"Doc" Vic Perez
 FMF Corpsman with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines 1966-67

Born and raised in the Mission district of San Francisco, Spanish Father and German Mother. I look like a German and act like a Spaniard. Quite a combination of being a cold-blooded realist and a romantic. Very confusing at times.

Joined the Air Force in 1959 and spent 6 years as a medic, 4 years on the ground and 2 years in the air flying Air and Sea rescue and Medical evacuation.

Was involved in some of the first medical evacuations from Viet-Nam in 1965, and decided that I could be of better use to the Marines with my experience if I was on the ground with them. I resigned from the Air Force to join the Navy in July 1965 on the stipulation that I would be guaranteed FMF combat duty with the Marine infantry. The shrinks had a field day with that one! Had to go back to Navy Boot Camp just to find out that I didn't need to be there because I was prior service, and an NCO. They sent me to Oaknoll Naval Hospital for almost a year before cutting me orders to FMF School, Camp Pendleton.

Graduation Day and my 25th Birthday, I received orders to report to 3/5, First Marine Division, Viet-Nam. I arrived in country in Sept '66 and was assigned as a platoon Corpsman to India Co. 3/5 through November '66. I was promoted to Senior Company Corpsman of Kilo Co. 3/5 in early December and remained there through Operation UNION I and II. Because I had spent more time in the field then was customary, I was transferred back to the Bn. Med Station to serve out my time until rotation back to the land of the Great PX.

Doc Perez in the village of Lon Phu 1 with Little Yvonne, interpreter and protector
Feb. or March '67 (right below Hill #63 or #69, right outside of Chu-Lai)

"She would warn me ahead of time whenever there was a VC assassination team in the area, or when I'd get called out in the middle of the night. Nice story, it got printed in the "Corpsmen" history book published by Turner Publishing on the history of Navy Corpsmen from the beginning up through DESERT STORM." 

Doc Perez on the far right holding the e-tool

 Operation UNION
 3/5 Battalion staging area

The first photos of the first med evac's at the start of Operation UNION (that was when the M-16's didn't work!). The fighting was so heavy and intense that it was 4 days before any wounded could be brought out. Gen. Westmoreland took one look, and gave up his helicopter to be used for evac's.  

Arrival of first casualties
(click to enlarge)

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In October of '67, I found myself being a civilian, returned to California to be reunited with my wife at the time, and a new baby boy that was born after I arrived Incountry. I couldn't think of anything to do seriously, so I bought a new Porsche 911, worked as a private detective in LA for a while, then opened up a talent agency in Hollywood, got tired of that and joined in the restaurant business that my wife's family operated. That lasted 2 years, then I moved to Orange County, California, became Real Estate salesman full time, a Deputy Sheriff full time, and went to Santa Ana College 3/4 time.

That lasted a couple of years, then after managing and teaching Real Estate, I evolved into the Mortgage Banking field where I remained until 1980, got tired of the "Rat race " and moved to Alaska. My new wife, Linda's idea, as she had family there. (Turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.)    

I found myself being the only Mortgage Banker in Southeast Alaska, (Juneau ) and had quite a bit of fun for about 5 years. Fishing was great, and even did some Real Estate developing. Got tired of that, and joined the Alaska Department of Corrections at their Maximum Security Prison in Juneau till I retired in 1995.     

As a sideline and a reason to have a big boat, I got my Captain's License to run a Charter fishing boat in the Alaskan waters for ten years. When I got rid of the boat, my wife's only comment was, "Well there's a $20,000 a year raise for you!" A testament to a boat is a hole in the water to which one pours money into!

I now find myself back working for a living, after a few fun, but unprofitable ventures, as a Mental Health Counselor for the Chronic Mentally Ill, teaching them social skills and having to deal with real life problems. Still being the Corpsman.

"Doc" Vic and Linda Perez

Today finds me as a Father of 6, Grandfather of 8 with more on the way, and host to our 3/5 guys that want to fish Alaska. Col. Tilley (Ret'd) is always available as my deckhand during the summer, returning with several hundred pounds of Halibut fillets and a record catch of a #360 lb. Halibut taken in Glacier Bay during one of our trips! One of the benefits of being a Charter Fishing Captain for ten years is that you always know where the fish are. 

