CHU MOOR (continued)
The tactic of the NVA was to fire mortars into our site when helicopters were landing. The noise of the chopper concealed the direction of the mortars. Richard Cassano, the top sergeant, and I were recovering bodies when a chopper neared. Knowing the NVA would fire mortars, we were running around the big tree to get to a bunker when a mortar round exploded. Top sergeant in front of me was seriously wounded and Cassano behind me was killed. I did not get a scratch. The big tree saved me. I checked the sergeant and although he was wounded it was not life threatening. I turned to Cassano and he was obviously in trouble. I leaned him against the tree and tore his shirt open. He had a very large hole in his chest and was losing color. I knew I was losing him. The wound was too serious I couldn’t save him. I turned to the sergeant and patched him up until a chopper could carry him out.
C Company began being replaced by another unit. A chopper would bring in about six from the new unit and about six from C Company would leave. I went out late with the KIAs back to the firebase. (In the last year I have talked to the Medical Officer who was at the firebase. He said when I got off the chopper the only thing I said was “they’re all dead”) I don’t remember saying anything. I went to the aid station bunker to be by myself. Just about every friend I had in Nam had been wounded or killed. It was never the same.
The plans were to pull all U.S. forces out of the area and call in B-52 strikes called arc light strikes. The firebase was a busy place being the staging point of everyone leaving the area. It was crowded. On the night of April 30 an artillery round exploded as it left the barrel of the cannon. The shrapnel wounded several in the firebase. We medics were called out in the darkness to do our job. There was a lot of disorganization because nobody knew what had happened. We called for a dustoff for six of the most seriously wounded. The pilots did not want to fly in the hazardous conditions at night but after some discussion about who would be responsible if the wounded died, the choppers came and the injured were evac’d to a field hospital. That is pretty much the end of my medic experience in the field. I took an R&R as soon as I could.
I told the medical platoon officer to give me the next R&R that became available. It was to Sydney, Australia. I didn’t care where I just needed out. So, for the last week of May/the first week of June I was out of the field. If the trip to Australia didn’t teach me anything it taught me a geography lesson. I had read about the white sand beaches and all that goes with them. I had my swim suit packed and ready. What I didn’t know was that in the southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed. I got off the plane to 40 degree, foggy weather. Three or four guys I met on the flight were my running buddies. The Motor Club was a four level club. Street level/basement was a disco, the second floor was a piano bar, and the third floor was a restaurant. In the restaurant I ordered baked chicken. They brought me a whole baked chicken. Remember, I had been eating out of a can for about nine months. I attacked the chicken. I’m sure the restaurant staff was amazed at my eating style.
I saw the movie “The Graduate” and the previews for “Bonnie and Clyde” while I was there. I still watch “The Graduate” every chance I get. The people in Australia treated Americans very well and Texans extremely well. Even though the weather wasn’t what I expected I had a great time. Sydney was a long way from Vietnam and a looong way from Celeste, Texas.
Continue to Chapter 10