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Spooky Action At A Distance

NSA Station Hospital, Da Nang: A Personal History - Author's Dedication

By Jim Chaffee

Dedicated to Bob Garrison and Dave McGlochlin and Roger Yamanaka

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Bob, Dave and I went to Corps School and served together in the Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan for part of 1966 and 1967. Dave was first to gt orders to Vietnam to serve the Marines as an FMF corpsman, mostly because as a member of the reserve he had only two years to serve and was running out of active duty time. In Vietnam, he went first to a communications unit, then was transferred to a Combined Action Platoon, first at their headquarters unit in Chu Lai, then to a unit on a hill overlooking the river just south of the city of Tam Ky between Chu Lai and Da Nang. He was killed when his unit was attacked 10 January 1968. His Bronze Star citation reads:

While deployed in a defensive perimeter at Nui Tac Huong, his platoon came under heavy attack from a large enemy force utilizing rockets, grenades, mortar and small-arms fire. Petty Officer McGlochlin fearlessly exposed himself to the heavy enemy fire to assist his companions in their defense of the perimeter, refusing medical aid although he had been twice wounded by grenade fragments.

During the ensuing firefight, he was mortally wounded by an enemy grenade. By his courage and devotion to duty, Petty Officer McGlochlin served to inspire all who observed him. The combat distinguishing device is authorized.

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The truth is understated. I was able to find people who were there during the fight or who served with the same CAP just after the attack who told me what happened and who helped me to locate the site for a visit in 1999 (my second return trip). His parents graciously shared his posthumously developed photos with me, helping me to revisit the locales and to recognize some of the Vietnamese who served with the Popular Forces supporting the CAP, still living in the local hamlets, all memorialized in his photos. I also learned the real story. Perhaps someday I will have the courage to tell it as it happened.

Though many of those I served with in Japan were killed, as were many of those with whom I went to Hospital Corps School, Dave was my closest friend among them.

I took these photos of Dave when he visited me at NSA in late 1967, while his communications unit was stringing wire just west of Da Nang in Happy Valley, shortly before his transfer.

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Bob Garrison and I received orders to Vietnam shortly after Dave got his orders. Ours were to NSA Station Hospital, located just north of the Marble Mountains, southeast of Da Nang and north of Hoi An. Bob and I extended our tours together and returned to the States together. After that we lost touch, though Bob did contact me while I was attending university. Trying to cope with my own pain, to forget the whole experience, I turned my back on Bob. Years later, just before my first return visit to Vietnam, I tried to contact him. He`d died of a heart attack a couple decades after his return. I learned about him from his widow, who graciously shared his photos.

I took the photo above, with the Khue Bach Pagoda in the background, probably sometime in 1968. The one just below of Bob in civvies in front of the barracks at Yokosuka was likely taken in 1966.

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Roger Yamanaka was outside this circle, a close friend from Western High School in Las Vegas, Nevada who moved his senior year to Costa Mesa, California. I could say the same thing about Roger that I said about those I served with in Japan, or went to Corps School with. There were others who died in Vietnam, but none of them remained in my thoughts as did Roger.

While attending the Riverside Gran Prix shortly before joining the Navy, I accidentally ran across Roger and spent a day with him in Newport, where he had an apartment while he attended the local community college. Bored with school, Roger planned to join the Marine Corps. He was killed at Khe Sanh while serving with the 26th Marines on 3 April, 1968. Unfortunately, I have no photos of Roger. I remember he had a strong interest in plastic arts and in music, and we spent many afternoons together listening to jazz.

This article first appeared in Navy Medicine Magazine, January-February 2002, Volume 93, Number 1. Navy Medicine Magazine is the official publication of the Navy Medical Department. The original version is online at the Navy Medicine online site and can be obtained in pdf format, with the original photos used. The version published here has significantly more photos and has been further edited. The author wishes to thank Jan Herman and Andre Sobocinski for their work in getting the original version into print. It is people like Jan and Andre who help keep alive the memories of those who served. Jan has written several carefully researched books on Navy Medicine in wartime which should be consulted by anyone who wants to have an idea of the Navy’s part in the wars of the last century. Navy Medicine Magazine also reprints authentic personal remembrances of those who served as part of USN Medicine.

© 2006 Jim Chaffee