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Interview with Jeanne Markle [Undated]

Mark D. Doud:

Hello. My name is Mark Doud, and I'm with the Office of Senator Richard Lugar in his Indianapolis office and today we're in Frankfort, Indiana. We're interviewing right now Jeanne Markle. We just interviewed her husband. And she was born on October 28, 1943. She also lives at 1003 North Jackson Street here in Frankfort, Indiana, 46041. She served in the 93rd Evac-

Jeanne Markle:

Evac Hospital.

Mark D. Doud:

-- Hospital -- 24th --

Jeanne Markle:

Evac Hospital.

Mark D. Doud:

Okay.

Jeanne Markle:

Evacuation.

Mark D. Doud:

Okay. And you -- she's with the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Her highest rank is First Lieutenant. She served from December 9, '64 to August 12, 1967, and she served in the Vietnam theater. And with that if you want to maybe tell us how you got started in -- in the service and just your experiences while you were in the service.

Jeanne Markle:

Okay. I come from a small town of 400 people in Northern Indiana. Like most small towns, all teenagers want to leave small towns and so my -- my aim was always to go out and see the world. I went to nurses training at Saint Elizabeth Hospital, skilled nursing, in Lafayette, Indiana, and I graduated in 1965. I had -- while I was in nurses training, my friends and I decided that the best thing that we could do to get out of Indiana after we graduated was to have a plan where we would all go together, so we wanted to go to Michael Reese's Hospital in Chicago and live in the big city. So that was our plan. My junior year the Army, Navy and -- Army -- Army, Navy and Air Force recruiters came to the school.

Mark D. Doud:

Chicago? Lafayette?

Jeanne Markle:

Lafayette.

Mark D. Doud:

Okay.

Jeanne Markle:

And I was a junior in nurses training. And I had already got the word from my mother that I was not going to Chicago. No child of hers was going to go up to Chicago in a strange place in a big city, you know. I was only going to be 20 years old. So I showed her; I joined the Army. And the only reason I picked the Army was because they would induct you as a PFC immediately and pay you $335 a month. The Air Force and the Navy did nothing. They just had prettier uniforms. And so we joined the Army, two friends and I joined the Army, but I had to go home and get my mom and dad to sign the papers. My dad was very proud. My mother was scared to death and not very receptive to the idea. She at that time, you know, lived through the depression and, you would think, the Victorian age; good girls did not join the service, and but my father talked her into it and let me do it. So my whole senior year in nurses training I was called a student nurse to them. What it meant to me was I got a check on the 30th of every month for $335, and that is the only tie I had to the United States Army.

Mark D. Doud:

So you got a check even before you were --

Jeanne Markle:

I was -- I was in the Army. I was a PFC.

Mark D. Doud:

You were still being trained though.

Jeanne Markle:

Right. I'm still being trained as a nurse.

Mark D. Doud:

Okay.

Jeanne Markle:

Okay. But the minute you graduate, they come calling. And we could not take our state boards to pass until October, and it takes forever to get the results. You know, you're -- you're watching the mailbox every day and you're told that it's big and thick if you get your license, you know. And one night about two or three weeks after I had come home after I had taken my boards in Indianapolis, my girlfriend called and said "The Captain from Indianapolis just called, and you passed your boards." And I said, "How does she know?" She said, "The Army can find out anything." So we three knew our results long before our classmates knew. It took them probably another two months to find out. I had to go down to Indianapolis and get the opposite of sworn in. I was no longer a PFC and for about 30 days I wasn't in the Army. And then in December around the 15th we went downtown to the Army recruiting office in downtown Indianapolis and was sworn back into the United States Army as officers, Second Lieutenants.

Mark D. Doud:

This is 19 --

Jeanne Markle:

'65.

Mark D. Doud:

Okay.

Jeanne Markle:

With our orders being that on January 2 we would report to Fort Sam Houston, Brooke Army Hospital, San Antonio, Texas. My first airplane ride; I was 21. I didn't know anything. So naive. Training lasted, I think, seven weeks. And the whole time I was there, I kept hearing snippets of there's a war going on somewhere, somewhere over in the Pacific. I can't remember the name of the country. I don't think we'll go. My class was like 465 people, and it was made up of material management, service people and MSCs, doctors, techs, nurses. And we kept hearing this skuttlebutt the closer we got to graduation about there's a war, and I had never heard the name Vietnam. I didn't -- I couldn't have even found it on the map for you. I was having too good of a time. It was a wonderful time. There were 70 nurses there and -- and 200 doctors. We had a good time, you know. You had all the men there that you wanted to date. It was great.

