1967 in the Central Highlands of Vietnam I was pulling a lot
of missions with a yard recon platoon. These were very loyal soldiers unlike
the Vietnamese conscripts of the CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group).
I liked traveling the numerous mountain trails with them as we generally
would run into a firefight with the NVA in the area and brought back many
souvenirs from my encounters. One other American and I would go out with about 30 Montangards and one interpreter for a week to 10 days
in a free fire zone. Many of the missions were back to back. Heavy packs,
hot humid weather did not make trekking up and down the steep terrain any
easier. It was sometimes difficult to keep up the pace with the nimble
little 100 lb people.
As the camp medic when I was in camp I was responsible for ordering
the drugs for approximately 5,000 people consisting of about
500 CIDG Vietnamese and Montangards soldiers and their families
who lived outside of our A-Team perimeter. Each month the CO asked me to
make an unchallenged list of the various drugs I wanted to stock in my
dispensary in camp. Our drug supply did not come through regular Army channels.
For some reason (CIA?) I could order drugs faster than the
supply for some of the US hospitals. On numerous occasions
I was able to order cases of antibiotics and other drugs and
have a fac pilot fly out to our camp which was located in the free fire
zone, pick them up and deliver them to US doctors at hospitals on request.
Perhaps this was the old Army 's version of " don't ask don't tell
". At any rate my medical list always included a case of pure Dexedrine
for my dispensary. One of the few words for medicine that the Vietnamese
and Montangards knew from my predecessor medics were "Vitamins".
Then I was out on patrols with the montangards I took the
Dexedrine to keep up with the patrols as we humped
the mountain trails.. It was always worn off by nightfall.
Each night I would offer the night guard "Vitamins" (Dexedrine)
which they would swallow with great eagerness sometimes fighting over them.
Every morning I would ask them how they felt. They would always say..."aaah!
Bac Sic!...I feel VERY good but I no can sleep at night...Dexadrine
is good for only so many days, and after a week or so I would
feel wear and tear on my body.
On one particular mission we had made several contacts with the
NVA who out numbered us. After inflicting casualties on the enemy we were
forced to break contact, and escape and evade some very pissed off North
Vietnamese. It took us several days of hasty retreat to keep from being
killed. During this time, due to the heat and additional strenuous movements,
the Dexedrine I had been taking was not helping me. I was close
to heat exhaustion when we came across several unusual bushes growing beside
the trail. All of the yards began pulling small green, walnut sized
fruits off the bushes eating and stuffing them in their fatigue pockets.
One of the yards brought over a hand full of them and told me to eat them.
They tasted like eating a unripe apricot with a bitter taste. With
in five minutes after eating these ?Fruits
I had totally recovered from my heat exhaustion to the extent that I was
trying to convince the yards to go back up the path of the mountain and
make contact again. It was decided to continue our way back to camp which
probably a sound decision. "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight
another day." I never found
out what the name of those bushes nor did I ever come across their fruits
for sale in the local markets. I can say that they were certainly more
potent than the Dexedrine I carried, and I would sure like to have a few
of those bushes growing in my back yard. There are a lot of things we could
learn from the various herbs and plants growing out there known only to