"Doc" Jim Clarke

FMF Corpsman James R. Clarke, Sr.

Enlisted in US Navy 8-31-65. 
Discharged  from active duty Nov. 68 as E-5 HM2. 
Boot Camp San Diego, California  8-65-11-65. 
Naval Hospital Corps School  Nov. 65 - Mar. 66.
US Naval Hospital Portsmouth, Va. Mar. 66- Sept. 66

Transferred to USMC Fleet Marines Force  Oct. 66 - Nov. 66 Camp Lejeune-Montford Point,  for Combat Training prior to RVN. Arrived in RVN  Nov. 8-66, assigned to 1st Marine Division (rein) 1st Hospital company Chu Lai, RVN. Served 363 days in Triage/ICU corpsman in hospital MASH type hospital for major portion of tour.

1. Unit of Assignment: U.S. Naval Hospital/ 1st Marine Division.
2. Location of incident: 1st Hospital Company, 1st Mar/Div. Republic of Vietnam.
3. Approximate Date: Served from 8 Nov. 1966- 8 Nov . 1967.

As 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.

We 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!

My 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.

We worked on an average of 50 to 100 wounded per day during the major operations (battles); to name a few:

Operation DESOTO Jan.67-Feb.67.
Operation ADAIR June 15th to 24 June 24th  67.
Operation UNION I & II April 67- June 67.
Operation SWIFT September 67-Oct. 67.

There 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, 1st Mar/Div.

Operating 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).

By the end of 1966, Operation PRAIRIE which extended into 1967 cost the 3rd Marines approx. 200 KIA and 1000 wounded. Enemy dead totaled over 1000.

In 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.

In 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!

On 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.

Operation COCHISE was from July through 28 August.

Operation 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.

Needless 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 12-hour shift.

The 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!.

The 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.

We 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.

By 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!

My 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.

Semper fi, Jim Clarke

Operation DESOTO

Operation UNION and UNION II

Operation COCHISE

Operation SWIFT

Mike 3/5 Website

(FMF Corpsman title by Redeye)