Saber Article Index

2019 Sep-Oct

I received an e-mail from Joseph “Jim” West <> who served in Vietnam from Aug 1968-Aug 1969 with the 1st Cav. He was in A 1-8 Cav from Aug ‘68 until about 1 Mar ‘69, was a Pathfnder (Black Hat) OJT on LZ Grant for the frst two weeks of Mar 1969 (when he says they were hit hard on March 8th and hit again on the 11th); and completed his tour with Bravo Co, 2-7 Cav out of LZ Jamie.

Jim says he has been trying to get a Purple Heart for when he was wounded at the end of April ‘69 when B 2-7 was OPCON to 11th ACR, which was when we built Jamie. He got MEDEVACed with another Soldier, James Hosmer. Jim doesn’t recall if it was MEDEVAC just to Jamie. Jim says he has a Bn report dated 01 May 69 that says Hosmer was sent to 93rd Evac. I do not see that on the DA 1594 for that date. Because B 2-7 was OPCON to 11th ACR the DA 1594 would not mention their contact. It should mention if anyone was MEDEVACed from Jamie.

Jim’s platoon leader who was at the incident was later KIA so cannot help. He says Hosmer doesn’t remember anything. He has one other witness but needs the formal documentation, which seems scarce, if nonexistent. If there is nothing on the DA 1594 and no known hospital records, I do not know what to suggest. If anyone has any experience with this and can help, Jim’s phone also is: (717) 802-0242.

I got a telephone call on June 20th. It was from Frank Barrientes of Edinburg, TX, who was a machine gunner in my platoon in C 2-7 Cav in 1969. Frank reminded me it was ffty years to the day that I saved his life when he was badly wounded and wanted to thank me again. He said if it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t be here fifty years later.

I had written in the May-June 2018 Saber about how impressed Sergeant Howard Anderson was with MEDEVAC when it picked up for us on 20 June 69. His impression was, as I had mentioned, why I had extended six months to fly on MEDEVAC when I DEROSed.

On 20 June 69, our company, C 2-7 Cav, had been in contact all morning checking out a bunker complex-XT417718. My platoon took its turn around midday when I saw machine gun tracers streaming from the bamboo in front of me. They yelled for me and I went and caught up to Frank Barrientes who was the target of the tracers. Frank went running and ended up not far away, by the company NDP. The NVA gunner hit Frank in the face and shot his mouth off. When I got to Frank, he was on his way out to death, gasping for breath. I cut his throat and put an airway in the incision, and he sucked for air for life. That was a cricothyrotomy which they showed us how to do in U.S. Army medical training. It helps to pay attention in class. I always kept that procedure in mind and always made a point of carrying several single edge surgical blades for that purpose, which were available from medical supply.

My mother was an RN supervisor and used to bring those razor blades home from work, I assumed. Poking through her beauty box under the sink I always saw them and was perplexed. I asked her how they used them, and she one day brought home curved forceps, she said were Kelly Forceps. She took the blade and swiftly clamped on it. She said they used them in surgery. The blades were Weck razor blades by Edward Weck & Co. of Brooklyn, N.Y. and now show up on eBay as vintage and rare. I thought my mother used them to shave her legs. They were marketed to the public as “Sextoblades” with a convenient barber handle sold that they fit in. They also list on eBay as “Rare Weck Prep Orderly and Nurses safety Razor.” I found biographical information that says, “The company developed technologically, becoming involved in the manufacture of surgical instruments, though it also produced hair shapers that were very much akin to the Sextoblade. In addition, the company made prep razors for use by U.S. military surgeons.”

I still have an original yellow box of them that I saved that says “5 Weck Sextoblades 50 cents. Edward Weck & Co., L.I. City 1, N.Y. For Use in Weck Razors Made Of The Finest Surgical Steel for Economy and Comfort Use These Blades in WECK Razors.” They are a half inch wide and two and a quarter inches long, with a blunt single edge. The cutting edge is as sharp as anything gets, so was easy to use as I did as a young U.S. Army Combat Medic.

The U.S. Army must have had the stated use for them because they were readily available to me from the aid station supply. I even got them to carry for that specific purpose in mind before I went to the feld in the 1st Cav when I was frst assigned to the 2-20 ARA Flight Surgeon Aid Station in Phouc Vinh where I insisted on being transferred to the “field” and was sent to 2-7 Cav in for Palace Guard.

Frank Barrientes can thank my youthful poking in my mother’s stuff and my later astuteness for saving his life. It was only one life, but at least only one life is what counts to each of us.

At one reunion I met Frank’s daughter, and he also has a son. The old saying, you can’t keep a good man down applies. Frank has had to have numerous surgeries in the last ffty years, and still requires a feeding tube. Howard Anderson, who is close because they were in the gun squad together, mentioned to me that Frank was having trouble with the V.A. about that feeding tube lately. Frank on the telephone confrmed it when I asked him. He said he can now go to a private physician, which I would say is thanks to President Trump for emphasizing expanded access for Veterans to VA-funded care in the private sector.

Because I have often seen so many times mentioned in the 2-7 Cav Daily Staff Journals DA 1594 about which MEDEVAC pilot by call sign was picking up for them at any given time, I was curious if it said who the pilot was who picked up for us on 20 June 69 that brought in Frank and the wounded from our Mike Bodnar 13010 N. Lakeforest Dr. Sun City, AZ 85351-3250 (623) 972-4395 MBodnar27@Gmail.Com other platoons. I did see it was MEDEVAC 7. From the 15th MED website pilot call sign list I see that MEDEVAC 7 1969- 1970 was Jack Roden. Very coincidentally, the only time that I got shot down on a MEDEVAC pickup, which was in March of 1970, was with Jack Roden. The copilot was John Lonnon, CE was John Hodges, and door gunner Mike Parsons, flying out of Song Be. Group photo

We were picking up for ARVN; from what I’ve seen documented, 02 Mar 70. We went in to hoist rigid litters and took fire. The pilots broke off and said we’d return, which would allow for them to become better secure.

We went back in and got one rigid litter hoisted and on board. I must have started to lower the hoist for another, and we took fire. It happened so fast the next thing I knew was that we were on the way down. It was later said that a round hit the pilot in the chest protector, i.e. chicken plate, and he lost control. Whether we started to take off and hit trees, I don’t know. I always had to inform them on the intercom where the hoist was at all times. Nevertheless, we went straight down.

We quickly exited the aircraft and assumed a defensive position, i.e. small perimeter; weapons pointing out. No NVA came but the ARVN did. We stayed with them overnight. The only way we could be extracted the next day was by OH-6 Cayuse. So, we all went out by LOH; as many as they could ft in at once. I was ready with M-16 like a “loach” gunner, prepared for anything.

I don’t know what they did with our Huey. That wasn’t my level of concern. My level of concern was getting back to flying as soon as possible, so I wouldn’t have any hesitations. Apparently, I got past it all, because I kept flying which became through the Cambodian Incursion until my second DEROS in July. I have to feel fortunate that was my only, mild, shoot down compared to many others I have written about and plan to write about more in subsequent columns. You could never know what would happen when, but skilled pilots and cooperative ground units improved the situations.

From the Final DEROS page: Raymond D. Kinnard, CPT, Medical Service Corps, of Englewood, CO passed away on 25 December 2018. Ray served as a MEDEVAC pilot with the 15th Medical Battalion in Vietnam from May 67-May 68.

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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