Chief of Quangnam Province

One day at NSAH, a sick Vietnamese man was brought to Medical Ward 2B by a large group of Vietnamese friends and family, which was somewhat unusual. The Vietnamese patient, face severely pot-marked from having small pox as a child, was in a coma. We were told only that he was an important man in the Vietnamese community, but we did not know precisely what his position was. I would find out much later that he was the Chief of Quang Nam Province.

It was thought that the Chief of Quang Nam Province would soon die, and I was ordered to inform the family to pay their final respects to the Chief. I informed the family of his serious medical condition and stated that we would do everything possible to save him.

Each day the Chief’s family would trail through Ward 2B past all our military patients to check on his medical condition. I kept the chief hydrated with continuous intravenous solutions; however, his condition remained the same – not getting better and not getting worse. I really felt for his family, and after two weeks their hopes were beginning to fade.

One morning, I went to the Chief’s room to clean him up. Admittedly, I was concerned that the Chief’s body didn’t seem to be fighting in his favor. On this particular morning, as I was scrubbing his arm, I heard a faint sound like “hmmmt.” So, I scrubbed harder, and I heard another “hmmmt” sound. Knowing that somebody was alive inside this body, a sense of urgency came over me.

I said to myself, “it’s now or never.” I decided at that moment that the Chief is going to come out of this coma now, or he might never wake up. I opened my hand and gave him a nice solid pat on his left cheek. Like Lazarus from the dead, the Chief sat straight up and began speaking some Vietnamese that I have never heard before, and I don’t think it was anything positive about me either! I smiled, shook his hand, and said “welcome back.”

He was incredibly alive and awake, as if he had never been asleep. I assisted the Chief in donning a clean set of military issue pajamas and then helped him into a wheelchair. I showed him how to move his hand to wave hello, and then proudly, I rolled the Chief out of his small hospital room past all the Marine patients on Ward 2B. Those patients, physically able, clapped and cheered for the Chief. You would have thought they were cheering for their favorite football team.

Eventually, I learned exactly what the Chief’s role or position was in the South Vietnam Government, and on the day that the Chief was to be discharged from the Station Hospital, he and his family presented me with a plaque and a short informal ceremony, which made Chief Nguyen and I “blood-brothers.”

Chief of Quangnam Province and family

Chief of Quangnam Province and family

I recall the Chief’s wife being a charming, personable, and classy lady. The Chief’s daughter was very shy, but she smiled and laughed right along with us. I will never forget Chief Nguyen and his family. Since leaving Vietnam, I have not seen nor heard from them. If you have any information on the families whereabouts, please contact me.

The staff of NSAH, Da Nang, were the finest professionals I have ever worked with. I have also not seen any of the NSAH crew since leaving Vietnam. God bless all of them and the many, many lives they saved.

I was only 20 years old when this event happened, and above all, this was my most memorable and experiences as a Navy Corpsman.

Naval Support Activity Hospital (NSAH)

I served as a Hospital Corpsman 3rd class at NSAH, Da Nang, Vietnam from August 1967 to August 1968. NSAH received patients mainly from the Medevac choppers. Some of the wounded had initial life-saving medical treatment by the Navy corpsmen and Army medics in the field.

NSAH Patients

NSAH Patients

Some of the wounded were put on board the choppers, and the corpsmen and medics aboard would give life-saving treatment and first aid while en-route NSAH.

See the Leatherneck magazine article and the Stars and Stripes article pages for pictures and more details.

Under the operational control of III MAF/I corps, this mash- type combat hospital was located in a remote area next to Marble mountain, across from MAG 16. Part of the largest Naval support activity in history, the primary function of the hospital was to provide medical treatment to the United States Marines Corps and the other free world armed forces fighting in I corps.

Free world armed forces included: US Marine Corps, US Navy, US Army, US Air Force, US Coast Guard, ROK (Korean Marines), Australlian troops, and Vietnamese civilians. NSAH also treated NVA POW soldiers and Viet Cong POWs in its’ POW ward. I corps ranged from the DMZ to all of Da Nang and Quangnam Province.

NSAH is listed (in the Vietnam war reference book “Where We Were in Vietnam“) as USN/USMC hospital Da Nang, Quangnam province (isbn #9781555716257). Some of the Navy corpsmen had immediate orders directly to NSAH without attending FMF field training; however, the greatest number of Navy personnel killed in action were, by far, corpsmen.

This created corpsmen staffing shortages. Many corpsmen at NSAH would later serve at various Marine locations, including with Marine units TDY for ninety days or longer. The whole concept of III MAF I corps was joint operations, which would later serve as the model for Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If you watch Dr. Kelly’s video, you will experience first hand this job wasn’t for those with a weak stomach. It was a 24×7 combat wounded operation in order to save over 98% of those who arrived to us still alive. Doctors, Navy nurses, and Navy corpsmen gave it all they had to send our troops back home alive.

Bonnie

Bonnie

If you were ever stationed at NSAH, then you knew Bonnie, our pet Vietnamese python.

Just like in any war movie, to boost morale, the military provided movies for the patients who were not restricted to bed. often, the incoming alarm would sound and everyone headed for their bunker.

Once the “all clear” sounded, the patients returned to watch the rest of the movie. NSAH was constructed on beach sand, as you can see by the deep footprints in the sand. A piece of white plywood and wooden benches made a make-shift theater.

I would like to thank all the navy doctors, including my good friend, Dr. P.J. Kelly, and all the Navy nurses whose skill, dedication and stamina saved the lives of so many of our troops. They truly performed medical miracles.

Thon My Thi

Located south of Da Nang near Marble Mountain, Thon My Thi was part of the NSAH MEDCAP. Larger villages often had MEDCAP teams residing in their villages, but villagers of Thon My Thi were treated by NSAH. Several Thon My Thi children were admitted to NSAH when they could not be treated as outpatients. One young girl had a case of Tetanus, and the young man pictured with me had a Gastrointestinal infection.

Miss World, Madeline Hartog Bell

Miss World, Madeline Hartog Bell

Miss World, Madeline Hartog Bell, paid the young girl a visit when she first arrived at the hospital, in December of 1967.

Thon My Thi children ran around like kids do anywhere in the world, amusing themselves in front of me each time I went to the village. Here, I took a picture of kids playing by me at the pagoda.

The village had only one store not far from the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
I really enjoyed treating the people of Thon My Thi!