Saber Article Index

2018 jul-aug

I have been trying to get Daily Staff Journals DA 1594s to document which MEDEVAC pilots and crews made any particular pickups. Thus far the best information is coming from the requesting battalion DA 1594 e.g. 2-7 Cavalry. The HHC 15th MED DA 1594s I have seen do not document MEDEVAC missions specific to those requested in brigade. I have asked a lot of Veterans, but no one has been able to say if they know of that being documented on any DA 1594. I was told that the request for a MEDEVAC, chain of command, would be from the lowest level: platoon, to company, to battalion, to brigade. As fast as a radio can transmit.

Researching for activity in the 1st Cav, 1st Brigade specific to the 15 Aug 69 NVA offensive, I was told by the National Archives that a DA 1594 for A Co 15th MED does not exist. If the mission to the MEDEVAC crew stationed at A Co in 1st Brigade did not come from them-and I have no way of knowing if A Co documented it as there is no existing DA 1594 for them. Then it had to come from Brigade. I got a sample copy of the 1st Cav 1st Brigade DA 1594 for 16 Aug 69 and it pretty much reflects what is on the 2-7 Cavalry DA 1594 about MEDEVAC requests. Although the 1st Brigade DA 1594 mentions all activity in the brigade AO for all battalions. I have seen on various 2-7 Cavalry DA 1594s-of the many more of those I have-the actual mention of the MEDEVAC AC’s call sign, so that is helpful. It isn’t always called out.

I have been reading all the DA 1594s for 2-7 Cav just to follow and plot on the maps I have of the daily movement of C 2-7 Cav which is specific to my own experience. Anyone can do the same for their experience if they obtain these same tools. Now that I see occasionally the MEDEVAC AC call sign is called out I know which crew flew any particular mission. This seems to be the only way to know until someone tells me different, but no one has. I asked MEDEVAC pilot and 15th MED webmaster Ron Huether how they got the missions and he said they came from brigade. I couldn’t discern if brigade meant the 15th MED company at brigade, or even if they were a middleman. If they documented on a DA 1594, nothing was preserved.

I spoke to 1st Cav Association Executive Director Dara Wydler on the phone asking her about the Daily Staff Journal DA 1594 because she was a First Sergeant in an aviation unit during her Army career, and she told me the first thing she looked at when she went on duty every day was the DA 1594. She said that told her everything about what had happened and what she needed to know. She said it was filled out by the CQ, not necessarily typed, and she didn’t know if any of those were preserved to the National Archives like the ones I am obtaining. The fact that the Daily Staff Journals DA 1594s from Vietnam I have been preserved to the National Archives and are available is incredible.

Ironically, for a combat field unit, all the 2-7 Cav Daily Staff Journals (I have a full year) all typed, in military fashion. I can’t imagine anyone trying to decipher handwritten important documents like that in personal handwriting, which at worst could be like the notorious “doctor’s handwriting” style. When 2-7 Cav battalion headquarters was in its worst situation, like when FSB Jay was heavily attacked on 29 Mar 70 I have no DA 1594. The next day 30 Mar 70 all the entries are sparse and eerily say, “All elements report negative SITREP”-but still typed. I asked Ron Huether if the MEDEVAC 9-Line request information was saved and he said 9-Lines were written on scraps of paper, in ink on the palm of your hand, or given over the radio and written on the windscreen in wax pen. There was no record of them kept. Because no documentation of which MEDEVAC AC pilot and crew performed which mission and because I only occasionally see a pilot call sign documented on any DA 1594 I have viewed I asked Ron if a MEDEVAC pilot call sign list could be made so I or anyone could ID the pilot who picked up for them, if the call sign was known. Ron said that one was started by MEDEVAC pilot Rich Leonard, whom I flew with at least one harrowing time, and I was given the web address:   .

I asked if those call signs were retired and I was told they were recycled. I then asked about putting dates on when those pilots had those call signs, and I supplied some to him that I knew. Ron got to work, took some of my offerings, his own knowledge, and some from earlier years I got from Larry Hatch. Larry flew in ‘66-’67 before everyone was designated with the MEDEVAC prefix and was MEDEVAC call sign Mercy 11. Now, anyone like myself can look up which MEDEVAC pilot and crew picked up for them if they see a call sign called out on their battalion’s Daily Staff Journal.

