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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Thanks for your interesting article and pics! You actually had one pic of me at the controls somewhere West of Tuy Hoa in 1970 I think. I was a 1LT A/C at the time and about halfway through my tour with the 283rd Med Det (Dustoff) shortly after our unit moved to Tuy Hoa from Pleiku.
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The Dustoff Pilot acted correctly AC’s had absolute authority over their Aircraft and the decisions were soley theirs. I was an AC For a year in Vietnam and I’ve overruled several Majors thru Full birds as a CWO. Once I was Jockeying a Stupid S2 Major and I left him in the field in an APC. My fuel light was on and he wouldn’t come on, so he spent the night in the field in a hot area. 🚁 So be it.
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Great article. The AC was 100% correct. God bless him for doing the right thing. Go Dawgs
I think Abrams was the Commanding General on September 13, 1968, not Westmoreland.
Agree with you Pete Barbis. I left Vietnam in July of ’68 and if memory serves, Abrams had recently assumed command.
Randy Radigan was a flight school classmate and fellow 45th Med Co dustoff pilot. We, as Aircraft Commanders, were faced with those kinds of decisions on but rare occasions. Our first mission was the saving of lives which we took most seriously.
Thank you Mike Bruce. This little vignette gets to me. Truth, honor, duty and doing the right thing are important. It’s good to be reminded of that now and then.
I’m new on this phone I give the Dust Off a 5 rating I can’t say enough good about the crews that supported us in I Corp. I was in the 1/501/Cc 70-71 they pulled us out no matter what was going on. I love the article and wish to get future quotes when written thanks for the Info.
Correct call. This E-4 Combat Medic told his BN CO that he had 10 mikes to get me a Dust Off before I called my on on their push. I got my one & he subsequently chapped my ass. BN Surgeon backed me up & asked the CO if he were a school trained medic. He said that he was not. BN Surgeon told the CO that the decision to get a Dust Off was mine – not his. That ended that.
Brave men i was taken out of the field three times under fire. My eternal gratitude🇺🇸
Good article, but I’ve never seen a Maj Gen as a division surgeon, maybe a Major or even a Lieutenant Colonel, but definitely not a MG.
Love it! We did a lot of dust offs as we were available and the medevacs weren’t.
He did make the right call. I was a Dustoff pilot and saving lives was our mission. Yes, I did carry a deceased soldier but only after taking care of the wounded.
I very much loved these articles I served with a medivac unit in phubai 1970
Once a 15TH TC test pilot and I were flying on a routine after Maintenance test flight in a UH-ID, it was in November 1965. As we flew, a request came for any aircraft flying in the area to report to Pleiku aid station to fly three WIA’s to Qui Nhon 85TH Evac Hospital–we picked up the three–one critical–he a young 1/7TH, First Calvary Division Infantryman wounded severely in the Battle of Ia Drang–he became a KIA minutes after we arrived at the 85TH–we were not Dust-off–but it was a sad reminder of the hell the dustoff personnel endure.
Great story. I remember a dust off crew coming
within a rocks throw of the DMZ to pick up my pal Lt Peter Durney, aka (Roadrunner), and myself. We were both the recipients of some hot NVA metal and we were neither in shape to do any walking. In fact it was some 3-4 months later before I was able to do very much walking.
On Roadrunner’s part, it was likely much sooner.
We were quiet luck to have served under a great commander, cpt. Stroud. The dust off pilots were not suppose to come that close to the DMZ, but after insisting & I’m not sure what else, they came on up for us. I was never so happy to hear & eventually see that bird.
We were picked up & flown back to the field hospital in Quang Tri.
God bless all you old dust off puppets & crews.
I greatly enjoyed reading this article as many tried to make our missions to change and Bruce my hat is off to you. Dustoff61, 498th 67/68.
On Sun, Oct 18, 2020, 4:17 PM CherriesWriter – Vietnam War website wrote:
> pdoggbiker posted: ” 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” >
Good job thank you! I too suffered from an irate commanding officer. I am sure many other forward controllers and R/T talkers did too!
God bless the dust off pilots,I was on the receiving end of a great dust off crew,got there quick amidst VC and NVA fire,never stopped them,the were the biggest heroes of the war.
Great article about the right decision. Some people let their rank go to their ass rather than to their brain.
Partly the rank is privilege; the rest of it is he let his emotions get ahead of duty.
As a marine with the 3 marine division we really appreciated what you done for all the troops, and you definitely make the right decision, Thank You Sir !!!!
All I can say is, thank you, Randy. You did the right thing.
Thank you Sir for making the rite decision. As a Marine grunt who served with Fox 2/3 in Vietnam in 1969 I for one appreciate what you did. It took some stones to make that decision.
I enjoy reading all your articles.Attack Squadron 155 ordinance 66-68.