The Field Hospital at Nha Trang
by Tom Reed

The Second Brigade was moving from Ban me Thuot to Kontum. We didn't move all at once. It was done sort of piece meal. That's how the LRRP Platoon ended up providing perimeter security for a fire base. The line unit that had provided the security had been transferred north and we were there to fill in until it was time for the fire base itself to move.

We were housed close to the helicopter pad so we were constantly assaulted by the clouds of dust stirred up by the rotor blades. It meant that we were ourselves constantly filthy. I decided that it would be easier to keep my hair clean by shaving it back to basic training stubble. I don't know how we got hold of the hand shears, but we did. And we had a volunteer barber too. Torres swore he had cut hair before and I was dumb enough to believe him. He seemed to believe that proper technique required that he not only squeeze the shears but that he push down on the handle at the same time. Every time he employed this technique a would give a little yelp as he pulled out an equal amount of hair to that which he was attempting to cut. When he was done my now nearly bald pate had dozens of tiny cuts that quickly became infected necessitating my trip to the medical tent.

Some antibiotic salve was all it took to handle the problem of my near scalping by Torres but while I was there I decided to have them check out another problem I was having. With all the dirt I had also developed a boil on my left cheek. No one had noticed because it was the left cheek normally covered by my pants. Upon inspection the Doctor told me that I should have sought treatment sooner, the boil had abscessed. As, we both agreed that I didn't need another orifice in that vicinity, he packed it with antibiotic wadding and told me to return the next day to see how I was progressing. When neither the next day or the day after that showed any improvement the Doctor decided to send me to the field hospital at Nha Trang to recuperate.

As it was a field hospital, most of the patients were Vietnamese with combat inflicted wounds. I spent my time there lying on my stomach reading books, a routine broken a couple of times a day when I would have to sit it a near scalding sits-bath for a half hour or so.

Within a few days my condition improved and I was able to move around the ward. Afternoons usually found me sitting (admittedly somewhat delicately, on my right cheek) at the nurses desk, flirting with a pretty nurse on duty there. As we talked a Doctor who was a stranger to me, came in. He had silver oak leaves on the collars of his medical frock. Now November 1968 was still a couple of years before the movie MASH and even further removed from the TV show, but now as I look back of things, this Doctor was the living personification of the character of Major Burns. "Why do people keep calling this a sick ward," the Doctor said, displaying the aura of pomposity which I later related to Major Burns. "The people here aren't sick they have been honorably wounded in combat with the enemy!"

There was a moment of heavy silence as he looked both to the nurse and to me for a reaction. I looked at him with great seriousness.

"Then I shan't mention the nature of my affliction," I said.

The nurse nearly fell out of her chair laughing and the Doctor just looked bewildered.

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Web Page Created 13 Feb 2000
1999 Tom Reed

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