Four 11 Bravos showed up at the Reunion to thank the 15th MED for everything they did in for them in Vietnam. Rob Doll, Anthony Manetta, and Stuart Olson of 2-8 Cav were in a platoon that ran into an NVA headquarters and got mauled. Pilot Ron (Baby Huey) Huether and CE Jim Ferguson worked that mission and were at the Reunion to meet those grunts and talk about how they remembered that mission. A short article about that mission may be read at “Snipers in Box Canyon” on the Web site, which I included in an earlier Saber column.

The MEDEVAC pilot call sign list is a work in progress. So, if anyone has information and updates they are encouraged to contact the webmaster Ron Huether

While I was communicating with Ron about all this he mentioned he had a bone to pick with me because I had said our 2-7 Cav battalion surgeon had earned his Combat Medical Badge when he jumped off the Charlie Charlie bird to take over assisting us with our wounded. Ron said he thought a CMB could only be earned by Combat Medic assigned to an infantry unit for thirty days and under fire.

I told him I totally agree, that’s the way I thought it should be, but it’s not up to me. The AR I have read seems to state differently. I think the AR allows for up to a brigade, like if any medical personnel were off on a brigade task force, or if the unit was brigade size. One has to thoroughly read the AR and then it’s up to interpretation, like all laws. It’s difficult to know what the Army originally meant, and it seems to keep changing.

I was only being figurative in referring to our battalion surgeon, but Ron had no way of knowing that. I think the AR for the CMB would allow for an infantry battalion surgeon to earn a CMB, but I’m not the deciding committee. I was emphasizing that our battalion surgeon wasn’t more safely back at the LZ Battalion Aid Station but flew out with the battalion commander in the CC helicopter and even courageously jumped off to assist us, which if he was eligible for the CMB according to the AR, that helped him earn it.

That particular doctor was with 2-7 Cav more than thirty days-months in fact. He was very helpful like I describe, as well, he once called together all the Medics in my company and told us he was allowing us to carry antibiotics, which previously was not permitted. That made an enormous difference treating jungle rot which was a scourge to my platoon members, and I as well was not immune. I had members of other platoons come to me because their Medic didn’t care. It happened.

I also personally saw that doctor working on a mass of wounded and not giving up when most anyone else would think they were dead. That battalion surgeon was with an infantry unit more than thirty days, under fire at times, and I think was certainly deserving of the CMB. Other battalion surgeons, if they are reading this, could tell me what they know.

Ron said, “I guess I’m blind, because I could swear there was a thirty-day time on it. I say this because we had an awards-crazy platoon leader in MEDEVAC that set up a few foxholes on the wire at Phuoc Vinh and had orders cut on the officers for thirty days saying we were attached to the infantry in the Perimeter Defense Squad. All so he could meet the requirements for the CMB. I know most of my DUSTOFF pilot friends wear the CMB but over the years I’ve never had one that could produce orders. I guess this all falls into the category of, ain’t we got better things to worry about?” I would say, no, we don’t have better things to worry about, because that is important, to me. Combat Medics in infantry units busted their asses, as well as risked them. I had better have gotten his quote right or he’ll have another bone to pick with me.

I have seen too much fraud over the years (stolen valor) even in the 1st Cavalry Division Association by purported members, to take it lightly. I met one Veteran at a Reunion who was wearing a CMB and I asked him whom he was with. He said that he would never have lowered himself to be in the infantry, that some general pinned the CMB on him once for helping with the wounded in the rear after taking incoming. I was incensed!

A dedicated MEDEVAC Medic I knew said he would have dearly loved to have the CMB. But, if you covet that badge so much, you also have to covet the job of being with and helping the infantryman every step of the way through his hell, keeping him healthy and alive, even at the cost of your own life. So many have done that the right way, and it’s like a family.

One Medic I knew when I was first assigned in Vietnam in the rear by the 93rd Evac Hospital, Andy Van Duinen, followed my lead when I 1049ed (twice and a couple of verbal) to the 1st Cav, just so I could do my part like all the others who had no choice. Andy transferred to the 1st Cav to fly on MEDEVAC but was initially assigned to 1-8 Cav. He never left 1-8 Cav until DEROS because he said he liked the grunts so much. And they probably liked him. That’s what the CMB means.

In the last column I mentioned the combat units coping with the restraints of the Vietnam War when the enemy had sanctuary and could come and go and not be legally pursued past the border. Then came the Cambodian Incursion. I have also over the years mentioned the out of print Government Printing Office book: Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam by Peter Dorland (Author), James Nanney (Author) which can be downloaded for free as a PDF <>. Just run that title on Google.