Mark D. Doud:

Your -- your mom would be proud.

Jeanne Markle:

My mother would have been proud. And so, of course, you can realize the day that we graduated, they were going to post our orders in this classroom and we had to go look and see where we were going. And, of course, I was having such a good time and I didn't know anything about the Army so I decided that I wanted to live in nice places. So my first choice was Hawaii. My second choice was San Francisco, Presidio. My third choice was Fort Carson, Colorado because I thought I might like to learn to ski. And I got my third choice, Fort Carson, Colorado, so I was really happy. Of course, as the time passed, I got there and became an Army nurse in a big Army hospital. Most of my time spent there was going from ward to ward and learning how to take care of different people, even officers' wives and GYN, you know, officers' wives ward. That wasn't very fulfilling, but I enjoyed all my other assignments. I met Brian and got engaged in the summer and decided to get married, and we got married on August 6. I flew home to Indiana during an airplane strike and it took him a day to get home and he drove home and we were married and we left immediately for Denver. And he had not told me before he left because I told him if he had orders for Vietnam while I was home that week, I wasn't going to get married. I was cancelling the wedding, so he didn't tell me. He had -- he had already received orders.

Brian Markle:

You had to put that on tape, didn't you?

Jeanne Markle:

Uh-huh. And so I -- he had orders for Vietnam. He said, "Do you want to go with me?" And I said, "No. I do not want to go with you, you know, I'm going to stay here." And so I got sick and was put in the hospital and on the second day my boss, who was chief nurse, Colonel McCormick, and she came into the room and said, "Jeanne, I just got a telex from Fifth Army Headquarters in Chicago wanting to know why you haven't sent your papers in to go to Vietnam." I'm sick in the hospital. And I said, "I didn't send any papers; I'm not going to Vietnam." And she said, "Well, what's it all about because they got a telex from Washington, D.C. from General Sealots" (ph) --

Brian Markle:

Sealock.

Jeanne Markle:

-- "Sealock wanting to know why you hadn't signed up yet. They were waiting to assign you a day." And I called Brian, and as it had happened, the General's son was a friend of ours at Fort Carson, Colorado. He was a Lieutenant, too, Lieutenant Sealock. And Brian had just mentioned, "Gee, you know, wonder if Jeanne could go with me if she wanted to." And unbeknownst to us Lieutenant Sealock called his dad in Washington, D.C., and he arranged it. And so I said, "No. I didn't want to go." If they were giving me a choice, I didn't want to go. And my Colonel explained to me that -- that I was going to go sometime and that if I didn't go this time, I might meet Brian on the airplane passing him in the night and we would be separated two years possibly instead of going together. So I signed the papers and they telexed Washington, D.C., and they sent me my orders and we were both going to Vietnam. And we got to San Francisco in December, a weekend, we spent the weekend there; and I was to leave on the 5th -- the 4th -- he was supposed to leave on the 4th and I was supposed to leave on the 5th but someone got sick on the airplane and -- that night -- which was a mess.

Mark D. Doud:

Oh, that's great.

Jeanne Markle:

We went back and forth between the Air Force base twice, I think, hours and hours. It was miserable, raining, cold, and they didn't know when we were going to leave and the airplane was broken. And I was the only woman with 271 men, and at 2:00 in the morning at the Air Force base they decided to truck us back to San Francisco --

Brian Markle:

San Francisco airport.

Jeanne Markle:

-- where we had just come from that afternoon. And so it's 2:00 in the morning and we're driving 90 miles back to San Francisco and -- by bus, big buses. And so we flew out of commercial airline -- well, it was TWA.

Brian Markle:

Yeah.

Jeanne Markle:

It was commercial but I think it was made for troops because there were no partitions in it.

Brian Markle:

Right.

