At last, after nearly an 8 month assignment attached to A Company 3rd/1st, 11th Light Infantry as a platoon medic, my day-to-day field assignments were now about to end. The remainder of my tour would entail working directly out of our battalion aid station at LZ Bronco. So I thought...
After getting off the chopper, I reported to the company supply room to turn all that equipment I had been humping which was not related to my normal primary existence as a medic, but as a second existence as a combat soldier. I was now being relieved of my rucksak, M-16, 45 cal pistol, ammo, grenades, etc. Later, I would report to the aid station to turn in my medical field bags and medical supplies.
After being issued new clothes and boots, I settled in by first taking a much needed shower! After a good hot meal from the mess hall, I now felt like a new person. After unpacking some stored items in my cubicle at the hooch located next to the aid station, I decided to go to the club and suck down a couple of cold beers! After discussing war stories with some of the guys in the club, it was time to hit the sack.
Returning to the medic quarters, I spent some time sitting on the tiny porch landing at the back of the aid station watching the activity on the chopper pad. I struck up a conversation with some of the newer medics having just arrived that were waiting on assignments. A lot of questions were now being thrown at me as to what they could expect in the field. I think the best advice I gave was for them to know what their responsibility is to the guys they may end up in a fire fight with "you take care of them, they will take care of you!" We then hit the sack.
As in the past, I laid down while still wearing my pants and boots (just not ready to get real comfortable yet). Late in the night, I awoke from my continued habit of a light sleep to the distant faint sound of explosions. I then heard the Quad 50 cal. on top of Montezuma begin to open up. For a moment I lay there, and I could tell the explosions were getting closer, and they were getting more intense. Damn! The VC is walking them in on us and was firing outside our side of the perimeter somewhere! Incoming!!
After getting up and out into the narrow isle between cubicles, I moved through the hooch while screaming for everyone to get out and head for the bunkers. I guess maybe five or six guys were in the hooch at that time. After a last sweep inside, I was headed out the back door. While doing so, I was trying to get my flak jacket on just as I run off the little porch landing. Then it hit! I heard the familiar sound of a huge explosion! I then felt an intense heat and a burning sensation. That was the last I remembered for awhile.
At the back of the hooch near the sanitary ground tube, there was a series of bushes along a slight incline that dropped down to the back road. As later told to me, some other guys found me in the road while heading to the bunkers. I was out cold! I later woke up in a bunker with other medics attending to me by lantern and flashlights. Many thanks goes out to them for the special care and treatment I received. If any of you recall this night and had anything to do with treating those wounded, I would like to hear from you.
The aid station situated next to and part of the overall medical area, took part of the direct hit as well. A lot of medical records were burned or scorched. This later raised a lot of questions in the states about files reflecting charred burn areas.
The attack later ceased and when things calmed down, I was taken to the Bronco Hospital area by jeep. As a walking wounded, I was flown to Chu Lai by chopper along with other wounded who were on stretchers. I remember sitting in the seat with the door gunner. I remember how cold I felt with just my pants and boots on. As we flew down the coastline, you could see hundreds of night flares where nearly every FSB from Duc Pho to Chu Lai had been or was also under attack that night.
After a month or so in the Hospital at Chu Lai and later Cam Rahn Bay, I returned to my unit. At this point, the new aid station was just being completed and I was there for the opening ceremony and dedication. The new aid unit was situated more in the ground and well fortified. It was not just an aid station now, but could also serve as a bunker if needed.
I have since discovered, while unconfirmed, that our medical officer had also been wounded during the attack and unfortunately possibly lost a hand. As well, others within the battalion down the street at C Company and HHC had either been wounded or killed. A Polaroid picture later shown to me by one of the guys in my squad showed the direct hit was almost centered through my cubicle and another next to mine. I lost everything I had. However, I was thankful that none of us remained inside that night. Other battalion structures as I recall taking hits or damage were supply rooms, chapel (a new one was also built) and I believe a mess hall. Other damage occurred up and down the battalion street as well.
I would like to recognize those fellow 3rd/1st soldiers who were listed as being wounded during that night according to my general orders Number 39 dated May 12, 1969 for a Purple Heart were:
|Dupuy, Frank G.||C Company, 3rd/1st, 11th LIB|
|Crowell, Phil S.||HHC, 3rd/1st, 11th LIB|
|Snyder, Henry B.||C Company, 3rd/1st, 11th LIB|
|Menchaia, Aurelio||C Company, 3rd/1st, 11th LIB|
I am writing this regarding the attacks on LZ Bronco the night of May 12, 1969. My name is Jeffrey Cruttenden, and I was working over at B Medical as a 91A10 medical corpman in support of the 11th Brigade operations that night.
After having newly arrived in country on April 6th and being assigned corpman duties for 4th/21st in Duc Pho, I was somewhere near the end of one month of on the job training over at B Medical before heading out into the field, on the night of the attack.
During the month, I worked quite a bit with and under the tutelage of Dr. Gold of the 3rd/1st. It is my understanding that he in fact did lose a hand in the mortar attacks that evening. I vividly recall hearing the news of him losing his hand that night while in a bunker and remember how shocking it was to me. I wondered how he would perform surgery after he returned to civilian life, as he had spoken of his desire to do so.
I had contact via email with him a year or so ago. He did not confirm his losing a hand nor deny it at that time, only to say it was now taking him longer to do less, that he was under the weather and would attempt an appropriate response at another time.
I recall being quite concerned. At any rate, I can recall the jeeps arriving in all the confusion that night with casualties from the 3rd/1st, and I believe the 1st/20th. One of the wounded in particular that they brought in, I can remember wraping ace bandages around a severe head wound that he had received that had caused his brain matter to protrude from his skull. He was still alive but in a coma at that time. I do not know his name. However, I have my doubts as to whether he made it. He may be listed as one of the KIA from that night. I was instructed to leave him there in the main aid station on the litter and tend to other less severe casualties by the Dr. in charge.
In the meantime, we were all ordered to move into the bunkers and that we did, without hesitation. Shortly thereafter a screaming B-122 rocket came in upon us, narrowly missing the main aid station and landing perhaps 25 yards to the left at home plate in the batters box on the softball diamond out back. Good thing there was no game in progress at the time. Believe me, that rocket sounded as though a jet plane were coming in like a big zipper and was quite scary indeed. I recall one of the wounded guys, with shrapnel in his leg, in the bunker with us saying he was to have gone home to Colorado at the end of his tour the following day. Yikes!
For the rest of the evening and early morning hours many casualties were brought in to us both by jeep and dustoff and then taken to the heavily fortified casualty bunker, down the ramp just out in back of the main B Medical aid station. Some were then transported later in the darkness to the 91st Evac Hospital up in Chu Lai by helicopter. I can still see the dustoff hovering there on the pad while loading stretchers and passengers with its little green and red lights blinking in the night. The entire 11th Brigade's AO was under attack that night just as Doc King mentions. They were well coordinated attacks by the VC and made it a very busy and scary night for those of us participating on LZ Bronco.
Having said all of that, I do not know if my account of these events that night will help shed any more light on what happened while treating the casualties. As many of the details have faded with time from my memory, I thought I would offer what I do recall, having been there and having read Doc King's request for our accounts, in his story.
Also, as I have been intending to send my recollections of this event for some time now and having finally done it, I would like to apologize for their delay. This is one of the best sites on the web that covers our time working in and out of Duc Pho that I have found and I would like to recognize and praise you all for the good job you have done and are still doing. All the best to you in this new year of 2005.
Doc Jeffrey 4th/21st