Ed "Spooky" Nored
RVN Sep 69 - Sep 70
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(Nored) Don Ketcham shares his hospital experience below after being wounded on the 12th of July. Craig Sherwood, also wounded on the 12th, caught up with Don in Japan and shares the photos he took. Thousands of wounded passed through Camp Zama on their way home during the war.
(Ketcham) 15 Jul 1970 / I woke up three days later to the glare of fluorescent lights above me. I had to go to the bathroom bad and saw no one around and started making noise. I could hardly move with all of the stainless steel stitches in my arms, legs, back and butt. Saw a cast on my right leg, didn't know what that was for, don't know who showed up, but, got a bedpan, and found out I could not hear worth a shit. Found out that I was in Long Binh Hospital outside of Saigon, and then went unconscious again. Lost all track of time. The next time I woke up I saw Steve Von Cannon, aka "Hoss" and he also had a chest tube and they were removing it. Noticed he had lost his hearing also. My chest tube was removed several days later. I knew I had a big hole in my right leg (ended up being about 9"-lO"), and there was more to come later. Having lost all track of time, and I knew I was still in Long Binh, of all people to show up, here was Gary Borkowski, damn, was it good to see him. He informed me that the firing pin was placed in the Machine Gun incorrectly*. I had to holler to communicate with him. It was a bummer to get used to talking to people when you can't hear your self talk. (* Randolph "Treetop" Foriest , the regular 60 gunner, had gone in on the log bird the day before for medical reasons. I have read several books about the war since and found this was a common mistake. The book, They Marched Into Sunlight by David Maraniss is one such example. Von Cannon had obviously made this common mistake when he reassembled the weapon after cleaning it. The 60, no matter how many times I pulled back the bolt and squeezed the trigger, was never going to fire. )
Shortly after that, I was transferred to Tan Son Nhut air base to await shipment to Camp Zama, Tokyo, Japan [ 20 Jul 1970] On the third day there [ Jul 1970], the wounded were loaded onto a hospital plane including me. I thought I was in a bad way, until I saw some of the wounds and injuries on that plane. I am sure some of them died along the way. The guy next to me was all bandaged up and never was conscious. Don't know the flight time, but I slept a lot. Landed at Yakota Air Force base [ 23 Jul 1970] was there for over two days then [ 25 Jul 1970] helicoptered over Tokyo to Camp Zama. I know I was feeling a bit better, for I managed to lift myself up on an elbow to look out the window of the chopper to see what looked like a bunch of small houses squished together. Next thing I knew I was waking up in a hospital bed in Camp Zama. I was placed amidst a platoon of Army from a division that had been accidentally fired upon by US Military helicopters. My next issue was now the cast on my right leg. I was bitching about something sharp poking out of my leg, ended up being some of the shrapnel from one of the RPG's. They then took the cast off my right leg, what I saw did not look good to me, I had one toe taken off by shrapnel that passed through my boot and now another toe was an awful blackish / gray with Gangrene and had to go, surgery was scheduled and the toe was removed along with the shrapnel that was bugging me. I again woke up a day or so later, cast still off and bandages all over my right leg. The stainless steel stitches sure tugged at the skin when moving.
(see bottom of this section of photos for more of Dons story.)
Don't know how Craig Sherwood found me there at Camp Zama, but he did. I enjoyed the time with him, and, I thought sure he was going to lose an eye from shrapnel hit from one of the RPG's. [ I have seen of Craig indicate he has both eyes and apparently in good shape] Craig was in much better shape than I, and left Camp Zama ahead of me to go back to a hospital in the states. In Aug 1970, don't know exact day, I was shipped to the VA's Valley Forge Hospital through Baltimore, MD. [ guy on the plane with me, met his girl friend at the air base there, it was difficult watching as she took a look at him and said she couldn't handle it and promptly left] I was placed in an amputee's ward in Valley Forge, and requested a transfer out to another ward. I had only two toes missing and wounds all over, along with garbage hearing, and some of these guys had no legs or arms. I was mentally unprepared for it. Now came the hard part. I had been in bed for so long that I was unable to walk. My leg muscles had atrophied along with Achilles tendons. I had to learn to walk all over again. Therapy and lots of stretching of the legs that hurt were the main courses for each day except weekends. Only consolation was the therapy nurse was a good-looking Army Captain, but, when she got down to business, it was good to have therapy over for the day. About the beginning of Sep 1970 I began getting some of my hearing back in my right hear. The left one is a hopeless case. Hearing aid will not help due to nerve deafness. I also picked up tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, that is chronic. I have managed to learn to tune it out. I was supposed to get out of the service on 24 Sep 1970. I was held over until 12 Oct 1970 due to many wounds still being open, even when I was discharged. I came back to Flint, Michigan October of 1970 and still had to wait for some of the larger wounds to heal. Used lots of peroxide.