Jeanne Markle:

The -- the -- the funny thing that I can think -- the memorial thing about that is that we were all standing around waiting to get on the airplane, and at the end of the concourse where you can see out on the runway -- and as I stated before, I'm the only girl and it's all men. And I did not know this, but the -- they always have a flight commander, which is the highest ranking officer, and he always gets on the airplane first. Brian was telling me that. And so they called Lieutenant Colonel somebody, please report to the desk, you know. And then, "Lieutenant Markle, Lieutenant Jeanne Markle, would you please come to the desk." And so I went up there and I said, "Yes." And said, "You get on second." And I said, "Come on, Brian." So he got on third. Women have power. Well, it was kind of scary being on a big airplane with 271 men. And the most scary part about it was having to go to the restroom and there was always men standing in the aisle waiting in line and they always stood back and let me go first and that was -- it was -- it's funny today. It was embarrassing at that time. It is funny today. I think Brian told you about our arrival into Vietnam. We stayed there for a couple days and then we went to our individual units. I went to the 93rd Evac at Long Bend. I was there 30 days waiting on the 24th Evac Hospital to open. It was being built for the previous year. There had been medics --

Brian Markle:

Started in July the previous year --

Jeanne Markle:

-- enlisted people in 1965 assigned there to build the hospital.

Mark D. Doud:

It was a brick and mortar hospital?

Jeanne Markle:

No.

Mark D. Doud:

No.

Jeanne Markle:

Quonset hut.

Brian Markle:

Wood -- wood, tropical buildings and metal roof.

Jeanne Markle:

Well, where we stayed. The -- the patients' wards were Quonset huts.

Brian Markle:

Yes. They were Quonset huts.

Jeanne Markle:

And we were in louvered quarters. They built the mess hall and they built all the quarters, the PX, the church, the dental office, A and D, which is where the -- you admit the patients and disposition. I guess the first thing that hits you when you step off the airplane in Vietnam was it was 128 degrees and it had been 47 degrees when we left San Francisco, and so you instantaneously start to sweat, you know. It's just horrible. You can hardly breathe. There's no wind.

Brian Markle:

Dirty wind.

Jeanne Markle:

And it's very dirty.

Mark D. Doud:

Yeah.

Jeanne Markle:

And Brian told you about our arrival at Tan Son Nhut Air Force base. It was under attack when we landed and that was very scary. I thought, What am I getting into, you know, why did I do this? But you don't think you're going to be harmed. You don't think you're going to die. I just think, it's dry, it's dirty, how am I going to do my hair, you know? So I was assigned to the postop three, which is post-operation. There were three Quonset huts, and those were the boys that had surgery and right after the recovery room they would come to one of those Quonset huts. I got to the 24th Evac on probably about the second of January. I had arrived in the country on the sixth of December, and we waited and waited. We were ready to go, and there were no patients. You know how you walk around and you go to the cafeteria and you meet in the officers' club and we just had no patients. You know, we're here at war and there's no war. And I can remember the first sound of the helicopter and the loud speaker going off where we're getting an arrival, you know, we're getting an arrival. And we all ran to the pad, the helicopter pad to see the patient, you know, and it was a -- like a 42-year-old Sergeant and he had a heart attack, and he was our very first patient. I mean, that's somebody you could take care of back in the United States. I don't know whether that was a good thing or a bad thing after all the others that you see.

Mark D. Doud:

Yeah.

Jeanne Markle:

But within a week the Big Red One landed and that was 50,000 troops and they went immediately to war and starting then we started getting maybe 25 to 30 casualties a day. There were times when our surgeons were operating 72 hours on their feet. The surgery department, our surgery suite was one big Quonset building and it had like four surgery tables on each side and the surgeons and the nurses were assigned -- they were operating on eight patients at a time with eight teams and there were no walls. And today we would go, oh, my, infection control, you know, but then it didn't matter. I can tell you a little bit about my ward. It was -- had 33 beds. The reason it didn't have 34 was because the nurses' station took up that space. In those days we didn't have anything but penicillin, and we had to draw it up and put water in it and shake it and add it to the IV-bottles. And I can remember one night having to do that to 30 IV-bottles, and I was the only nurse. I was always the only nurse. We worked 12-hour shifts, 7:00 to 7:00 and we rotated 7:00 to 7:00, 7:00 A to 7:00 P or 7:00 P to 7:00

Jeanne Markle:

