PDA

View Full Version : Saga of Navy Corpsmen with Suicide Charley



thedrifter
10-25-07, 08:38 AM
Saga of Navy Corpsmen with Suicide Charley
Knoxville News Sentinel, TN

Navy corpsmen are revered by the U.S. Marine Corps. To the rifleman in combat, the corpsman is a healing angel, come to save a life, make the bad things go away, clear the clouds and walk a soldier to bright, golden fields where there is no pain, death, or anxiety about the world beyond.

From “loblolly boy” or assistant to the ship’s surgeon of the U.S. Navy’s 19th century fleet, to the crackling urban gun battles in Iraq, the U.S. Navy Corpsman has been a profile in courage. It is little wonder they are loved by U.S. Marines. The man they call “Doc” when bullets are burning through them, is always there.

This is the story of two Navy Corpsmen with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Vinh Loc, Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam.

To set the scene, the year is 1966. The 1/7th is in Chu Lai, and receives orders to help set a trap for North Vietnamese Army regulars in a place called Vinh Loc.

Charley Company of the 1/7 better known as “Suicide Charley,” rolls out in the wrong direction because of a “navigational error.” The Marines of Suicide Charley run into heavily fortified Viet Cong troops in the village. With casualties mounting, Corpsmen Third Class Robert Ingram and Chief Petty Officer Robert Shelly are with the Marines doing what they can to patch up the bleeding and console the terminally wounded.

The battle quickly engulfing Charley Company is what American war poet Walt Whitman (who served as a Federal nurse during the Civil War), calls the “spirit of dreadful hours. . . the strong terrific game.”

Operation Indiana (http://www.marzone.com/7thMarines/MOH280366.htm) eventually tallies up 11 Marines killed in action and 55 wounded, the majority of the casualties from Charley Company, which had been the blunt head of the battle.

"Our platoon was under strength," says Charlie Jones of Nagadoches, Texas, who was a platoon leader in Suicide Charley.

"We were in the path of a North Vietnamese Army regiment with heavy weapons," says Jones, who was an artist and still is. He won the Silver Star that day. Much of his artwork today reflects his time in Vietnam in 1966.

"We fought them to a standtill," says Jones.

Said a Marine report of the action: “It was fate that transformed "C" Company from a blocking force to an attacking force and forever left it's mark on the young men of that Marine unit.”

Those killed in Operation Indiana from Charley Company are listed as Sgt John George Bansavage, Pfc. Michael Ray Beck, Pfc. Paul Elias Hassey, Cpl. Richard Lee Otis Mayes, Cpl. John Leigh McCarty, Pfc. Thomas McEntee, Sgt. Pedro Padilla, Pfc. Richard Joseph Preskenis, Sgt. Colon Ricardo Rodriguez, Pfc. Leroy Eugene Simons, and Pfc. Edmund Francis Eddy.

It is to these Marines that Ingram and Shelly did their best to save.

Shelly, from Middleton, Tenn., was severely wounded by an anti-aircraft round that ripped up his back, sliding beneath his flak vest. The blast ripped out the trapezius muscle, a large, flat triangular-shaped muscle that runs from about the middle of the back up into the neck right to the base of the skull.

“It threw that muscle over my head and face,” says Shelly, describing the unbelievable injury. He had bent over to help pull a wounded Marine to safety when the large anti-aircraft shell rammed underneath the flak vest and sizzled out above his head.

Shelly could not see anything due to the flap of muscle over his face, and blood streaming down his front. The hanging muscle was like a coat, thrown over his head. Several Marines quickly put the muscle back in place and laid Shelly down on the ground.

“They didn’t know it, but they placed me on top of an ant mound. They were like fire ants.”

The ants began to swarm him, inside and out, eating holes in his bloody flesh.

Shelly won the Silver Star that day and then had to spend more than a year in military hospitals recovering.

"Military doctors told me I would never walk again," he says, leaning on a walking cane.

"But I'm still here and I'm walking."

That process of recovering, he says, is still going on today. He walks with a cane and smiles gently. He is soft spoke and there is a calmness to his face.

“I love these men.” There isn’t any doubt about that.

Ingram, who had held his very close friend, Sgt. Gerald Stansell, in his arms as he died in a previous engagement around Phu Long the month before Operation Indiana, is what has to be called an amazing story.

