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Print by Joe Kline
498th Air Ambulance Platoon
Vietnam medevac missions
by Williams S. Phillips
In April of 1962, the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) arrived in Vietnam with five UH-1 “Huey” helicopters. They took the call sign Dustoff. Over time the number of medevac detachments grew in Vietnam until the entire country had coverage and Dustoff became the universal call sign for all medevac missions.
A Dustoff crew consisted of four people: two pilots, a medic and a crew chief. Usually, one pilot would fly the helicopter while the other acted as the aircraft commander. The commander would navigate, monitor all of the radio transmissions, talk to the unit requesting the medevac and would take over flying if the pilot were injured. The medic kept the helicopter stocked with the necessary medical supplies and the crew chief would maintain the helicopter in top working condition. They would both load the patients onto the helicopter and the medic would administer any necessary medical treatment on the way to the hospital, often with the help of the crew chief. The medic and crew chief would stay with a particular helicopter while the pilots were interchangeable between helicopters. These crews saved many lives and were universally respected by all of the soldiers in the war.
Evac Hospital 93rd, Long Bình, 1966
The summer of 1969 I got my induction papers from “Uncle Sam.” I think it read “I Want You.” I had orders to enter the United States Army on September 2, 1969. That letter didn’t surprise me one bit. I knew it was inevitable. Just because I got drafted into the Army didn’t necessarily mean Vietnam duty. Some men got orders for Korea, Germany or other duty station after training.
I was informed to report to Fort Polk, Louisiana for basic training. That’s when I knew Vietnam was in my future.
The Military Selective Service Act of 1967 expanded the years of the draft to the ages of 18 to 35. It still granted student deferments but ended them upon either the student’s completion of a four-year degree or his 24th birthday, whichever came first. There was also an exemption from the draft for married men between the ages of 19 and 26. That may have had an impact on the rise of teenage couples getting married in the sixties. Moving up to Canada to avoid the draft (draft dodgers) also became popular. On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter, on his first day in office, fulfilled a campaign promise by granting unconditional pardons to hundreds of thousands of men who had evaded the draft during the Vietnam War by fleeing the country or by failing to register.
In 1972, Curtis Tarr spins a plexiglass drum holding capsules with the birth dates and orders for men born in 1953 at the beginning of the fourth annual Selective Service lottery in Washington. (Charles W. Harrity / Associated Press)
On December 1, 1969, the Selective Service System of the United States conducted two lotteries to determine the order of call to military service in the Vietnam War for men born from 1944 to 1950. These lotteries occurred during “the draft”—a period of conscription, controlled by the President, from just before World War II to 1973.
The lottery numbers assigned in December 1969 were used during calendar year 1970 both to call for induction and to call for physical examination, a preliminary call covering more men.
I received my draft notice three months before the draft lottery went into effect on December 1, 1969. Looking at this chart, my lottery number would have been 69.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 75,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.
The New Cavalry
During the Vietnam War, the United States relied on the helicopter as never before. The helicopter’s role in combat expanded enormously in this conflict as thousands of “choppers” rapidly transported personnel throughout the war zone. Heavily armed helicopters offered a fearsome component to ground operations as close air support.
From March 1970 to April 71, I had the honor of serving with Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam. We were 100% mobile and made up of three platoons, aero scouts (White platoon) aero weapons (Red platoon) and aero rifle (Blue platoon).
AH-1G Huey Cobra ‘Snake’
Aero Weapons platoon
Maintenance hanger and flight line at Phuoc Vinh Airfield
The Maintenance platoon’s main job was to keep Charlie Troop’s aircraft running in tip-top condition, which was critical for the success of our missions.
I left Vietnam in April of 1971 after serving 13-months with Charlie Troop 1/9th, 1st Air Cavalry Division.
I recall how I felt when South Vietnam fell four years later in April of 1975. Those feelings rekindled as I watched the documentary “Last Days in Vietnam”.
The truth is that our military won the war, but our politicians lost it. The Communists in North Vietnam signed a peace treaty, effectively surrendering. But the U.S. Congress didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people desperately attempt to escape. On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront the same moral quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate U.S. citizens only–or to risk treason and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can.
The entire U.S. presence was ordered to be out of the country within 24 hours. As word spread, the Embassy was swarmed by locals claiming to have American friends; many were shepherded in, most were kept out by armed guards.
Sailors push a helicopter off a landing platform of the U.S.S. Kirk to clear room for more helicopters dropping off refugees.
Photo Courtesy of Craig Compiano
What we ate
Chow Time On The Dmz by Bob George
Early each morning, while our choppers were cranking I would walk down to the Phuoc Vinh flight line to a supply conex container with eleven or so other Blues. There we gathered what we needed for another recon mission.
There were also cases of C-rations in the conex with a variety of twelve different meals of which to choose. It was always a treat if you got your hands on LRP rations, which were much tastier. I filled at least two water canteens for the day. You didn’t want to short yourself of water; the heat and humidity in the jungle were very unforgiving.
Twelve different menus are included.
Each menu contains:
One canned meat item
One canned fruit, bread or dessert item
One B unit
An accessory packet containing cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, toilet paper, coffee, cream, sugar, and salt and a spoon.
Four can openers are provided in each case of 12 meals. Although the meat item can be eaten cold, it is more palatable when heated.
Each complete meal contains approximately 1200 calories. The daily ration of 3 meals provides approximately 3600 calories.”
We usually ate a C-ration meal in the bush and as Blues, we had the luxury of returning to Phuoc Vinh for our last meal of the day at the mess hall.
Mess hall menu:
For breakfast, you had to decide whether or not you wanted SOS, which stands for Shit On Shingle, French Toast or pancakes. There were eggs and that day’s meat selection. Most of the time, it was bacon, but sometimes we had ham or sausage.
Coffee and chocolate or regular milk were the drinks of choice.
It seemed like every other day you got roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy and a vegetable. The days in between was either a step up from beef, steak, hamburger or pork chops. We never asked where they got the meat.
Both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals were different in that stuffing, ham and turkey were offered instead of our usual daily dose of roast beef.
Many evenings I’d grab a vegetable burger from the officers club if the mess hall were closed before we got back. They sold them out of the club’s rear window.
After word had got out about the bad guy working in the mess hall, I consumed more cheeseburgers…