And I had a 91C20, which was a Sergeant LPN, and then I had two Corpsmen and we took care of 33 patients. There was a head nurse there during the day, Major Julie Young -- and she was a Captain -- but at night it was just me. We had several -- there was a doctor assigned to each Quonset hut. They were the chief doctor at that postop. And our physician was Dr. Charles Theodore of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We had no running water. The patients were on cots high up off the floor. Every morning at 4:00 the Sergeant would go out and -- or the Corpsman would go out and set fire to a great big barrel of water and let it heat until 6:00 in the morning and then at 6:00 in the morning we would go out and get a pitcher and we would dip it into basins and we would bring it back in and put some cold water in it and take it to each place and -- and start bathing the boys. If there was someone in the next bed that had one arm that he could use, he got up and bathed the boy next to him. If one had no legs but he had arms, he was in a wheelchair, he could go help anywhere. They were -- I guess, what, I mean, these were 17, 18, 19, 20-year-old boys and they were just as scared as I was and they had been injured and it was such a comradery for their buddies, you know. They didn't know them. They didn't know what unit were they from, but it was just all wonderful how they took care of each other. And if it hadn't been for them, we couldn't have gotten the job done. I think that probably one of the things that struck me the most while we were there is we ran out of bandages one week and we had to use the Stars and Stripes newspaper until they got more dressing sent from the United States or the depot.

Mark D. Doud:

I was going to say, what happened there?

Brian Markle:

That's why I ended up over there was because the depot didn't do a very good job.

Mark D. Doud:

Oh, okay.

Jeanne Markle:

We -- you probably maybe heard this before, but no wounds were closed in Vietnam until seven days after the injury and after the surgery. It's called delayed primary closure. And so every patient you got from surgery had packing in his wounds no matter what wounds they were because they wanted -- if it was going to get infected -- because all wounds were dirty -- they were all possibly with -- potentially infectious. And so you wanted to leave them open so they wouldn't get abscesses underneath. And so we had to change those dressings every two hours, so that was a lot of dressings. But if they had been operated on their abdomen, their abdomen was open and you could see right down in there as you're packing saline dressings. At the end of seven days, if they didn't show any signs of infection, which they didn't because we took such good care of them -- I can't remember one infection -- I can't remember one infection in my work when I was there -- then they sent them back to surgery and got the DPC, delayed primary closure. We kept them 24 hours. If they were okay, we shipped them to Japan.

Mark D. Doud:

Were they sewn up there?

Jeanne Markle:

Yes. They were sewn up on the seventh day.

Mark D. Doud:

In Vietnam?

Jeanne Markle:

Yes. In Vietnam. They took -- they went back to surgery and got sewn up and then 24 hours later we shipped them to Japan. 49th General Hospital, is that what it was?

Brian Markle:

At Kadena.

Jeanne Markle:

Pardon me?

Brian Markle:

At Kadena.

Jeanne Markle:

At Kadena. All right.

Mark D. Doud:

How did they -- did you give them something for the pain during that seven days? I'm sure.

Jeanne Markle:

Oh, yeah. We had -- we had narcotics. We had Demerol, morphine. Yes. Morphine was the best, you know. Oh, I just can't describe the wounds to you. I mean, I -- just horrible. I -- I think one of my saddest nights was they brought a Captain in that evening and his helicopter had gone down in -- I'm trying -- trying to think of what it was called. I want to say the Delta, down south of Saigon.

Brian Markle:

It was the Delta.

Jeanne Markle:

And they couldn't get to him and he was injured and he laid on the ground but he had his radio and because the Vietcong were surrounding the area they couldn't get in there for 48 hours. And they finally got down there and picked him up. But in Vietnam there was a fungus that grew and the longer you were on the ground injured it could get into your lungs, spores, and cause an infection, and it causes death. And they brought him in that night and, of course, he had his -- he had lost a leg. And we thought he would be all right, not knowing about this other thing. It hadn't -- we didn't know it was potentially coming and -- or it was coming. And so we kept him for a couple days and he was due to -- the day he got shot he was -- the next day he was due to leave for Hawaii to meet his fiance to get married. And it was a sad night when we coded him five times. We just kept trying and trying and trying and trying and we lost him and it was -- it was just a sad moment. We had many of those sad moments. We lost a lot of boys. I can remember one night that we had a couple helicopters -- several helicopters come in that a bunker had been hit. And, yes, it does protect you from maybe small arm fires but this was -- who knows what it was. I don't know.

Brian Markle:

Probably a mortar.

