How To Run a Medevac

I am dedicating this to some of my fellow Marines that I knew in Viet Nam but they ended up KIA. I kept a detailed account of each KIA medevaced while I was in Nam, part of the job of running their medevacs was to call back to battalion with the details of each WIA or KIA medevac.

But before I write about them I will explain what a medevac was.

Ok, when someone was hit first call "corpsman up", meaning someone is hit and a corpsman is needed to take care of wounded, well the corpsman moved out, the radioman usually had other radio traffic because something was going on, I usually moved to the wounded about a couple of minutes after the corpsman, by that time the corpsman would have determined extent of wounds and determined the priority of the medevac and started treatment.

Your Medevac number was your initials and the last 4 numbers of your service number, my medevac number was "EPC 0576"

Medevac priorities

Routine...last on the list of medevac priorities usually within a couple of hours and never at night

Priority...usually wounds but not life threatening...usually within an hour never at night

Emergency bad shit...within 20 minutes any time day or night...

Ok after the medevac was classified one of the above, I would call to battalion on the medevac frequency requesting medevacs of what ever priority, I would give them the map coordinates of where we were.

Now the other Marines would be securing the area for my medevac landing zone, usually around 100 yards in diameter or the best you could get. Hopefully you were not in thick jungle, if you were you had to move the wounded to an open area or if you could not move to an open area you would have to take them up and out by winch.

Ok now ya got a landing zone, your guys would fan out and circle the landing zone and hopefully you could hold the zone. The NVA sometimes did not honor the geneva convention as far as medevac birds, medevac birds were fare game. A bonus to them was there always was a ring of grunts below medevac birds if the medevac bird was shot and crashed the NVA usually got more guys than the bird and it's crew.

I would now get a call on battalion medevac frequency telling me the medevac birds were inbound, the medevac birds call sign and approximately how long before the medevac bird would be here. I would also be informed that all arty and mortar fire would be in check fire as not to interfere with the flight of the medevac bird. Medevac birds always traveled in pairs, about five minutes out the lead medevac bird would come up on our company frequency and let you know that he's inbound and how many minutes he is from you. He would also ask me if I had a fix on him yet and if I had a fix on him what direction of the clock was he from me, 12'oclock was always due north. Now I always hated the last question they asked and the chopper drivers always left that question to last they would ask ......"is the landing zone secure"? If the zone was not secure he then requested gun ships.

Ok, definition of secure, well Mr. Webster has one, the chopper driver had one and we grunts we had one.

The chopper driver well, he would rather know you still had a gunfight going on because he wanted the gun ships around. I always left the call for gun ships up to the chopper drivers, me I liked the gun ships around...

Next I would hear from the gun ships, they usually arrived about a couple of minutes before the medevac birds. The gun ships would get the lay of the land, who is who and here the fire was coming from and what kinda of fire it was. I would work the gun ships for about two minutes or so, basically I had them blast the shit out of every tree line around me, while this was going on the medevac birds orbited over head out of the way.

Ok, gun ships are done, medevac birds on station, the medevac chopper driver asks me to pop smoke. This was for wind direction and identification next the medevac chopper circles around for his approach while the gun ships are circling around the zone like sharks.

Next the medevac chopper lands, now comes the tricky part the medevac bird is on the ground and with the noise from the chopper you could not hear the NVA weapons being fired. You relied on the gun ships they would look for flashes from rifles and such and relay info to me and I would direct the gun ships and the troops fire.

I never used the medevac chopper's call sign while he was on the ground, see the medevac chopper driver was trusting you to relay gunfire info to him and his gunners. If you used his call sign, he thought his chopper was taking fire and he would take off or his gunners would open fire.

Now you loaded the wounded aboard and the medevac chopper took off for the hospital. Some times you would see the Marine you just medevaced again, most of the time you never saw that Marine again.

During a medevac usually when the NVA would open fire would be either when the chopper was landing or when he takes off, normally not while the bird was circling.

Medevac chopper away, I always thanked the medevac chopper drivers and the crew for getting the Marine out.

Now if I wanted, the gun ships would stay and work out for me to expend their rockets and ammo, usually you still had some work for them to do.

Next I called battalion on the medevac frequency to tell them medevacs away, I would switch frequencies and call battalion on regular frequency to deliver a sit rep, then I would switch to company frequency to call in medevac numbers of the wounded and the KIA's.

Ok now you have learned how to run a medevac, you have run this medevac in daytime, rain, night time, under fire, in rice paddies, any condition you name it. Worst of all, you just flew out one of your buddies, most of the guys, like I said you never saw again.

Oh yeah by the way, you did all this while carrying 30 lbs of radio, spare batteries, smoke grenades, regular grenades, M-16 and 200 rounds (bullshit guys I packed 200 rounds), any personnel gear, four to five canteens of water, poncho, poncho liner, flack jacket, steel pot, C-Rats and any anything else the other guys talked you into carrying.