I've accumulated over 40 lbs. of research material that covers our time with 3/5 in '66 & '67 to which I will dish out to Debbe, so she can bargain with India and Kilo websites as she sees fit, and maybe get a few free lunches out of it.    

Oh!..Thought I'd better mention that I just got a copy of Gary Hook's book, "One day in Viet-Nam." It covers the life story of one of his family that was a Bird Dog pilot who was lost during Operation DESOTO, Quag-Nghai province January '66. Kilo 3/5 is a part of that story, and is a good read.

Semper Fi! Doc

Written to Father Vincent Capodanno's Brother, James. Father Capodanno was Killed In Action 4 September 1967 while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines during Operation SWIFT.

14 November 1996

From: Vic "Doc" Perez
To: James Capodanno

Dear Mr. Capodanno,

You don't know me, but I wanted to write and personally thank you for the St. Christopher medal Gerry Pendas and Ed Fitzgerald requested on my behalf.

I was a Navy Corpsman with the 3rd Bn. 5th Mar. 1st Mar. Division, and served with your brother after I finished my tour with "K" Company 3/5. I believe that we both arrived at the Battalion around the same time. I had survived my time looking after my Marines in combat, and was to serve the rest of  my tour at the Battalion Aid Station before rotating back to the States. It was there that I met, and got to know Father Capodanno, and over time, considered him a friend.

 I've thought of his family often over the years, and hoped that they understood the love he had for 'his Marines.' As a Combat Corpsman, this was something your Brother and I shared. Many a time we divided up the body and the soul of an errant Marine, and put forth our best efforts to get him back on track.

I don't know if the Good Father ever shared the story with you about the Marine that had had too much beer, and was feeling real put out because the 1st Sgt. would not okay his request for leave to return to the US to settle a disagreement with his girlfriend. It was one of those rare times that some of the beer had made it out as far as our hill, and we were all taking advantage of it while it lasted. The Marine in question had gotten a little obnoxious and I tossed him out of the Beer Tent, and told him to go sober up. 

The Marine returned about an hour later, demanding to talk to me, outside away from the tent, and the other Marines. Not knowing his intentions and all Marines during that time walked around fully loaded and armed to the teeth I first stripped the bolt from his weapon, disarming it before any discussions occurred. With the bolt safely in my pocket, a very tearful and confused Marine confessed to me that for the last hour he had been lying in wait up where the 1st Sgt. had his tent, waiting for him to show up so he could kill him. There are times when a Marine tends to confuse a Corpsman with a Chaplain, and this was definitely one of those times. After I felt that I had correctly accessed the situation prompted by the fact that there was still beer that needed drinking I and my Marine in tow, went in search for the Padre. 

I knew by past experience that Father Capodanno would normally be in his tent at that hour, either writing letters, or reading. True to his character, the Padre treated this intrusion as an opportunity to assist one of his Marines, any clime, any time. I used the side of the Padre's tent to support the Marine, braced by his rifle, and went on to explain what the problem was. When I got to the part about the 1st Sgt. and the Marine's intentions, I knew I had the good Father's utmost attention. We both came to a quick agreement that it was not soul saving, prayer, or preaching that was needed, but an understanding ear, followed up with a stern "Father to Son" type talk. 

The Padre assured me that he was up to the challenge, and I was now free to return to reducing the supply of beer available tour rag tag organization. Just as it appeared that Father Capodanno had worked out how to get our Marine unjammed and off the side of his tent, I pulled the bolt of his rifle from my pocket, and said, "Oh, by the way...it seemed like a good idea at the time that I should disarm him, considering circumstances...Feel free to give it back to him when you're through!" I honestly believe that was the only time I had ever witnessed a stutter from the good Father.