Jeanne Markle:

A mortar came in and hit the bunker somewhere north of us. And they thought the wind -- the -- the shrapnel had gotten inside the bunker and it just ripped the shades off the side and these 30 boys in there were just peppered with -- some injured terribly, some fatal. And they operated, you know, for the next 48 hours on these boys to save their lives. I guess I want to inject this somewhere. My mother wouldn't like this very well. But in February of 1967, I got a letter from her with clippings from the Chicago Tribune. In the Tribune was the report of Richard Speck killing seven student nurses. And I know you probably don't remember that. And he creeped into their room at night and stabbed them. And I get this letter from my mother saying, "See. See what could have happened to you if you would have moved to Chicago?" I found that kind of ironic. That -- that ducking my head every night and wishing -- I prayed every night, you know, please, dear God, don't let there be a short round because the artillery camp was right across the street from my bedroom. Every night I went to bed with -- I could hear the coordinates being -- on the radio being radioed in from maybe five miles away to the artillery camp. And you would hear them, you know, whatever the coordinates were, and then a little bit later you go, you know, way far away you could hear this big boom. Well, I was in their path and so every night --

Brian Markle:

The flight path. You were in the flight path.

Mark D. Doud:

So if it shot short --

Jeanne Markle:

Yes. Every night you prayed -- you prayed that, dear God, don't let there be a short round tonight. Yes.

Mark D. Doud:

Seems like bad planning to me.

Jeanne Markle:

I don't think there was any planning.

Brian Markle:

It's just -- it was -- it was just a --

Jeanne Markle:

Down at --

Brian Markle:

-- 15 square mile.

Jeanne Markle:

Down on the corner -- I was right by the gate, and so we had a walking guard and around the hospital is this big concertina -- rolls of concertina wires to keep the Vietcong out because at 6:00 in the evening you had to get off the dirt roads. We were never allowed out anyway, but anybody out there, they always ceased business because the Vietcong came out at night.

Brian Markle:

Yeah.

Jeanne Markle:

We were in the wild. Right down I would say a -- how far, Brian? Half a mile was the LBJ prison.

Brian Markle:

Yeah. Long Bend Jail they called it.

Jeanne Markle:

Long Bend -- they called it the Long Bend Jail. And I need to get that in there for everybody to know that.

Brian Markle:

I don't know if President Johnson would have been happy about that, but they called it Camp LBJ.

Jeanne Markle:

No. They called it Camp LBJ and it was the prison and I got used to it. But at 5:00 every morning you would hear them tooting the trumpet -- they played it over the -- I mean, it was a recording. And then they would go something about calling tent one, calling tent one. Then they would do it twice. And then they would go to tent two, tent two, and then tent three. It went all the way up to like 65 tents. And every morning they got those prisoners out of bed starting at 5:00 in the morning. It took me a long time to get used to that, you know, to be able to sleep. But after you -- of course, the first week we didn't have any patients, you know, so you were antsy, but after we were working 12-hour shifts, we -- we were sleeping --

Mark D. Doud:

Yeah.

Jeanne Markle:

-- you know, so you could sleep through anything. I think probably some of the most amazing things that happened over there, we found a dog and we adopted that dog in our Quonset hut. And he would eat anything, mustard, ketchup, whatever. And we didn't know what to do when we -- we knew when we left and the war was over -- because Vietnamese eat doggy meat -- and so we didn't -- we were worried about that, being women, you know, we were worried about that, but we thought maybe somebody would take care of him when we all left. Bob Mitchum, the actor, Robert Mitchum came and stayed in the living room of my Quonset hut for three days. He was entertaining or going around the -- the country entertaining people, and he took a little R and R and came down -- well, he was at our hospital and he just decided to stay. So we entertained him, you know, with talk about the war and what we did and -- and that was interesting. He signed -- he wouldn't let us take his picture, but he autographed Vietnamese money -- well, the Army money, the play money that we had that we spent. Two things stick out in my mind. All the men didn't get to make phone calls home, none of us did, unless you went to Saigon because you just -- you couldn't call, but there was the radio.

Brian Markle:

Mars.

Jeanne Markle:

Mars, called Mars radio. And Barry -- Senator Barry Goldwater in Arizona was a big --

Brian Markle:

Ham operator.

Jeanne Markle:

-- ham operator in Arizona during the war and he allowed all these Mars calls to come into Arizona and then they would dial the number to your home and you would be able to talk to your mother over the telephone, but you were on Mars system, and so this is kind of how it went. "Hello, mom. It's me. Over. Hi, honey. How are you? Over."

Brian Markle:

And so the ham operators flipped the switch.

