Petty Officer 3rd class on arrival, was placed working in triage.
This duty was to receive combat wounded from the medivac choppers
and start immediate life saving support which included keeping the
wounded from bleeding to death and keep them breathing until the
surgeons could operate. We acted as a team of approximately 4 corpsman
per 12-hour shift that run 7 days per week, 24 hours a day.
triage corpsman were stand alone without the aid of nurses only
doctors as primarily as surgeons or medical doctors not within triage
or SICU. The main job description was to retrieve wounded from the
choppers and to keep them alive till the surgeons could operate.
It was what is called B & B work; Keep them Breathing &
keep them from Bleeding!
duties in this area ran from Jan. 1967 to approximately July of
1967. My other assignment was the surgical recovery/ICU which was
as senior corpsman. Our routine duties were to recover the post-surgical
wounded and care for them in any fashion that warranted intensive
care; All job performance was that of any registered nurse
in any US Naval stateside hospital.
worked on an average of 50 to 100 wounded per day during the major
operations (battles); to name a few:
Operation ADAIR June 15th to 24 June 24th 67.
Operation UNION I & II April 67- June 67.
Operation SWIFT September 67-Oct. 67.
were many other smaller operations, too many to count. There are
documented statistics on the hundreds of US casualties and KIA during
these months in 1967 with the 3rd Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment,
in the I Corps three most southern provinces-Quang Nam, Quang Tin,
and Quang Ngai- the 1st Marine Division in the first three months
sent out more than thirty-six thousand company-sized operations,
patrols and ambushes; Ref. Book, Semper Fi Vietnam-From DaNang to
the DMZ Marine Corps Campaigns, 1965-1975 by Edward F. Murphy. Library
of Congress ISBN 0-89141-562-9 (hardcover).
the end of 1966, Operation PRAIRIE which extended into 1967 cost
the 3rd Marines approx. 200 KIA and 1000 wounded. Enemy dead totaled
May 67, Operation UNION closed down after the twenty-seven day campaign
had cost the Marines 110 dead and 473 wounded with an enemy body
count of 865.
the morning of May 26, 67, Operation UNION II opened and a
total of 118 NVA dead were found, with the Marines losing 38 KIA
and 82 WIA in one day!
May 30, 5th Marines encountered a large NVA battalion, and after
intense fighting for a day found 476 NVA KIA. The Marines lost 71
KIA and 139 WIA. Operation UNION II was closed down
in early June 67.
COCHISE was from July through 28 August.
SWIFT started 4 September 67. During this operation, Navy
Chaplain Fr. Vincent Capodanno was killed in action and brought
to our unit where I personally opened his body bag. He was our unit
chaplain, and a friend to all. His tragic death was a shock to all
the Marines and Naval personnel who grew to love him as a spiritual
leader and a great leader. He received the Medal of Honor (posthumously).
The next day, 5 September, the Marines counted 130 dead NVA
soldiers, and the Marines lost 54 KIA and 104 WIA which came through
our field hospital! Between 5 Sept. and 10 Sept. the Marines lost
78 KIA and 222 WIA which came through 1st Hospital Company.
to say, not all those killed in action and wounded were on my watch,
but the majority of those were during the day time, and that was
sight and smells of death and dying on a daily basis, which one
particular day during Operation UNION, we received 72 KIA on flat
trucks, all of which had been baking in 100 degree heat for 24 hrs.
The stench when opening those bags still live in my memory. I remember
taking one of the wounded out of his bag, and when I lifted him
behind his head, there was nothing left and my hand entered his
brain cavity to my wrist!.
exact count of WIA during those months of Jan.6-7-Oct. 67 was 2030
and 531 KIA that more than likely came through our field hospital.
This number does not reflect civilian Vietnamese and ROK Marines
(Korean) and the Army's 196th Lt. Infantry Brigade.
were very, very busy day and night, for which I cannot remember
details, of which I am thankful to the author of the book for statistics.
I knew we worked on thousands of men, but I can't remember exact
dates. I can only really remember my arrival time and leaving. Till
this day in 2001, I have only a few reflections of all that trauma.
the end of October 1967, I was coming apart mentally and physically.
I couldn't stand to hear a chopper overhead nor the landing of such
without causing extreme agitation. I still have flashbacks
of receiving wounded like that in Vietnam!
best friend from childhood was a Navy Corpsman with M 3/5, 1st Mar/Div.
I was lucky and very happy to rotate
back to USA in Nov. 67.
fi, Jim Clarke
and UNION II
Corpsman title by Redeye)