Sunday, March 12, 2006

Chapter 15: Surgery at the 12th Evac Hospital in Cu Chi

The 12th Evacuation Hospital was established in Cu Chi along Highway 1 on December 1, 1966 in support of the 25th Infantry Division and remained on site until its deactivation on December 15,1970. The hospital was situated across the road from a petroleum dump and the artillery battery. The hospital, which could accommodate up to 300 casualties, was situated in a violent corner of Vietnam between Saigon and the Cambodian border and rarely lacked for action...

Here are a couple of pictures of an OR nurse that served at the 12th Evac Hospital in 1967, the pictures were just labeled Sarah.

Sarah outside the operating room and one of the hospital buildings.

Chopper landed outside the 12th Evac Hospital

The instant the medivac chopper touched the ground outside the 12th Evac Hospital in Cu Chi, my stretcher was taken off.

The first face I see is of the cutest little brunette nurse you’ve ever seen. “Hey, your cute.” I said. I didn’t get any response, I suppose, because the helicopter engine was making so much noise. (Yeah, I was a horn dog even then)

They took me inside the building and several people started checking me out. First thing they did was cut off every stitch of clothes I had on, including my boots. Bandages were removed and some replaced right away. They started poking and prodding me and moving me around, even took a couple of x rays.

Damn, that was uncomfortable. So I asked them for something for the pain. I wasn’t really in pain, just kind of very uncomfortable, but I was afraid, and didn’t want to be in pain.

“Did they give you anything in the field?” the doctor asked.

“No” knowing damn well they had. I just didn’t want to be in pain.

The doctor says, “Nurse, give him some demoral.” I got the shot.

I felt the doctor squeezing a piece of skin on the front of my throat, right under my chin. He asked me, “Can you breath okay?”

“Yeah, I can breath fine” I said. “I’m just cold.”

“Are you sure you not having any problem breathing?” he asks again, while still squeezing that little bit of skin under my chin.

“I’m sure. Why?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing. We’ll have you in surgery in a few minutes.” The doctor said calmly. “Get him covered with something, he’s cold.”

I don’t remember how long I laid there, not long though. The demoral and morphine had really kicked by now and I really wasn’t feel much of anything. They came an got me and wheeled me down through some doors and eventually in a building rolling me past some operating rooms which were all filled. They were all separated from each other, but there was an opening in the front of each of them so I could see in as we passed.

They rolled me into the area I was to be operated on, picked me up and placed me on the operating table. Got me settled in, strapped down, blood pressure cuff on, IV in; you know the drill if you’ve ever had surgery.

“Were going to put you a sleep now" the surgeon says. I want you to start counting backwards from 100."

“Wait an minute Doc,” I said “make sure you don’t start cutting on me until I’m asleep, okay?”

“Don’t worry, we won’t, now start counting”.

I start counting and my eyes started to close, but I quickly opened them again and repeated, “Make sure you don’t start cutting on until I’m a sleep.” Again the surgeon repeated not to worry and I fell a sleep.


Barry said...

I was a Surgical Tech at the 12TH Evac. 1966-67-out of Fort Ord Ca. My name is Barry Litberg. If someone would like to contact me, please do so at

Frank Garcia said...

It was great reading this because I was the supply sgt for the 12th Evac and trained as a basic medic to assist during Mass Casualty alerts. I always helped in the Surgery unit. My name is Frank Garcia and was with the 12th from Fort Ord and 1966-67 at Cu Chi. My address is if any one is interested in writing.

Terry Hutchinson said...

I am Terry Hutchinson, joined the 12th out of basic at Fort Ord in 1964 thru August 67. Welcome home Brothers and Sisters. It's great seeing this tribute to the 12th Evac. I can be reached at "It's still the worst trip I've ever been on"

Anonymous said...

Your photo of Nurse "Sarah" just popped up on my FB page re-posted by a friend of mine who is also a VN vet. "Sarah" is Sarah Blum who interviewed other Nurses and wrote a book called "Women Under Fire". Hope this helps.
robert turcotte

richardakrebs said...

The surgeon in the last picture is Shannon Tierney, an excellent general surgeon. I recognize several others in the photos, but can't bring back their names. Richard A. Krebs, MD (Internal Medicine at 12th Evac for the year starting January 1967).

BTExpress said...

God bless you sir, you all saved my life. I am forever in all of you angels debt.

philip meyers said...

i was at the 12th vac from april 68 to oct 68. i was an or nurse and my m=name is phil meyers. i remember my tour like it was yesterday, we saved a lot of lives. we also lost brave young soldiers and that bothers me more now the it did then. i guess i needed to bury those feelings so i could do the work. i have never worked in a place where the camaraderie and team work were at a higher standard. since 68 i have been a nurse anesthetist and just retired this past january.

Anonymous said...

Is the building still there? Or is there any marker that it was there?

BTExpress said...

I doubt it. Once we left the Vietnamese took over everything. Tghe tunnels are still there and are a tourist attraction.

Anonymous said...

My father was there as a patient, and soon I'll be going to HCM to visit, and I'd love to at least see where it was. Where exactly in the town could I find it's location?

BTExpress said...

I have no idea. The 12th Evac and the Cu Chi 25th Division base camp are long gone. Cu Chi is a city, so maybe someone can show you where it was.

Anonymous said...

I was a medic in the Emergency Room in 12th Evac Hospital from 1967-68. I had the privilege of returning to Cu Chi in 2007. It is a beautiful city now and very little is left of what used to be the 25th infantry Base Camp. There is, however, a museum and tour of the area around what used to be the base and the tunnel systems that ran under the base. -Chris Wickizer-

BTExpress said...

I was in ER the night of 8 Nov 68, so maybe we met there. God bless you and the entire staff at the 12th.