1st Battalion 6th Infantry
SP5 Daniel Gonzalez, 31
SP5 Gonzalez served as a medic with the 59th Engineer Company (Land
Clearing), 39th Engineer Battalion.
During 1970-71 he served side by side with soldiers of the 1st
Battalion 6th Infantry during land clearing operations in the Batangan
Peninsula in the vicinity of Hill 43, Hill 128, Hill
76, and Hill 109.]
76, and Hill 109.]
Department of the Army
A Medic’s View
have been in Vietnam a little over a year now and looking back over the
past twelve months, many things come to mind. Vietnam is a tragic
land, both to the indigenous inhabitants, and to the American
Servicemen. Yet, strangely enough, it is a land of breath-taking
beauty. The one flaw to this beauty is the danger to one’s life
that exists in the form of the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese, and
perhaps more significantly for my unit, booby-traps and land mines.
I do not
in Phu-Bai, I was told I would be in a Land Clearing Unit, and that I
wouldn’t have it bad at all. I was lucky in that I was one of
four medics in the company, and needless to say, the “cruit” among
them. This is quite significant to me, because these guys taught
me to have
moving to Chu Lai, we were working in an area northwest of Quang Tri
(near the village of Mai Loc). While in this area, most of my
patients consisted of minor burns, cuts, colds, and the common illnesses
of mankind, but the majority of them were the results of enemy action.
July of 1970 we arrived in Chu Lai. Little did any of us realize
how many of our men would be hurt. Numerous rumors had circulated
throughout the company that our new area of operations was heavily mined
and these rumors proved to be true. A group of us remained in Chu
Lai, one platoon was still up north finishing a job, and the core of the
company: two platoons of dozers, maintenance, and communications
personnel went to the Batangan Peninsula.
first day in the filed, we had a medivac when one of our dozer operators
hit a booby-trap. I had to stay in Chu Lai for a month before
going to the field. While in Chu Lai I set up, as best I could, a
sick ward for our men who were released from the hospital. My job
was to care for them until they were ready to return to duty, and to
provide the medics in the field with medical supplies. Everyday, I
awoke with the same question on my mind, “Who will be hurt today?”
man died (non-hostile casualty) when the dozer he was operating rolled
on the side of a hill. Doc Thomas, another medic, had rushed to him and
even boarded the medivac giving mouth-to-mouth, but when the chopper
reached 91s Evac Hospital, he was dead on arrival. This incident
was a heavy cross for the members of our unit, for we had lost a real
friend. They say death is a blessing, but that doesn’t keep us
from asking why.
after this incident, I went to the field. One particular day right
before noon another operator hit a booby-trap. To go out on the
cut and sit on the M548 and watch the dozers clear land isn’t very
interesting after you’ve seen them do it week after week.
However, one thing is always present in my mind, and that is the fear
that one of my buddies will get hurt and possibly die. These were
the thoughts going through my mind when I heard the explosion. It
is a terrible, empty, weak, and sickening feeling when an explosion goes
off and you know someone is hurt. The M548 was some distance from the
casualty, and could only get so close to the victim due to the terrain.
Before I realized what I was doing, I had jumped off the M548 and rushed
since arriving in Viet Nam, I’ve started out with a silent prayer to
God asking for his help and protection for all the men in our unit.
The cut, as the daily operation of clearing is called, begins at around
8:00 a.m. when we leave the NDP. The dozers lead the way followed
by the APC’s and a Sheridan for security. Then comes the M548
carrying the officer, NCOIC, demolition personnel, and medic. The
cut is set up by the lead dozer which has radio communications with the
M548 and the men begin to tear down shrubs, trees, and whatever else
that may stand in the area to be cleared. The M548 stations itself
so that one can see all the dozers. This way, their progress can
be watched and more specifically to locate a dozer in the event of an
accident or injury.
if the hidden dangers weren’t enough, the terrain often presents
numerous problems, especially muddy areas and rocky terrain. Often
a dozer will roll or turn over on its side causing injuries to the
operator. So the best feeling comes when I expect the worst, and
find the operator with only a scratch or two, everyone has a sigh of
relief and the jokes start. Finally the task of setting the dozer
up right is tackled and the operator is back on his way.
tunnels have been found during daily operations. Here is where the
demo man earns his keep. Once he checks out the tunnel for enemy
supplies or ammunition, he then blows the tunnel with a charge of C-4.
We have found caches of food (rice and corn), articles of clothing,
ammo, and various types of enemy ordnance.
chow time everyone comes together to talk about a million and one
things. During this time the soda girls or soda dollies as they
are also called, make their appearance if they haven’t already
continues until four o’clock and then we start back to the NDP.
The operators pull maintenance and another day is done.
Daniel Gonzalez, 31 March 1971