Jeanne Markle:

Kept flipping the switch back and forth. And so I got to call my mother probably once a month. The Sergeant in the PX kept letting me go -- or in the radio trailer kept letting me go up there and do that because I bought him cotton balls and anything he wanted from the PX I bought him.

Brian Markle:

And I had access to the commissary, so I got Cokes.

Jeanne Markle:

And so sometimes I'd give him Cokes, you know, and that was how I got to call my mother several times on the Mars radio, which made her very, very happy, and my dad, too.

Mark D. Doud:

Was Barry Goldwater a Senator or a Congressman?

Brian Markle:

Yes. Senator Goldwater.

Jeanne Markle:

Senator Goldwater. He set this up. Yes.

Brian Markle:

He set it up. He made sure that the troops could talk.

Jeanne Markle:

The troops could call home. And so I really appreciated that. And they would tell you -- you could hear over the radio if it was going -- making its connection to different ham operators. And then they would say -- and I can't remember what town it was, but I could hear Arizona, you know, so I knew where it was coming from. We were lucky that way, the nurses. They -- they -- men really took care of us over there. They were like big brothers because we were the only ones, and we weren't very many.

Brian Markle:

They were specially known as round eyes.

Jeanne Markle:

Yeah. Round eyes instead of slant eyes. The other thing was I was at the officers' club one night and a Lieutenant Colonel was in there and he had come in from the field and he had his fatigues on and he was all dusty and dirty and he ordered a drink. And somebody came to the door, it must have been his driver, and said, "Colonel, you've got a radio call from the field." And he said -- he turned around to me and said, "You want to talk to somebody in the field?" And I said, "May I? Oh, yes." And so he came out there and he was talking to some of the guys back at this camp way out in the rice paddies, you know. And he says, "I've got somebody here that wants to talk to you guys, you know." And so I -- I can remember saying, "Hi guys. How are you?" And just silence, you know. "Who is this?" I said, "This is Lieutenant Markle. I'm a nurse at the 24th Evac hospital just calling to see how you are." Well, they were just dumbfounded, and they couldn't believe it. I mean, one guy said, "I haven't heard a female's voice for six months. Bless you, Lieutenant. Bless you." So that was really a touching moment. We had a prisoner of war camp at the -- I suppose you would call it the other end of my Quonset hut, way down on the corner, there was a ward for injured Vietcong.

Brian Markle:

You know, this was one of our clearing companies, the 58th.

Jeanne Markle:

And so you -- they -- it was a Quonset hut and then they had great big high fences like 12 feet tall, chain link, and the prisoners would walk around in that yard when they were let out, you know, they couldn't get out of it. And you didn't go past there because they're -- they were mean looking, I mean, they didn't like you either. And I remember somebody came into the officers' club one night and said, "You're not going to believe this." But one of the patients, a Colonel on the other ward, Air Force Colonel who was injured came to our hospital was walking down to headquarters -- I mean, if they were up and on crutches or anything, they were free to go anywhere -- walked past the POW ward and saw this North Vietnamese prisoner and recognized him as going through flight school with him in Brooke -- no. It wouldn't have been Brooke. It would have been one of the Air Force bases in San Antonio.

Brian Markle:

Brooke. Randolph. Kelly.

Jeanne Markle:

Randolph. Kelly. Kelly. It was at Kelly. I remember that. And he reported him because he said he came over to the United States five years ago to take flight training as a southern or South Vietnam soldier. And so then when he got back he probably sneaked across the border and he was North Vietnamese all the time. I thought that was really, really interesting, you how. So all the things that you think of terrorists today and how they get through, it happened back then, too.

Mark D. Doud:

Yeah.

Jeanne Markle:

You know, I thought that was, hey, you know.

Mark D. Doud:

Wow. All right. That happened often or --

Jeanne Markle:

No. I don't think it happened often. It shocked us all. I can tell you a little bit about the ammo dump explosion when it was attacked and that was about a mile down the road from our hospital. And Brian got to go to the bunker and I got to go to the bunker right off but then we had to go take care of the patients. And I went through basic in Fort Sam Houston. We all have to go through the chemical tent, and it was real gas, real nerve gas.

Brian Markle:

No.

Jeanne Markle:

Not nerve gas. What was it?

Brian Markle:

It was CS gas.

Jeanne Markle:

CS gas.

Brian Markle:

Tear gas.

Jeanne Markle:

Tear gas.

Mark D. Doud:

Okay.

