Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Images

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pp. ix-xii

Acknowledgements

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pp. xiii-xiv

Acronyms and Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xviii

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Prologue

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pp. xix-xxii

Memories of Vietnam seem to be inextricably woven into the very fabric of my soul. No day goes by that I don’t think about the people or the events I experienced during the year I spent in that then war-torn country.
I went to Vietnam as a fairly young man, just two months beyond my thirty-third birthday. Now I’m an old man, 82 and a bit more. The years have not dimmed my memories of Vietnam. In many respects they are...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

Early in February 1966, cold north winds buffeted the campus of the University of Texas at Austin where I was studying under U.S. Army sponsorship. As I hurried to an early morning management seminar in the School of Business, my thoughts were elsewhere. Waiting anxiously for me to return home was my wife, probably cradling our very sick baby boy in her arms. We had to once again take our infant son to the...

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Chapter 1: July 1966

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pp. 5-44

Very early on Sunday morning, 3 July 1966, while the rest of the country was celebrating a long Independence Day weekend, I had the sad task of saying goodbye to my wife and children.
After hugging each of our six little ones and telling them how much I loved them, I kissed my wife goodbye and held her tightly. I then threw my military duffel bag and one small suitcase into the trunk of the waiting taxi and got in for the short ride to San Antonio International...

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Chapter 2: August 1966

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pp. 45-82

Each U.S. advisor worked very closely with a Vietnamese officer who occupied a senior position within the Vietnamese military hierarchy. The Vietnamese officer was referred to as the American advisor’s “primary counterpart.” My primary counterpart was Major Pham Viet Tu, the I Corps Surgeon. At the time I served as his advisor, Major Tu was a thirtyseven- year-old physician with a family similar to mine. He and his wife had four girls and two boys. His wife delivered their second son only a couple of months prior to my arrival....

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Chapter 3: September 1966

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pp. 83-130

On 1 September, I participated in the inspection of an ARVN medical unit in Quang Ngai and uncovered the fact that the unit had not pitched some of its larger tents in seven years. I told the commander, an ARVN officer, that I would be surprised if the unit could even get its large tents in the air, and if they did, I could almost guarantee him that dry rot or mildew would have made them totally unusable. The commander of the unit, a lieutenant, and his senior NCO seemed unconcerned when...

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Chapter 4: October 1966

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pp. 131-176

Lang Vei and Khe Sanh are remote mountain villages near the DMZ and the Laotian border, both located in the far northwest corner of South Vietnam. The villages were populated primarily by Montagnards, staunch allies of the United States during the war.
I accompanied Major Tu, the I Corps Surgeon, on a liaison and factfinding visit to these two villages in early October. When we arrived at Lang Vei by plane, it was nearing lunchtime. We were met by a Montagnard officer in the Regional Force or Popular Force. He approached...

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Chapter 5: November 1966

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pp. 177-214

When I looked out of the only window in my hotel room, I viewed a new building being constructed. One of the exterior walls of the building was less than thirty feet from my window. I had watched the progress of the building during the almost four months I had been in Da Nang. When completed, the building was supposed to be among the largest in the city. It was to be the headquarters for the United States Agency for International Development, an organization with which I frequently...

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Chapter 6: December 1966

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pp. 215-252

On Thursday evening, 1 December, I was sitting in the Officers’ Club dining room enjoying a second or third cup of coffee with friends when a man approached our table and introduced himself as David Burrington of NBC News. He told me he wanted to do a human interest story on the repair of children's harelips that could be televised in the United States sometime during the Christmas season. He had been given my name as a point of contact. Specifically he was hoping to get some footage of a...

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Chapter 7: January 1967

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pp. 253-280

For New Year's Day, our acting commander, Colonel John Beeson, decided on minimum staffing. The temporary truce was holding up quite well, and he decided that everyone needed a break. One of the newly assigned medical NCOs was providing the necessary coverage for our office. I spent the day in the office typing letters to family and friends and reflecting upon the events of the past six months, many of which I would remember for the rest of my life....

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Chapter 8: February 1967

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pp. 281-312

As February arrived, plague again broke out in I Corps, this time in Hue. The outbreak caused a great deal more concern on the part of public health officials than usual. First indications were that they were dealing not only with bubonic plague, but with pneumonic plague as well. I knew very little about the pneumonic strain except that it was infinitely more deadly because it could be transmitted directly from person to person. It didn’t require a flea as carrier....

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Chapter 9: March 1967

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pp. 313-352

On the morning of 2 March, Sergeant Quan, an ARVN NCO whom I sometimes used as an interpreter when Sergeant Thong wasn’t available, came to me and said that he had a very sick baby. I asked him what the doctor had to say about the baby. He explained that he wasn’t married. and therefore a doctor within the ARVN medical system could not see his illegitimate child. He went on to explain that he was Buddhist and that his girlfriend, the mother of his child, was Christian. Neither his...

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Chapter 10: April 1967

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pp. 353-394

On 1 April, I sent a letter to my wife that I knew would not arrive until well after the date of full impact. It read as follows:

1 April 1967
Dear Pat,
I am so disgusted that I’m not even certain I can concentrate on writing this letter. I’m angry and frustrated. I’ve never understood the personnel policies of the army and now I’m even more confused. I would have thought that just after completing a combat...

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Chapter 11: May 1967

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pp. 395-430

Our flight from Saigon to Da Nang was late in arriving. We landed a few minutes after midnight on Monday, 1 May. I decided to swing by my office to type a brief letter to my wife and pick up my mail. Lying conspicuously in the center of my desk was a note telling me that, since 1 May was the biggest holiday in the Communist world, Colonel Hamblen had ordered all advisors to stay off the streets as much as possible on that day. The note said the threat of terrorism was high. Colonel Hamblen...

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Chapter 12: June 1967

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pp. 431-468

On 1 June, I received encouraging news from my wife about our still fragile son, Michael. His lungs were now functioning at about 80 to 85 percent capacity. We could finally breathe a bit easier. My wife, Patricia, had done such a good job of looking after not only him, but the other five children as well....

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Chapter 13: Reflections

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pp. 469-476

Upon leaving Vietnam I never imagined that the war would grind on for another seven long and tragic years. I thought there would be a negotiated settlement far sooner than 1975. The longer the war went on the more apprehensive I became. I feared for my former South Vietnamese military colleagues and civilian friends and acquaintances should the North Vietnamese prevail....

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About the Author

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pp. 477-478

After his service in Vietnam, Major Van Straten went on to serve a full thirty-year career in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, retiring in 1986 with the rank of colonel. Among the more significant positions he held in the years following his service in Vietnam were Director of Health Manpower Programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the Pentagon, Deputy Commander of the Medical Field Service School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Chief of...

Endnotes

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pp. 479-484

Bibliography

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pp. 485-488

Index

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pp. 489-497