Saber Article Index

2008 Jul-Aug

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

More from Larry MOSS, MEDEVAC crew chief '70, B 1-9 Cav '69, 1st Aviation '68-'69, : "I was nineteen years old at the time I first arrived in Vietnam in the summer of 1968. I left two years later, mentally much older and sadder.

"I know for most, the Vietnam War is ancient history. But, in light of the latest Iraqi War, my experiences in combat do have relevance in today's world. Any soldier who has ever seen the death of human beings in combat, and the death of innocent civilians, can relate to what is happening today. Different time, but same experience.

"So, I want to tell this story. This happened near the end of my twenty-four months in Vietnam. I was serving as a flying crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter with the 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. I was at a forward base near the Cambodian border (Quan Loi). Our mission was to pick up the combat wounded and bring them back to the mobile hospital for emergency treatment. Along with me, there was a gunner, a medical corpsman, and two pilots on the Huey.

"We were alerted about 10 PM. An infantryman (from one of the infantry battalions in the 1st Air Cav) had been injured by shrapnel. We arrived in about fifteen to twenty minutes after being alerted. When the injured soldier was put in our chopper on a stretcher he was in bad shape. The shrapnel had entered his back and punctured his lungs. His heartbeat was weak to nonexistent. The Medic told me we needed to give him CPR. We had to keep him alive for the twenty minute flight back to the aid station, where the doctors could operate on him.

"At night it is very dark in a helicopter. When you are flying over hostile territory at low levels you don't want to give the enemy a target, so the flying instruments are all lit in red lights. Because of that, everything looked red.

"When the Medic started the CPR, he told me to breath in about eight times a minute. That way if he did survive, he would not have brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. So, I started giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation. I felt something warm and wet get on my face as I did this. As I couldn't see anything in the dark, I didn't think too much about it. For twenty minutes, the Medic and I worked on the young infantryman trying to save his life. All the while I was breathing in his lungs, I kept feeling a wet liquid get on my face and chest as the Medic gave him CPR by beating on his chest.

"We finally arrived at the aid station and delivered our patient to the doctors. We thought he still had a faint pulse. But, on a noisy chopper in the middle of the night it was hard to tell. "After the flight, I as the crew chief had to clean up the chopper for the next flight, even if it was near midnight. At the base you did have lights. Several minutes had passed and the liquid on my face had congealed and started getting cold. In the light at the landing pad I discovered the warm liquid was the blood of the infantryman.

"The shrapnel had punctured his lung, so every time he exhaled, some blood was coming out. And, as I was giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation, I was getting it all over my face, mouth, and chest. At the time I was actually doing this, I was just trying to keep the young man alive. I didn't have time to worry about it. But in the light of the landing pad, and with the cold blood congealing on my face and chest, I got sick and threw up. But, I had to get cleaned up in case there was an emergency in the next few minutes. So, I didn't have time to dwell on it. I had a job to do, and I did it.

"The young man did not survive. The doctors said he drowned in his own blood. I did not even know his name. But to this day, when I see human blood, I flash back to that experience. Even in movies, bloody scenes affect me. On one level I know the blood is fake, but on another level, my mind doesn't.

So, when you see the images of war on television, remember the young men who have to experience it will need our support when they return."

I got a call from Pete MORROW of Killeen, TX, who was in B Co. 15th MED at Quan Loi and Song Be. He said he was also at Bu Dop during the Cambodian Incursion in '70. Drafted and made a quartermaster then, his son is now an E-7 in the 1st Cav. Pete says he's looking for anyone who knew him.

"To 15th  MED Bn. Assn. members: Please post the following request in your Association newsletter, e-groups, Yahoo/MSN groups and Reunion bulletins. Gotta get the word out to capture more 'names.' The 15th MED Bn. had too many aircraft (83), and too few personalized names (6), for history to be satisfied. They must not be under-represented in my forthcoming book. "Helicopter 'nicknames' of the VN War is the subject of a book I'm presently researching. During this process I've documented six personalized names that were displayed on various 15th MED Bn. in-country aircraft: BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS, CHEAP THRILLS, FURGS AND BEANS, HELL'S UGLY, LITTLE VIC DONTARIA, NEW BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS, TIJUANA TAXI. "I'm wondering if this number accurately reflects the total output produced by crews of the 15th MED Bn. who might have painted something special on the nose, door, or fuselage of their Vietnam based 'copters. "There has never been a comprehensive cataloging of personalized 'names' before. This attempt will be the first, and hopefully, the most complete tabulation of Army 'copter nose-art nicknames ever. Therefore, it is important that the published database (late 2009) include all known 15th MED Bn. 'copter names as possible.