Jeanne Markle:

But they check you right before you go in, and I guess I was too skinny because the smallest gas mask left gaps down here underneath my chin. And they said, "Lieutenant, you just can't go in there." I said, "Does this mean I can never go to Vietnam? Well, I don't know about that, ma'am, but you can't wear a gas mask. It won't help you." And so, of course, then that's the first thing I thought about when the ammo dump exploded, you know. And it's dark. You could cut the smoke with a knife, you know, and we had to put our gas masks on. I thought, Oh, I'm -- I'm dead, you know. If anything bad comes, I am dead. And so we're sitting in the bunker and they -- we'd been there all night and you sit on your helmets. You take your helmets off and put them on the dirt and then that's what you sit on.

Brian Markle:

Steel pots.

Jeanne Markle:

Yeah. Steel pots. And that's all you do for hours and hours, you sit on these steel pots. You get up and rest and then you get back down, but you're all squeezed into this -- this container.

Mark D. Doud:

How many would be -- would one person be in there?

Jeanne Markle:

No. Probably about 15 to 20.

Mark D. Doud:

Oh, okay.

Jeanne Markle:

Yeah. And they were lined up right behind our quarters. We ran to them all -- we could see bunkers everywhere. You just ran to yours. And so you'd sit in there all night. And I can remember about 7:00 the next morning they came to the bunkers and said, "The next pad that's due to explode is a possible nerve gas pad and we need for you to report to your duty station immediately and collect the atropine -- atropine fistajets" (ph) -- which is the antidote for nerve gas -- "and be ready to give them to the patients." And we were evacuating -- we were starting to evacuate patients by helicopter to Saigon and by ambulances as soon as the smoke -- you know, if we can get some helicopters as soon as the smoke clears. And we were already sending some by ambulance to get them out of the vicinity. So I went over to the ward and they passed out fistajets (ph) and you had to put them in your pockets. So I had both pockets of my fatigues were filled with atropine, you know, and I was scared. That -- it hit home then that this is possible. This is a war, you know, they're trying to kill us and this is -- I had only been there for two months, three months really. It happened in February, and it was amazing. When it exploded, you got up out of your bed, then you heard it, and you went out and this great big explosion and it looked just like the pictures that I had seen of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and I just couldn't believe -- I thought that's what it was, an atom bomb, you know. That's the only reference point that I had. And they told me, no, it was -- now, I don't know -- Brian told you they got in there somehow, but that was a great big area, something like 10 square miles.

Brian Markle:

It was really big.

Jeanne Markle:

And there was pads every 75 feet apart and they were like boxes that kids use, you know, one box and then they pile up on a pyramid and they're just stacked all over that 10 square mile.

Mark D. Doud:

Is that ammunitions under there?

Jeanne Markle:

Yes. Yes.

Brian Markle:

Artillery ammunition.

Jeanne Markle:

You know those green boxes you can buy at craft, you know.

Brian Markle:

You didn't have time to build underground ammunitions.

Jeanne Markle:

No. No. No. They were all sitting on top of the ground on pads.

Brian Markle:

They should have built them because they would have found out that there was tunnels underneath them.

Jeanne Markle:

And they had fences all around this. Okay. And they had two guards, just two guards driving a jeep all night long around this perimeter, which is Vietcong territory, after 6:00 p.m. And the next morning they found the two boys in the jeep shot right between the eyes. And come to find out there were tunnels underneath there, you know. There were tunnels everywhere.

Mark D. Doud:

Were they helping themselves to -- to it or something like that?

Jeanne Markle:

They had probably watched it for a long time.

Brian Markle:

They were telling you the idea --

Jeanne Markle:

Taking them.

Brian Markle:

-- taking them.

Jeanne Markle:

They probably got them but they set fire to it.

Brian Markle:

They were just -- they were probably stealing it.

Jeanne Markle:

That's why -- that's why they exploded. They -- they set them off. And it wasn't our -- after that they put baseball -- you know how lights to baseball -- they had -- it lit up the sky in the next month because they had so many baseball lights all over that compound down there, and they had guards going around constantly.

Brian Markle:

They had tanks --

Jeanne Markle:

You know, tanks.

Brian Markle:

-- with big lights in the front.

Jeanne Markle:

Yeah. So, you know, you learn by experience, and that's the sad thing. That's a sad experience.

Mark D. Doud:

Did they lose all the ammunition?

