Feb 032013

 TSN Main Gate Looking off BaseTan Son Nhut Air Base, 1968 as Dee would have seen it

As the convoy of jeeps approached, Scarlazzi made whooping sounds.  Dee squinted through the shimmering hot haze while sweat trickled down her face and neck.  As an automatic response all nurses adjusted items on their Class A officer’s uniform. The green tunic had a tight fitting skirt.


One of the nurses had a run in her nylons while another stuck her foot back in her high heels.  The nurses’ uniforms served to remind them and others around them that they were ladies and officers.  Time and time again, these words were spoken by instructors together with the orders to be calm and emotionless while dealing with wounded casualties.  To show fear and other emotions would jeopardize the well being of the injured.

“Bring on those jeeps.”  Scarlazzi gave a ‘thumbs up’ sign.

The first jeep stopped for the nurses.  The drivers saluted the officers.

“Welcome to Saigon, Lieutenants. Glad to see new blood.”

The nurses sat in the lead jeep as it made its way towards a series of white bricked and green corrugated buildings. The noise, smell and heat forced Dee to close her eyes.  She upbraided herself for her lack of composure, and reinforced herself with positive thoughts.  ‘You are a first class nurse.  You have a mission to heal.  You are a commissioned officer.   You’ll do a great job!’

In the distance, a series of flat bed trucks were heading in their direction.  Their jeep stopped and both military police men opened the door for the officers.  This action soon became apparent.  About fifty silver coffins rolled by as everyone stood to attention and saluted.  They watched as the convoy headed towards the same C-130 cargo plane that had brought them to Vietnam.

Scarlazzi spoke, “My dad and grandpa served in two wars.  Not a scratch.  I figure it’s a genetic thing!”

The driver started the jeep again.  As if by explanation, he said.

“The caskets will be hidden in the belly of the C-130 plane before the wounded arrive. The plane will be refitted.  Poles will be placed down its centre and brackets attached to hold litters.  But, I suppose as nurses you know these things.”

Dee spoke.  “Do you know where the plane is headed?”

“No Ma’am.  But it will be a five hour flight to specialty hospitals in either Japan or the Philippines.”

“What now? The driver pointed to a Military Police jeep headed towards the nurses’ jeep.




“Shit, I’ve been arrested before I can get off one shot.”

“Shut the Fuck up, Scarlazzi!”  someone yelled.

“The M.P driver issued an order to Dee’s driver.  “Soldier, I want the three nurses transferred to this jeep.”

“Sergeant, I have orders to put them on a bus for Long Binh.”

“New orders. Body bags arriving and docs too busy to establish cause of death.  The Colonel’s given the jobs to these nurses. We’ve got to hurry, the wounded will be coming in after the dead.  Can’t have them see their fallen comrades.”

Sophia spoke.  “It may be difficult to establish cause of death, sergeant.”

The sargeant shook his head.

“Tag the boys as death by a bullet wound to some part of the body.  It will be shock and loss of blood that kills them, but you know that as nurses.  You’ll do a good job.”

The jeep was met by an orderly.  He pointed to a door.

“In that room, you will find fatigues, vests, helmets and boots.  After you have changed, please meet me at the exit door to the helipad.”

“Oh God, I can hear choppers.”  Sue Montgomery whispered.  “Dear Lord, let us do a good job.”   Then less prayerfully she snarled, “Damn it, these are men’s shoes!”

 end of blog 2

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