Saturday, January 27, 2007

Gordon Boswell and Doc Smith, "Marine" Corpsman

Wounds tended by Doc Smith, our corpsman, after a trip in to the Bo Bans, north of Dai Loc, an area heavily mined and booby-trapped, and infested with snipers. As you can see, I was obviously heavily medicated.

Every time we went on an operation in to the Bo Bans, we would lose at least a dozen legs and arms to mines. When word came down that we were going in to the Bo Bans, grunts would get a sick feeling in their gut, and corpsmen would double-up on their medical supplies.

The Bo Bans was a bad place, a very spooky place--a place I don't like to remember. In one week, on an operation there, one of my good friends lost an arm, and another lost his leg. That same week on the same operation, my best friend was killed. I received multiple wounds to my legs. It was my last trip to the Bo Bans.

I then made my third and final trip to 1st Med EVAC Hospital, DaNang.

Sometimes, I awake in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, and I know I've been walking through the Bo Bans again; the place continues to haunt me. I wonder if some present-day Vietnamese ever sees the the ghost of the young man I once was, wandering through the Bo Bans.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


"Dog" entered my life in trade for an SKS with a 101st Airborne Army Sergeant rotating back to the World. We were at Freedom Hill, Danang, RVN where 2nd Platoon, Delta Company, 1/1 had some time off for a USO Show. I asked him her name and he replied, "Dog." The only other comment he made about her was that she did not like the smell of Vietnamese.

"Dog" stayed "Dog" for several weeks and made every step I made unless she was mooching at the mess hall or chasing rats. A small brown dog, maybe 20 pounds, she was not much larger than some of the rats she chased.

After she went to the bush with us for the first time, she came back as "Point." Obviously, she had never heard the command, "heel." Ranging in front of our patrols, she reacted to any residual smell of a Vietnamese by freezing with her tail stiff and bristled.

She led us to several rice caches and recently placed booby traps. She was never bothered by small arms fire or artillery--outgoing or incoming.

Until I came to Vietnam, there had never been any time in my life that I had not had a dog. Both my parents loved dogs and there were usually several in and around the house. Point and I became inseparable. Pictures of her went back with my letters home and I was short enough to begin thinking about ways to get her home with me. Dog biscuits came from my Aunt Jane in Vero Beach, FLA. Other grunts contributed doggie treats sent by their families back in the World. In the field, her favorite C-rat was ham and eggs with pound cake for dessert. On rotation out of the bush, she always made a bee-line to the mess hall where after ingratiating herself with the mess sergeant, she would make up for bush time and drag herself back to sleep off her food bloat.

At first light, well fed and rested, she was ready to go rat hunting. Sniffing, digging and barking, she would soon have panic stricken rats fleeing from bunkers in all directions. The grunts loved the entertainment and joined in the hunt by throwing their K- Bars at the fugitive rats with occasional success.

She was as much a grunt as the rest of us but her tour ended on February 25, 1971 on a rice paddy dike as we were approaching a village in the Arizona Territory to search for rice caches. As usual, she had the point and was about 40 meters in front of us when she triggered an anti-personnel mine. She died instantly. There was no time to mourn, then. We just grunted on.

This began what was the most unforgettable three days of my two tours in country.

Nurse Duffy

Nurse Duffy's was the first face I saw when I came around after being wounded in an ambush on February 27, 1971. I was first med-evac'ed to Marine 1st Medical Battalion, DaNang, but they were swamped with casualties. After spending about six hours there, I was med-evac'ed to the Army hospital at Cam Ranh Bay. Nurse Duffy was my night charge nurse, and she took such very good care of me for the four weeks that I was hospitalized. I would never forget her smile, but I never once thought that I would ever see her pretty smile again.

I found Nurse Duffy at the Wall, Memorial Day 1997.

I had just finished getting several rubbings off the Wall, and was standing with my friend and brother Marine, Tom Williams and some other veterans at the tent of the USMC Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Association. We were talking and reminiscing a bit, but I found my gaze kept returning to a lady standing some distance across from us. After staring at her for about ten minutes, Tom asked, "Do you know her?"

"I think I do, but I'll be right back." I answered, as I walked toward her. Tom followed.

She had turned away from me as I approached, but as I got near, I said, "Nurse Duffy?"

She turned toward me, her eyes widened and she said, "Oh, my God!"

Tom Williams asked her, "Do you know this Marine?"

She replied, "He remembers me and that is all that matters!" At that moment, I felt like I was spinning back and forth in time; I was thrilled and happy and incredulous all at once. I just couldn't believe my eyes.

She added, "There were just too many of you guys. I wish that I could remember every face. One thing I do remember is that you Marines hardly ever complained."

She began to shake so much that Tom and I both had to support her. It was a tearful and emotional reunion. I was moved beyond what I can tell you here. I can only say that it was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had in my life. I was so happy to see her.

We posed for the obligatory photos, and I told her about my Website. She said she wasn't on the 'Net. Maybe one day she will be, and I hope she finds this page, because I'd like to thank her once more for being such a good nurse to one wounded and homesick Marine.

God bless Nurse Duffy and all the nurses who served in Vietnam.