MEDCAPs in Vietnam

By: Mark Hannan
Medic, Alpha and Delta Company
Jan-Sep 1969

© 2001

Courtesy of 1st Bn (Mech) 50th Infantry website

Medical Rounds!

Mark Hannan, Medical Rounds. USAAnybody who watches ER or other hospital shows knows about medical rounds. As with everything in Vietnam, there they could be just a little bit different. I was a medic working under CPT Larry Dossey (the Battalion Surgeon) and attached to A Company, where we saw a bit of everything.

One day we had a new LT come out to the field. He was pretty gung-ho as I recall. One day we were walking across the rice paddies to go into the village to fill water cans from the well and he was in the group. A shot rang out and he started yelling real loud, and I figured he'd been hit pretty bad and rushed over. It seems he'd accidentally discharged his M-16 and had a hole right through his boot. As the medic, I proceeded to cut off the boot and look for a wound, but the bullet had actually passed right between a couple toes. I think he was sent on to another assignment after that.

On another occasion in the An Khe area, Lieutenant Nail had a very close encounter with a 50 cal. bullet. I didn't see it happen but he had apparently walked in front of a 50 cal machine gun that was still hot after a firefight. A round "cooked off" and went through the top of his helmet. He used to come into the battalion aid station for months after that and Dr. Dossey would pick a few more pieces of metal fragments out of his scalp.

Of course, not everything was rosey. We medics used to go out on MEDCAPs in Vietnam, setting up temporary aid stations to treat the local people. I went out on a few of those out of An Khe. Usually, you would have an interpreter, the Battalion Surgeon and a few medics, and we'd spend a few hours to check up on the local civilians and distribute medications. One day at LZ Salem with A Company, the company commander Captain Anthony Neglia decided to take a couple medics (me and one or two others) to a nearby Vietnamese school to check up on the kids. So we did and actually took one kid who was very ill to LZ Uplift to see the doctor. A few days later we heard that the VC burned down the school.