This was just one of the many such stories that I've told over and over throughout the years. I've felt honored that I was fortunate to have met and known your brother, and have been faithfully doing what I can to keep his memory alive.

I had only about seven days left on my tour in Vietnam, and was ordered back in combat due to the losses of our field Medical Corpsmen, and the severity of "Operation Swift." If my memory serves me right, it was four days before the dead and wounded could be evac'd from the field due to the intense fighting. It was within those first few days that we received, and were stunned by the news of Father Capodanno's death. There were no details available at that time, as to the circumstances and events that led up to his death.

A request was made to the Battalion Aid Station to send someone that knew Chaplain Capodanno and bring his dental records so that a positive identification could be made. I  was assigned that task, not because I was the one most qualified to perform this duty, but it was my Chief's way of making sure I got home safely. My replacement was to accompany me, assist me in whatever way he could, then wish me goodbye and good luck. He was to return with the information, and I was to continue on and wait for my plane home.

 I regretfully say that I was unable to carry out my task. Not only was I unable to identify your brother, due to the number of the casualties, and the confusion that is common to the situation, I was unable to locate him.

It has only been in the last four years that I was able to learn the whole story through my research, and attempts to locate some of the surviving corpsmen and Marines from my old unit. There's about thirty of us that stay in touch very regularly, and do what we can to keep those memories alive, part of which is how your brother touched our lives. We are all richer in life for knowing him.

I thank you for your consideration. The St. Christopher's Medal has more than a religious significance to me, and is a constant reminder of a friend and comrade that I respected and miss dearly. I hope this letter finds you well...Thanks again, and Semper Fi, Mr. Capodanno.

Vic "Doc" Perez

Writings by "Doc" Vic Perez

Doc's Revenge: The Burning of the Officer's Shitter By Vic "Doc" Perez

Actually that little story happened time and time again. Doc was "Doc" to every Marine he came in contact with. The first time that I remember it happening was when I was a platoon Corpsman with I 3/5, just before being assigned to Kilo Company as your Sr. Corpsman.

Our platoon took a hit on it's Amtrak by a command detonated 200 lb bomb booby trap. The handful of us that were still left on the hill ran thru the mined area to get to our Marines and render aid. The fireball went up about 20 stories high and was hot enough to melt some weapons into the steel superstructure of what was left of the Amtrac. No one was killed outright, but all were burned and torn up. Even as bad of shape that they were in,they immediately set up a perimeter. Most of the M-14's barrels were melted and bent, but they were determined to do as they had been trained to do.

After looking after the most life threatening wounds I started working on this one black Marine that I suspected had a possibly broken back,and was bound and determined to get up and join the other Marines in protecting the perimeter. This particular Marine and I had had several cross words in the past,as he let his distain for "white folks" be known at every opportunity.My philosophy has always been that there isn't any white,black,brown or red in the Marine Corps,My Marines were just different shades of green!

To make a long story short,he started to ignore my orders to lie still and wait to be evac'd, my biggest fear was that any movement would possibly paralyze him for life. So I used my best medical technique and grabbed him by the ears and threatened to kill him myself if he screwed up my work. That seemed to get his attention and his cooperation. Later on as I was loading him into the chopper he grabbed my arm and was yelling at me that I saved his life,and would never forget me! He was going to write to me and stay in touch"...as the chopper started to lift off, just as he was letting go of my arm, I yelled at him, "What's my name?..." He looked at me kind of funny and replied..."Doc!"...That was it!. My response was "I just wanted to know if you had the name right so the mail would get to the right place!"

All those months, all those Operations, right up until now, it's still "Doc" and some how the mail still finds me. Those nicknames tend to stick to you forever...ask "meatball" or "Squaw" and the dozens of others that we're still trying to sort out their full names after all these years.

Before I forget it.....Turner Publishing put out a History book on Navy Corpsmen, from the very beginning up through the Persian Gulf War....Yours truly is in there 2 or 3 different times, pictures and all, including a long story about Yvonne "Little tit" (as the Marines named her) and the village of Lon phu #1 that I was the village Dr. for in between combat Operations. Got a lot of good plugs in there for K 3/5.

