all attempts were not made previously.

"The [Air Ambulance] platoon commander Maj. Carl J. BOBAY, wrote: 'Within three months of operations in Vietnam, two pilots have been killed, one enlisted man wounded, and nine helicopters shot up, all due to enemy action. Believe me ... we are not proud of these statistics. What the next eight months may hold in store for us is too much to even consider.'"

While recently speaking to some associates I got the impression that there was some misunderstanding about something that I had written. LTG (ret.) Harold G. MOORE has been a personal friend of mine for years and like a father to us all who have come in contact with him at the reunions. He waited up for me. Anyone who thinks that I would say anything negative about a friend like that is nuts!

You can view my exclusive photos of the 1st Annual Ia Drang Association Reunion at: <HTTP: ~mbodnar27/1stAnnualIaDrangReunion1.html>. Special thanks to Harry B for LZ security. Sometime I will have to tell you about when LTG (ret.) John TOLSON had me pinned against the wall after I told him that I had his book and I was telling him what other books that I had in my library, at the Ft. HOOD Reunion just before he died in '91.

The nominee for the new U.S. Army Surgeon General, MG James B. PEAKE, has covered both sides of the coin and wears a C.I.B. to the left of his caducei on his lapels. He is a former infantry officer and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. MG PEAKE, up for promotion to LTG with the job, has also earned a Combat Medic Badge with numerous other of the highest medals for valor. Following service in Vietnam he entered medical school at Cornell University in New York. He was awarded a medical doctorate in 1972. HTTP:// default2.htm/armymed

That news also brought to my mind one of our own 1st Cav veterans whom I had met through a buddy, Jon WALLENIUS, who had told me about a '65-'66 B 2\7 Cav 11Charlie foxhole buddy of his and who was a company commander in 2\7 Cav in '69 when I was there in C 2\7 Cav, Sprague TAVEAU.

I did not know it when I met him but I later saw on the network evening news Bob DOLE as Senator from KS introducing Dr. Sprague TAVEAU on the job when he was living and working in KS some years ago. To confirm that I just e-mailed Sprague GLORYSIX@AOL.COM and he blew my mind!

Sprague told me that his first tour was with B 2\7 from 11-'65 thru 2-'67. He was a SSG (E-6) with the Mortar Platoon. He received a "battlefield commission" in Dec '66 and then in Feb '67 went to Fort BENNING where he commanded a basic training company. In Aug of '68 Sprague returned to 2\7 Cav as the 3rd platoon leader in B 2\7. He spent one month as a platoon leader and became the Bn Adjutant, where he remained until Jay MARTINDELL, CO A 2\7 Cav, got wounded in late December of '68. Sprague assumed command of A 2\7 Cav at that time-BENGALED GLORY-SIX-and commanded through the end of July of '69.

Sprague finished up his degree after Vietnam and started Medical School in August of '73. He went back on active duty after graduation and served as Division Surgeon for both the 2nd ID in Korea and then the 9th ID at Fort LEWIS. (Where Barry MCCAFFERY, B 2\7 Cav '68, was his Chief of Staff). Sprague is currently interviewing for a position as the Vice Chair of the Department of Family Practice at N TX U Health Sciences Center, College of Osteopathic Medicine. The Chair is COL (ret.) Tim COLERIDGE and the University President is LTG (ret.) Ron BLANCK (a battalion surgeon with the 9th ID during Vietnam and the most recent Army Surgeon General -whom MG PREAKE would supersede if confirmed).

With veterans like these our country is in good hands. 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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