"I ask that you notify your members about this project and that you forward their input to me. Scanned photos are welcomed, but not necessary. Sincerely, John BRENNAN, active member in the VHCMA & 114th Avn. Co. Assn.; former SP5, 114th AHC, Vinh Long AAF, 1970-71, Mekong Delta. E-mail: ."

John HAMM, SFC (ret.) D Trp (E Trp. Blues) 1-9th Cav. '70-'71 , e-mailed: "I have just finished reading the Saber. I was mainly interested in the 9th Cav section but happened upon the 15th MED section. I got to thinking-a dangerous thing for me, usually. I thought back to Nov. 29th of 1970 in the jungle near the Dong Nhai River. I was with D Trp. 1-9. We were working as Blues for E Trp. At about 1300 we made contact with a pretty determined enemy force resulting in several Cav casualties. We were MEDEVACed from a pretty hot bomb crater. Thirty-seven years have not erased the memory of that beautiful red cross on that Huey. I just want to thank the 15th MED on behalf of all us gravel agitators, and especially the crew of the bird who flew us out of that crater on Nov. 29th.

"You probably don't get many letters of thanks; although, you surely deserve them. I would be honored if you would publish this letter for all of your members to read. If you have a Reunion, I would be honored if I were allowed to attend for a short time, just to shake a hand or two and say 'thanks'."

The following members are reported to be in the hospital fighting illnesses: Bobby BROOKS, with a mild stroke; Randy BREWER, has had several bouts of bronchitis, could now be pneumonia; Charles WILLIAMS, due to complications with Multiple Sclerosis. Member Jack ZORTMAN has passed away, from long time complications. For more information and contacts, e-mail Webmaster\Past President 2003-2006 15th MED Association Murray GIBBS, MEDEVAC '67-'68 .

Dan TOOTHMAN, "Fang," e-mailed saying, "I had the honor to serve with the 1st Cav in 1969. I was diverted from a gunship assignment and was assigned to MEDEVAC; call sign MEDEVAC 19; Jan '69-Jan '70. I flew many exciting missions with the finest NCOs, EM, and officers in the Army. It was a great tour. In an attempt to find one of our old crew chiefs, Jack DAHLMANN, I sent an e-mail to Murray GIBBS, relating a hoist mission on which Jack and I were shot down on 5 Sep 69. He said you would probably want to put it in the Saber.

"Our second patient hung in a tree when we started taking hits from enemy fire. Jack had to unbuckle from his seat and, standing in the doorway, helped operate the hoist and returned fire with his M-60 at the same time. I don't remember the Medic's name nor the gunner's, who was so new he didn't have Nomex {Fire resistant flight clothing}.

"I have not received the Saber since 1971, but have read all of your stuff on the 15th MED Website. You do good work.

"We had a total electrical failure flying to an emergency landing site and went down on fire, and the engine quit at the top of the trees. We didn't crash, but the patient, in a rigid litter still under the helicopter, hit a tree snapping the hoist cable and he didn't survive. He may have been dead anyway as the ground unit told us he had three GSW's in the chest and they had been giving him mouth-to-mouth for several hours. But, that really doesn't change things from my point of view."

Bill WALSH, MEDEVAC Medic '70, C 2-7 Cav '69-'70, Chicago P.D. (ret.), e-mailed information about his motorcycle club who ride for vets: "Again, the American Knights, including Mikey G, led off the bikers on the run to Marsailles. Check out the little film clip on the Website: < html>." '69 PSG Gordon RUSSELL <> responded with information regarding a photo of him and Cpt. WOOD, posted in this column. "Mike, little info on Cpt. WOOD. He had over three thousand hours and was very good while on a mission. I trusted him more than any other pilot we had at the time. He lives in Weatherford, TX, and is very sick. I stay in touch thru his wife."

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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