Company moves to another new area and begins chopping another log pad. After finishing resupply the company moves about 100 meters and sets up a night-lo (J.W.)
Went on patrols all day long out of the night-lo position. Then company moved about 500 meters and set up a new night-lo.
8-3-70 Boonies (log day)
While clearing a spot in the jungle for our re-supply helicopter to land. Jay Selby accidentally cut his leg open with a machete and went to the rear.
My letter commented on our platoon Lt. Holden. His father is vice president of North American.
The company saddled up and moved to a nearby clearing. We are supposed to be air lifted out but as the day passes the commanders change their mind and the company gets logged instead. Jim Wastradowski begins learning how to run log days and will eventually take over as resupply man for the company. (J.W.)
The company was supposed to be extracted but 2nd platoon runs into 6 gooks. There's a lot of shooting but nobody on either side gets hurt. The commander cancels the extraction.
8-9-70 Boonies (log day)
Went on patrol to find a clearing open enough to use as a pick up zone for the company.
The company saddles up and moves to the field we found to use as a pick up zone. 300 meter from our night-lo. 1st and 2nd platoon moved around the tree line and secured the area while 3rd platoon moved into position in the open area.
As I read the letter I wrote Linda on August 11th, the memories of how I felt this particular day rushed through me. As I stood out there in the open it dawned on me that I was going home very soon, that I would soon be leaving this strange world I was in. I remember growing extremely sensitized to what was going on around me. All this would soon be over. The pack on my back that I had cursed so often and the way my "16" felt in my right hand. I looked down at my shoes with the "dog tag" attached to my shoe lace I remember as I leaned forward as we all did to counter the weight of the pack the front of your shirt and bandoliers that held our ammo would fall away from your chest allowing the stench of our bodies to drift up and smack us in the face. I remember how extremely quiet it was. I remember felling extremely peaceful as I took everything in that day. We had positioned ourselves in 6 groups of 5 spread out in two rows. Somebody yelled "Pop smoke!" and at the end of the clearing the familiar sound of a smoke grenade being popped (It sounded much like a firecracker going off.) Purple smoke spurted from its base marking where the lead copter would land. Our friendly artillery began to explode on both side of the clearing about 200 meters into the tree line. This acted as a deterrent for any enemy who might want to get a shot at the last bird taking off. And if you were going to be the last person to be lifted out it was a reassuring sound. The sky was mostly clear that day. Off in the distance the Wop, Wop, Wop sound of the approaching copters excited everyone. One by one they appeared over the trees. Low enough to send the lower vegetation swaying to and fro. As they got closer the dust and fragments of dead plant life rose and clouded the field. We all boarded our birds and seconds later lifted up and over the tree line and headed for LZ Betty. Sitting there on the floor of the copter with my feet dangling over the side the "little boy" that remained in me sat back and took it all in. These "cheap thrills" were not going to last much longer.
After landing at L.Z. Betty a few hours later the C.O. informed us that our platoon alone would be going to a base next to the village of Bu Dop. We saddled up and once again found ourselves on 6 more copters headed for Bu Dop.
8-11-70 3rd Platoon at Bu Dop. remainder of company at LZ Betty
The C.O. brought us some steaks and charcoal. He didn't want to return to L.Z. Betty so he stayed and ate dinner with us.
8-12-70 3rd Platoon at Bu Dop. remainder of company at LZ Betty
8-13-70 LZ Betty
In the morning a group of 3rd platoon including Jim Wastradowski, go out on O.P. At 11 AM they return. The Platoon saddles up and is flown by Chinook back to L.Z. Betty.
8-14-70 L.Z. Betty
Miss Universe at Song Be. A few guys from the company are picked up to go see this U.S.O. show. I received orders to be at Fort Dix New Jersey the 30th of October. I went up before E-6 board.
The Company returns to the field. I am still having weird dreams at night. It rains too much, 3 days straight. The only real physical pain I suffer in the field is prickly heat. It is a sensation of having several hundred needles pierce your back from your shoulders to the base of your spine. It only lasts a second.
8-20-70 Boonies (log day)
I leave the field for good. My last ride on the skid of a copter. I dropped a yellow smoke on top of the platoon. When I think back upon that day it all seems like a blur. Deep down inside me there was a sense of urgency, near panic. My subconscious was yelling "get the hell out of here before something happens!" I flew to L.Z. Betty then caught a ride to Song Be the company rear.
8-21-70 Song Be
8-22-70 Left Song Be and flew to Bien Hoa.
8-23-70 Bien Hoa
8-24-70 Bien Hoa
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