Tag Archives: NSAH

Miss World 1967, Madeleine Hartog Bell

Miss World 1967, Madeline Hartog Bell

Miss World 1967, Madeline Hartog Bell

Miss World 1967, Madeleine Hartog Bell, A member of the Bob Hope USO 1967 Christmas Tour, was transported by Marine Helicopter to the Station Hospital at Marble Mountain. During her visit to the hospital, she spent time visiting wounded patients, including a sick little girl and her mother from Thon My Thi Village.

In 2002, on Thanksgiving Day, I was pleasantly surprised to receive the following communication from Madeleine:

 

 

 

11/28/2002
5:12:18 PM

I cannot think of a better way to spend Thanksgiving Day than visiting your website for the first time. I have to thank a stranger, a Peruvian young man, Javier, for locating me through the Internet and sending me your address. Since that fateful December of ’67 when I toured Vietnam with Bob Hope, I have always had a special place in my heart for all the Vietnam Veterans. Even more so, since I became an American citizen a decade ago. Afterwards, my family and I went to Washington, where we visited the Vietnam Memorial, it was such a moving experience…

Also, living in America allows me to celebrate every November 11th when all of you are in my thoughts. Besides, I am proud to say that I had my own Veteran at home, although from a different war. Is evident to me, my dear Doc, that everything you do, you do it well. Even aging, because as a good wine, you have improved with age my friend!

Your website exudes such a loving care, the same loving care you gave to everybody in that field hospital in Da Nang. By the way, were you present when I broke down in tears after seeing all those gravely wounded kids, and Bob was trying to console me, because I wanted to leave behind all that Miss World stuff and come back and work as a nurse assistant? See what you have done, Doc? Your touching tribute to my beloved Vietnam Veterans and to my humble little self, have brought back a torrent of memories…So I’ll leave you now with music in my heart and a heartfelt “Thanks For The Memories”… Madeleine

My Reply to Madeleine

Madeleine……”it is a pleasure to renew our friendship some 36 years after we met in Vietnam”…thank you so very much for your kind comments. I remember when they took you and the others into the Intensive Care recovery ward and what happened to all of you after seeing our badly wounded soldiers. We all thank you so very much for your inspiring visit to a lonely bunch of American soldiers in an advanced combat area of Vietnam. God bless your family and believe me, we Vietnam veterans love you too!!!”…..Doc Rockett

How the U.S. Forces Confirmed the Beginning of the TET 68′ Communist Offensive at NSAH

January 29 – February 14, 1968

For some time, the American forces had been aware that the enemy was about to launch some type of major offensive. General Westmoreland was convinced that this big push would come either just before or right after Tet, but not during the holidays and probably at Khe Sanh and in the DMZ sector. At Da Nang, III MAF knew that the Communists were on the move.

Thanks to the Marines and NSAH, we knew when it would begin. On the evening of January 28, just west of Hieu Due, a Marine squad from Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, ambushed a three-man Viet Cong reconnaissance patrol. The Marines killed two of the enemy and wounded the third. The Marines evacuated the survivor to the NSAH (Naval Support Activity Hospital ,Marble Mountain, Da Nang) where he died of his wounds. Before his death, however, the Vietnamese identified himself as Major Nguyen Van Lam, the commanding officer of the R-20 Doc Lap Battalion.

From the recovery of Lam’s notebook and a detailed sketch map of Hill 10, the location of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines’ command post, the R-20 commander was obviously on a exploration mission to discover any vulnerability in the Marine battalion’s defenses. Lieutenant Colonel John F. J. Kelly, who was an intelligence officer on the III MAF staff, commented that General Westmoreland canceled the truce at “the request of Lt. Gen Cushman, Commander III MAF, who also requested that the announcement be held until six hours before the scheduled beginning of the truce so as not to tip III MAF’s hand By evening on the 29th, the 1st Marine Division at Da Nang was on a 100-percent alert January 29th, at Da Nang, the Marines remained tense.

TET 68 Rocket attack on Da Nanang airfield January 29, 1968

TET 68 Rocket attack on Da Nanang airfield January 29, 1968

One experienced Marine non-commissioned officer, serving in his third war, First Sergeant Jack W. Jaunal of the Headquarters and Service (nicknamed “Heat and Steam”) Company, 3d Amphibian Tractor Battalion, located below Marble Mountain, recorded his impressions. He remembered that before midnight “the alert sounded, and it was all hands to the wire [manning defensive positions].” Although Jaunal’s sector remained relatively quiet, he recalled that “we could see flashes of other areas being hit” and heard mortars and rockets: “The Marine helicopter strip [Marble Mountain, MAG 16,] two miles to our north got hit… Also Da Nang Airfield got it.”

After a lull of about an hour to an hour and a half, the enemy gunners renewed their assault on the airbase and also included the helicopter air facility at Marble Mountain.