Again, DUSTOFF was the non-combat referring call sign the first Army aeromedical evacuation units of the 44th Medical Brigade chose from a list. You can read about it in the book. There is a whole section on the Air Ambulance Platoon of the 1st Cav. which we know differed and used the radio call sign MEDEVAC. MEDEVAC also differed because it mounted M60 machine guns.

The following is from this book about Cambodia: “From the early 1960s the North Vietnamese Army had brought supplies and Troops into South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail running south through the Laotian panhandle and eastern Cambodia, and along the trails running northeast from the Cambodian coast on the Gulf of Thailand. In 1967 the United States began covert operations, code-named SALEM HOUSE, against these enemy supply routes. Although limited in size and scope each incursion team had a maximum of twelve allied Soldiers, including three American Soldiers, and a maximum penetration of twenty kilometers into Cambodia - some 1,400 SALEM HOUSE missions took place from 1967 through 1970.

“In early 1970 the U.S. military leaders in Vietnam saw the need for larger strikes against the supply routes. Insurgents in Cambodia were stepping up their campaign against the new anti-Communist Cambodian government of LTG Lon Nol, and Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, was soon isolated. On 1 April the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces began to clear a corridor ten to fifteen miles wide along the border all the way from the Gulf of Thailand to the Fish Hook region north-northwest of Saigon, threatening III and IV Corps Zones in South Vietnam. Responding to these threats, the allied forces decided to openly assist the new Cambodian government. In mid-April ARVN forces conducted a limited cross-border raid near the Parrot’s Beak region, south of the Fish Hook region. At the same time U.S. and ARVN staffs started planning for a joint operation against several enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia, especially in the Fish Hook region, and on 28 April President Nixon approved the final plan. From early May to the end of June elements of several large U.S. combat units in South Vietnam - the 1st Infantry Division, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment- took part in these joint strikes at suspected Viet Cong bases over the border. USAF B-52 tactical bomb strikes and large-scale U.S. heli-lifts and helicopter gunship strikes prepared the way for the ground forces. DUST OFF and MEDEVAC helicopters supported both South Vietnamese and American Soldiers in this operation. During May the 1st Cavalry’s Air Ambulance Platoon supporting the attack flew 1,042 missions (307 in Cambodia) and evacuated 1,600 patients (946 from Cambodia). The dense jungle and forests along the border resulted in eighty hoist missions for 182 patients. Although constituting only 7.6 percent of the total missions for May, hoist missions accounted for 53 percent of the ships hit by enemy fire that month. In May four ships were destroyed and eleven damaged. Ten crewmen were wounded, and one killed. In June deeper penetrations into Cambodia increased flying time for the pilots and crews, even while the number of missions declined as the lighting tapered off. The crews flew 682 missions (199 in Cambodia) and evacuated 1,056 patients (397 from Cambodia). They also extracted 185 patients in ninety-one hoist missions. The 45th Medical Company and the 159th Medical Detachment helped the Air Ambulance Platoon by backhauling many patients to hospitals around Saigon. Because the Viet Cong had been warned of the foray and had fled the area, casualties were far below the April estimates. What had loomed as a severe test for the Dust-Off system proved to be largely routine work, except for the dangerous hoist missions over triple-canopy jungle and forest.”

Just before the unknown Cambodian Incursion all MEDEVAC crewmen were told everyone was going to be assigned to a helicopter, which was irregular. It wasn’t until 01 May 70 when we were all in assembled in Quan Loi, which was the central staging area for Task Force Shoemaker that the Air Ambulance Platoon Leader CPT Hagerty gathered us all together on a landing pad and said, “Men, we’re going into Cambodia!” We all cheered-and went to work.

James OdumI received the orders for two Distinguished Flying Crosses that were awarded to MEDEVAC crewmen in Vietnam in 1969. One was to CE SP5 Elmer J. Dahlman Jr. for returning and suppressing enemy fire during a hot urgent medical evacuation near LZ Joe 12 May 69. When leaving, an enemy tracer round ignited the fuel cell causing a forced emergency landing during which SP5 Dahlman continued to suppress enemy fire until help arrived.

The other Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to door gunner SP4 James M. Odum for heroism while participating in aerial flight evidenced by actions above and beyond the call of duty 22 Jun 69. During a medical evacuation of ground forces SP4 Odum leaned out of his seat in order to clear the aircraft and help position it over the friendly unit’s position. Enemy fire became too intense and the MEDEVAC had to leave the area while SP4 Odum returned fire. Making another attempt into the area, SP4 Odum fearlessly exposed himself as he placed suppressive fire on the hostile positions until enemy fire completely destroyed his machine gun. No more was noted.

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

Bottom border for page.