Here is the Navy’s citation for the Medal of Honor he was awarded for his actions on that day in the jungles with Suicide Charley:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Corpsman with Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines against elements of a North Vietnam Aggressor (NVA) battalion in Quang Ngai Province Republic of Vietnam on 28 March 1966. Petty Officer Ingram accompanied the point platoon as it aggressively dispatched an outpost of an NVA battalion. The momentum of the attack rolled off a ridge line down a tree covered slope to a small paddy and a village beyond. Suddenly, the village tree line exploded with an intense hail of automatic rifle fire from approximately 100 North Vietnamese regulars. In mere moments, the platoon ranks were decimated. Oblivious to the danger, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the bullet spattered terrain to reach a downed Marine. As he administered aid, a bullet went through the palm of his hand. Calls for "CORPSMAN" echoed across the ridge. Bleeding, he edged across the fire swept landscape, collecting ammunition from the dead and administering aid to the wounded. Receiving two more wounds before realizing the third wound was life-threatening, he looked for a way off the face of the ridge, but again he heard the call for corpsman and again, he resolutely answered. Though severely wounded three times, he rendered aid to those incapable until he finally reached the right flank of the platoon. While dressing the head wound of another corpsman, he sustained his fourth bullet wound. From sixteen hundred hours (4 p.m.) until just prior to sunset, Petty Officer Ingram pushed, pulled, cajoled, and doctored his Marines. Enduring the pain from his many wounds and disregarding the probability of his demise, Petty Officer Ingram's intrepid actions saved many lives that day. By his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative, and unfaltering dedications to duty, Petty Officer Ingram reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Marines from Charley Company hold Ingram in saintly reverence. They speak of him in tones that befit some higher being.

They tell the story that Ingram was wounded so severely that he was wrapped in a body bag and tossed onto the “dead pile.” He was transported by helicopter out of the combat zone after the fighting, along with the 11 other dead Marines. Back at the field hospital another corpsman happened to see the slightest flicker in one of Ingram’s hands.

He felt for a pulse and found a faint bump. Ingram was rushed to triage and then airlifted out.

Ingram is a stout fellow, with a barrel chest above a small waist. A white beard outlines a face that seems etched in time or rock. A dent the size of a quarter in his left cheek is from a VC bullet.

“I was blind in my left eye for a while,” he says.

He speaks in a stoic or Socratic way, answering a question with a question. Ingram is extremely religious, he says, walking with a higher power today, thinking of his many friends, especially Stansell, who will be forever young.

Posted by Fred Brown on October 24, 2007 at 12:33 PM

Ellie

Dave Coup
11-05-07, 09:58 PM
That's Corpsmen for you,what you've just read is the rule rather than the exception to the rule. There probably should have been more MOH's and Navy Cross' etc than there were. Ooh Rah Doc's Semper Fidelis Brothers

HN Mullins
11-09-07, 03:46 PM
Hospital Corpsman have recived more MOH's and Navy Cross' than any other rate in the Navy. I guess we just love our Marines that much that most will forget about their own safety and do what needs to be done with a willing spirit. The Cheif that thaught me in Corps School instilled in us that above all else you take care of your Marines, because through thick and thin they will take care of you, so teach them what you know because they may be treating you before it is all said and all done.

Happy birthday Marines
HN Mullins out

docfin11
11-18-07, 08:36 AM
Hospital Corpsman have recived more MOH's and Navy Cross' than any other rate in the Navy. I guess we just love our Marines that much that most will forget about their own safety and do what needs to be done with a willing spirit. The Cheif that thaught me in Corps School instilled in us that above all else you take care of your Marines, because through thick and thin they will take care of you, so teach them what you know because they may be treating you before it is all said and all done.

Happy birthday Marines
HN Mullins out

They treat us like the little brother only they can pick on. Pretty cool stuff, but I will tell you when it hits the fan...They ar there!

DocMann77
12-17-07, 07:28 AM
They treat us like the little brother only they can pick on.

Couldn't have said it better myself. It's someone's azz if anyone else other than a Marine tries it, LOL.

Buckeye
12-17-07, 10:22 AM
:marine: Hat's off to our Corpsmen...:iwo: :flag:
Sorry,Covers off...