About 0330, perhaps to divert Marine attention from the ground assault on I Corps headquarters and the city of Da Nang, enemy mortars opened up on Marble Mountain. Approximately 16 rounds impacted in the MAG-16 sector and another four in the Army aviation company area. About the same time, from their firing positions on the western fringes of the Da Nang TAOR, NVA rocketeers let go with a fusillade of 122mm rockets aimed at the main airbase. Some 36 of the large missiles landed on the main base, including the airfield. The Communist Tet offensive was in full bloom, not only at Da Nang, but throughout Vietnam. In the early morning hours of 31 January, Communist forces assaulted provincial and district capitals extending from the Mekong Delta in the south to Quang Tri City in the north. In Thua Thien Province in I Corps, two North Vietnamese regiments held most of Hue City and the Marine base at Phu Bai came under mortar and rocket barrages.

Along Route l between Phu Bai and Da Nang, VC and NVA main force units on the 31st made some 18 attacks on bridges. In the extensive Da Nang TAOR, the early morning hours of 31 January were almost a repeat of the events of the 30th. Enemy gunners fired rockets at both the Da Nang Airbase and this time also included the Marble Mountain helicopter facility on Tiensha Peninsula. No rockets fell on the main airbase but Marble Mountain sustained some damage. The enemy rocket troops fired in two bursts, one at 0342, followed by a second barrage three hours later. About the same time as the rocket attacks on the Da Nang base and Marble Mountain, enemy mortars bombarded the command post of the 7th Marines on Hill 55 south of Da Nang and forward infantry positions. These included Hills 65 and 52 manned by companies of the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines in the southwestern part of the TAOR and Hill 41 defended by Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in the central western sector..

The mortar attacks resulted in only five wounded and none killed among the Marine defenders. Counter mortar fire quickly silenced the enemy tubes. The Marine staff speculated that the enemy launched the mortar attacks largely as a cover for the rocket attacks against Marble Mountain. Even at Marble Mountain the damage was relatively contained. The Marines lost l helicopter and sustained damage to 29 others.

Department of Defense (USMC) photo A 190390

Department of Defense (USMC) photo A 190390

A bandaged VC wounded in the fighting, waits for evacuation. The prisoner talked freely to his captors while he received medical attention. The combined force then swept the general area where they found two enemy bodies and took three prisoners. According to the prisoner accounts, they were from the 3d Battalion, 31st NVA Regiment and confirmed that “Da Nang itself was the ultimate objective.” The enemy offensive in the Da Nang sector had spent itself.

During the next few days, Task Force Miracle conducted sweeps in its sector and encountered relatively little resistance.The battle for Da Nang was largely over. Despite limited attacks later in the month, these were largely, as a report stated, “an attempt to maintain the facade of an offensive.” During the Da Nang Tet offensive, both sides experienced heavy casualties, but the Communist forces proved to be no match for the allied forces. According to III MAF figures, from 29 January through 14 February at Da Nang, Marines sustained 124 killed and more than 480 wounded. Army forces in the Da Nang area including the troops from Task Force Miracle suffered 18 dead and 59 wounded. South Vietnamese and Korean casualties probably equalled or slightly exceeded the American. U.S. estimates of enemy casualties ranged between 1,200 and 1,400 dead. Colonel Smith believed that the 7 st VC Regiment alone lost about 600 men. The 2d NVA Division still remained intact, but obviously was not about to renew the offensive.

From almost every account, the Communist attack in the Da Nang TAOR was very inept. Despite the thinness of the Marine lines and the ability of both the NVA and VC to infiltrate, the enemy never capitalized on these advantages. According to a VC after-action report early in the offensive, the writer complained that the “commander did not know . . . [the] situation accurately . . . and that orders were not strictly obeyed.” In a 1st Marine Division analyses, the author commented that the 2d NVA Division’s approach was “along a single axis of advance so that his eventual target was easily identifiable.” Moreover, once the NVA units arrived south of Da Nang they “made no further attempts at maneuver even while being hunted by Marine and Army units, and when engaged, seldom maneuvered, except to withdraw.” General Robertson, the 1st Division commander, observed that the delay of the 2d NVA Division into the picture may have been because the Communist forces “got their signals mixed ….” The VC were supposed to be inside “when the NVA division came marching down main street. You get your timing off and you’ve got problems.”

Another possible explanation was that the Da Nang attack may have been a secondary assault-to cause as much damage as possible and divert allied forces from the almost successful effort of the Communist forces to capture the city of Hue.” ** Brigadier General Paul G. Graham who was the 1st Marine Division Operations Officer (G-3) at the time disagreed with the last statement, writing “Hue had no military value to the NVA/VC. Da Nang was the prize-for success in that endeavor could have had a serious effect on the Allied efforts in the III MAF area.” BGen Paul G. Graham Source: For the complete story, with all the details, click here CHAPTER 8 The Tet Offensive at Da Nang

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.