This response about Dustoff was posted on one of my Vietnam Facebook groups and I thought it was interesting enough to share with you.
By Mike Bruce
Anyone remember FSB Henderson? May of 1970 we helped with a mass-casualty evacuation. Bodies laying all over. Guys on the ground were begging for reinforcements. We’d land and they’d throw on wounded (mostly) and we’d drop them off in Quang Tri. Then repeat. Several other helicopters alternated with us. This boot and a poncho were left on ours.
Technically, moving KIAs is a supply problem, not a medical problem. We only carried KIAs if there was any room left after getting the wounded on. We were flying Dustoff when General Ware (of 1 ID) was killed. This is what I wrote in my memoir, Small War: “
The Bu Dop, Loch Ninh, Song Be area was close to the Cambodian border and the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was part of our area at the Quan Loi station. Often our stay there was uneventful, but just as often, fighting would erupt and we would be kept busy. On September 13, 1968, heavy fighting broke out and all of a sudden, our hearts game came to an end. We took off and discovered that we had about fifty wounded in several areas that needed immediate evacuation. Several hours of moving wounded didn’t seem to relieve the pressure. We still had fifty casualties waiting for pickup.
During the fighting, the commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Keith Lincoln Ware, a Medal of Honor recipient from WWII, was killed. His immediate subordinate took command and got on the radio and called us. He told us to quit what we were doing and come down and pick up the dead general’s body and take it back to Loch Ninh.
Randy Radigan, our AC, asked if the general was dead and the reply was,
“Yes, now get your butt moving.”
Randy replied that he understood the situation but that he had about fifty wounded still to move.
The radio blasted back that moving the dead general was more important.
Randy replied that he had wounded to go pick up and that the dead general would have to find another way back.
“Dustoff 41, I am ordering you!” came back the radio. Randy replied that moving the wounded was our mission. He then stated that he was refusing to remove the body. The general replied that this was in defiance of a direct order.
Randy, very coolly, said, “Sir, I am an Aircraft Commander. You do not have the authority to ‘order’ me.” The general on the radio then asked for his name, rank and serial number, which Randy provided.
The general then said, “So, if I can’t order you, who can?”
Randy replied, “No one in Vietnam can, Sir, not even (the theater commander) General Westmoreland. If you get the President or the Secretary of Defense to order me, I will.”
“Goddamn you,” the general replied.
“Sir,” the AC said, “I’m sorry to be blunt, but moving a body is a supply problem, not a medical problem. I’ve got living men to go pick up, and that’s my mission.” The general never replied.
Much later that night, after all the hauling was done and we were back in the RTO shack at Quan Loi waiting for another mission, we were playing poker with the red light on to protect our night vision. The RTO got a call; someone was asking to speak with Dustoff 41. Being right there, Randy picked up the mic and said, “Go ahead, this is he.”
“This is the 1st Infantry Division Surgeon, Maj. General (I don’t recall his name).”
“Yes?” said the AC.
“I called to say that you made the right call today about General Ware. You spoke with the second in command, and they were close friends. That’s all I’ve got to say. Goodnight,” and he hung up. “
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