It was pretty scary going out on those patrols searching for the V.C., but soon, my new friends made me feel like a brother too and
I've always been so grateful for that.
It was cold, dark and rainin' hard the night of December 21,1967, as we were ordered to
set up a listening post in a wood line outside Dong Tam's perimeter. It was so dark and loud with rain that we couldn't hear the frogs or anything, and we could only imagine seeing things that weren't
real. Sergeant Foster didn't like the hard rain, so we set up in a little shed that had been used previously. Little did we know that the V.C. had buried a 155-howitzer shell there just for us! We
had just settled in; I was plenty nervous and could literally hear my heart beating when about 1:00 A.M. the V.C. detonated the shell from a remote location. When I came to, Jimmy Bramlett was shouting,
Doc, are you ok? Wake up! We've been hit! We've got guys wounded! Jimmy, Manuel Castillo, Cranston Wyatt, and I were wounded - I didn't even realize that I was wounded. Then
my leg wouldn't move and was burning hot!
I felt my leg and my fingers slid inside the wound. I didn't remember anything until being loaded on the dust off chopper, and then nothing. I was almost dead from blood loss when I got to the operating room. The tourniquet that Jimmy had placed on my leg saved my life. The doctors removed the fragment that was right next to my femoral nerve and artery, but the wound was not closed thus allowing it to drain. A few days later at the 17th Field Hospital in Saigon, they sutured the muscles together and then pulled the skin together with wire sutures. The wire sutures pulled through the skin, but were used again at the 8th Field Hospital. Again, the sutures pulled out and an infection had set in by the time I reached the 249th General Hospital in Japan – I almost lost my leg. Soon, I was sent to Madigan Army Hospital at Fort Lewis, Washington for skin grafting and physical therapy. My last assignment was at Madigan Hospital in the emergency room as a tech, and ambulance medic. The V A gave me 30% disability for my leg. I left the Army and became a fire fighter/paramedic until 1996. In 1983, I joined the Army Reserves and in December of 1990 I was activated for Desert Storm and ended up in Nuremberg, Germany as assistant Chief Ward Master at the 98th General Hospital. I retired in 1996 as Sergeant Major E-9. I fully realize that I am a very lucky man to have survived Viet Nam and I am so fortunate to have three great sons and a beautiful wife.
In December of 1999, I managed to find Jimmy
Bramlett and he described the events of that terrible night 32 years prior. Jimmy told me that he had bandaged my leg and that I had patched up his wounded arm, and he fixed Manuel and Cranston. It was
so great, that after all those years to finally find out exactly what happened that cold rainy night. Jimmy lives near Tulsa, Oklahoma and I visited him in June of 2000. We agreed that the good times out
numbered the bad, and that we will never forget those that paid the ultimate price in Viet Nam. May God Bless Them All! Tom "Doc" Duthie - January 14, 2003