More stories later, most better than the first one...Got to be careful not to hurt anyones feelings tho...specially the Officers!..remind me to tell you the one about when we chopped up and torched the Officer's "Shitter." Great moral booster!!!

Semper Fi, "Doc"

Doc's Revenge: The Burning of the Officer's Shitter By Vic "Doc" Perez

During the late spring, early summer of '67, I believe it was on Hill 69 when we had a bad breakout of dysentery throughout the company. My job as the Corpsman was to chase down the source and eliminate it. Part of the problem was those damn white plastic c-rat spoons that everyone thought was so "Salty to wear on the helmet bands. The ever-present flies would land on them after wading around in our shitters, and wipe their little feet off. That part of the problem I could solve, but I know I had to go one step further and see if I could keep them out of the 4-holers we affectionately called our shitters.

After a brief inspection, it was obvious that all the enlisted 4-holers were badly in need of repair. All the wire screening to keep the flies out was torn up and needed to be replaced. No problem! I wold go to the old man. Lt. Tilley at the time, and ask for some assistance in getting new wire to solve our problem.
Unfortunately, this was one of those times when we were in stand down, and by a small miracle, there was beer to be had. Lt. Tilley, Gunny Dias and a few other officers already had a snootfull and weren't interested in hearing my problem. I stress that this was a serious problem and had to be taken care of. The old man asked me if I'd inspected the "Officer's shitter." I admitted that I had not, only the enlisted ones.

"Well, " says he, "Sounds like an enlisted man's problem to me!"

They all thought that that was pretty funny, and I could still hear them laughing as I walked away. When I got back to my area, I walked into the first tent that I came to and yelled, "I need two volunteers for shitter duty!" Well, Marines being Marines, you can imagine the groans and comments. "Damn, Doc, we just burned your shitters yesterday! Pick on someone else!"

"Doesn't count!" said I, "This is a different detail, and I think it's one that you'll enjoy! You and you, Let's go!"

Off we went to Officer country to locate the "Royal Throne". I gave the structure a quick once over. The damn thing looked brand new, everything as it should be. But wait!! Maybe if I looked REAL CLOSE, I could find what I was looking for. Sure enough, my skilled eye and extensive medical training came to my rescue.

"Come her, Marine, I need an unbiased opinion!" I pulled one of my volunteers up to the portion of the screen that had caught my attention. "Does that or does that not look like a hole in the wire that a fly could get through?" (Of course, you have to realize that young enlisted Marines are not in the habit of making critical remarks regarding the "Royal Throne", so a little coaching was in order.)

"Uh, I don't think so Doc."
"How about a small fly?"
"It would have to be an awfully small fly, Doc."
"How about a really, really small, skinny fly?"
"Yeah…. I guess so. If you say so."
"AHA!" says I, "Then I officially condemn this building as a health hazard. Go get a couple of axes and some fuel. We're going to tear this hazard down and burn it!"

All good Marines know that Doc would never lie to them, so off they scrambled and in no time we had a great bonfire going.

It didn't take long; before the fire got the attention of all our Officers and gentlemen, and leading the pack was the "Old man" and the rest of the group demanding to know what the hell was I doing? They didn't think it was funny and weren't laughing anymore.

"I took your advice sir, and inspected the Officer's head! As far as I could tell, it wasn't in any better condition that the enlisted ones, so I condemned it. It's the first to burn! Looks like an Officer problem now, sir!"

Needless to say, we got our new mesh wire and other building materials listed as a "high priority item", and enlisted moral was at an all time high.

Moral of the story: "Don't piss off the Doc!" Not only does he run out in front of bullets for you, but he really knows how to hurt a guy!

Semper Fi, "Doc"

India 3/5 website

Kilo 3/5 website

Corpsman up!!
To our Kilo Corpsmen, without whom many of us wouldn't be here (Kilo 3/5 website)

Operation UNION and UNION II

Father Vincent Capodanno Memorial

(FMF Corpsman graphic and background by Redeye)


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