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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:Military / Vietnam War
  • Language:English
  • Pages:200
  • Format:Paperback
  • eBook ISBN:9781098391911
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098391904

Dustoff

More Than Met The Eye

by Arnold Sampson

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Overview

The soldiers assigned to Vietnam used helicopters to go from point 'A' to point 'B' as safely as possible. The Army's Medical Service Corps deployed medical evacuation helicopter ambulances (medevac) that undertook the task of extracting soldiers and anyone else who needed help from wherever they were in the field and transported them to a medical facility. This undertaking would not be all that noteworthy except that the medevac missions flown under the call sign: 'Dustoff' were conducted with unarmed ships that would go out in any condition. That includes night time, in a country which had limited lighting in war-engaged areas, flying in bad weather, that might ground other aircraft and would perform extractions immediately following or during periods of active hostile fire exchanges. This was all done before GPS equipment was available to tactical aircraft. The four man crew of Dustoff choppers were known (and indeed - expected) to go anywhere at anytime to save the lives of people they would only see once in life. The missions were undertaken without hesitation and with little fore-knowledge of the exact location of the potential patients.

The story of Dustoff rescues has been told but it cannot be told enough because the courage of the crews cannot be celebrated too frequently nor too loudly. Any aircraft that could land could perform an extraction of needful personnel but only Dustoff ships had the life-saving skills of combat-seasoned medics and the medical supplies that could mean the difference between life and death for gravely injured personnel.

This book attempts to go beyond the day-to-day missions to detail and share some experiences that were probably paralleled by every veteran. War is an environment of extremes and it is those extremes that settle into the psyche and spirits of those who served and left them, almost to a man, changed forever. Read this and see what changed them.

Description

Every war-front has its peculiarities and its special demons. In Vietnam, anti-personnel devices in the form of booby traps and and mines were used to demoralize and maim the well-armed troops of the United States. Though it should never have become mundane, the term 'traumatic amputation' became common-place. The adversary learned how to conceal their deadly devices and could set them up with little risk of detection. Medical evacuation helicopters (sometimes called medevac choppers) or were also known as 'Dustoff' ships were the lifeline between a soldier with a severed foot and a top-notch case-hardened facility that could save a man and not be daunted by the severity of his injuries. The crews of Dustoff Huey choppers faced their odds and did their jobs, and, if lucky, returned to their home heliport. Life, pain, lessons, surprises, heart-aches did not end there. Sometimes that was a starting point for whatever the Imp had in mind.

Even the experiences in the relatively safe confines of one's home base could be as dangerous to one's mind and spirit as the sound of small arms gunfire could be, when the ship neared the ground. When an uncle, a brother, a cousin or a former boyfriend came back from the war and seemed 'different' this book details some of the kinds of experiences that may have impacted that person and made them act as stunned, as closed-mouth, as angry, as paranoid, as untrusting, as indifferent as he did.

There were as many Vietnams as there are Veterans who survived it, or appeared to. Every man's experience or his perception and perspective of that experience was different. Many a man came home and had no more to say about his year away than the average child says when a parent asks, 'How was school today?' Don't share, don't say, don't trust, don't tell, don't open up; try to forget it, was the unspoken mantra issuing from that war.

Whether it succeeds or not, this book attempts to honor all who served, to give solemn thanks to those who did not make it back to their families on a visible plane and hopes to provide some small glimpse of the woes, challenges, haunts and demons experienced by one simple guy from Maryland. This pilot had one goal: to be as effective as possible in performing his duties and to help as many people as he could until his Higher Power took away his ability to serve. In that fateful year, he never harmed anyone. He never killed anyone.

Along with the talents, accompaniment and aid of a variety of skilled crew members, some of whom may not have understood him, he saved hundreds of people. Some of them were heading directly towards death as an accelerated rate of speed. That dash was slowed by the swift stick of an IV needle and by the 110 knots of air speed that carried that man or men to a hospital. No one died on my ship in the entire year. I hope that none of the ones just clinging to life when we handed them to the EMT's later succumbed. Yep, I hope that everyone lived and got home and thrived. This is an easy book to read. There are no conscious embellishments. If something was misremembered, that happened despite an enormous effort to get the fact straight in my memory bank. They were always straight in my heart.

About the author
Shortly after completing the U.S. Army's Rotary Wing Aviator's course, author Arnold Sampson was assigned to the 68th Medical Detachment (helicopter ambulance) in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) where he spent much of his tour in Chu Lai. During that tour, he spent time in the unit's two field-standby sites located at Ban Me Thuot and Duc Pho, and he also had a short temporary duty stint with the 254th Medical Detachment in Nha Trang. With assignments as the unit's supply officer, acting detachment commander, executive officer, and operations officer, he became intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of a medevac unit. Seven months into his tour, he became an aircraft commander with the call sign Dustoff 85. To him, that felt like a 7-year sojourn. He was awarded several commendations that were part of a team/crew effort. However, his two Purple Heart awards, awarded after separate injuries from shrapnel, and his Broken Wing Award were more singular and very personal. During his short year of service, he was also awarded the Bronze Star, at least five awards of the Air Medal with "V" device for heroism, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star device for heroism. After returning to the States, he earned an FAA commercial helicopter pilot's license while stationed at Fort Ord, California. He is writing this book to recount the most vivid memories of his varied experiences in the unit in hopes that telling his story might enable him to sleep better at night. He has post-Vietnam insomnia and tranquil sleep often still eludes him. With this book he is paying homage to friends who died in-country or who succumbed to the long tendrils of the war once they got home. He values them, misses them, and dedicates this book to their memories and their families.
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