Jeanne Markle:

No. No. Oh, no. No. No. No. Just three pads.

Brian Markle:

I don't know how many it was.

Jeanne Markle:

Three. I know it was three.

Brian Markle:

It was enough to last for a couple of days.

Mark D. Doud:

Okay.

Jeanne Markle:

So that was a scary thing. I'm trying to think. I had -- this is hard. One night one of the other wards came down and said that they had gotten some casualties in and they needed someone to sit with this soldier and that he was a priority three, which priority one is immediate. We can save your life if we get to you right now. Number two is you're not so serious and we can get to you in several hours and you're not going to die. And then number three was no matter what we do for you, you're not going to live. And so he was a number three. And I went down to that Quonset hut and he was behind a curtain in the corner and I said to the nurse when I went in there -- she says, "I just want somebody to be with him when he passes away." I said, "Okay." And so I went in there and I had a Corpsman come in to see me, and this boy had a massive head wound and wasn't much there but he was still alive, I mean, his heart was beating. And I didn't know how anybody could live with that kind of injury and I watched him all night and he was still alive when I left that morning. And then when I went back that night he had passed away sometime during the day. But I was 22. That's pretty hard to take. I had a patient on my ward that had -- he was like 19 years old and he got married on his leave right before he came to Vietnam and he had both of his legs blown off and other parts of himself, too, above the hips. And he asked me if I'd write a letter to his wife and ask her if she wanted him to come home. There were lots of injuries like that. It was hard. I don't think there's been a -- a war since then that has that kind of things going on hopefully. Desert Storm had not many casualties. And we had 50,000 probably, maybe more than that. I don't know. 200,000. So when we were there, it was very early in the war. I mean, '66 is when the buildup started, '65, '66 is when the buildup started. So we're -- we're really the older veterans of Vietnam. And the young ones saw really bad things happening, too, for the next five years. I guess there's only one more experience I wanted to tell you. I did get permission to go to Saigon with Brian when he was going down to get payroll for the Vietnamese workers, and I asked my chief nurse if she would let me go. And she had to ask the commander, and I mean, you know, I'm at risk. It's 16 miles to Saigon and you go by jeep and you have a guy sitting in the back with an M16, you know. I think this time it was just Brian and his driver, and Brian didn't carry a gun. He's a medical person. He's not allowed to carry a gun. And we took off in this jeep to Saigon and I was so excited because he was going to take me to the commissary and I had orders from everybody for cases of Pepsi, you know, and cases of Coke. Everybody wanted it, you know. And so I was really excited to be able to go down there and go to the commissary, which we did, and we went in there and I can -- all I can remember is this little dried-up head of lettuce, you know. I didn't want it, but we did buy pop. We did buy Coke and Pepsi. And --

Brian Markle:

___+.

Jeanne Markle:

And as we -- he wanted to show me a little bit of Saigon before we went back up, and I took pictures. I think I probably have a slide maybe. I don't know. I can't remember. But as we're driving down in front of the president's of Vietnam's palace and the light -- we're in the jeep, and we're about a block away, you can see this fire. And I said, "What's going on?" There were a whole bunch of people. And we didn't know what was going on, but we kept heading in that direction. And Brian says, "Don't look." You know, and it was -- what was he protesting -- was he a monk? He was some kind of monk, some kind of religious figure had set himself on fire. And it was horrible. I thought I had seen everything horrible, but that was horrible. We were allowed to go -- later we were allowed to go down the road about two miles to Bien Hoa. That's B-e-n H-o-a. And there was a big Air Force base there. Air Force always has things nicer than the Army.

Brian Markle:

That's B-e-i-n.

Jeanne Markle:

B-i -- B-i-n. Right. That's right. H-o-a.

Brian Markle:

Right. Two words.

Jeanne Markle:

And great big Air Force base and their officers' club took over a French villa and they had a swimming pool.

Brian Markle:

The Air Force knows how to live.

Jeanne Markle:

And they know how to live. And so we would take these little -- they look like little buses with a -- that would hold four people on them. They're just little trolley car type things sitting on wheels and the Vietnamese would drive them -- drive you down to the village, and then they would take you to the -- you had to pay them like $3 to get you there. And every Tuesday night they had spaghetti and meatballs at their -- their officers' club, so we used to go down there on Tuesday nights and everybody said, "Bring us back some. Bring us something back." And so we would get sterile folly bags, you know, the urine bags --

Brian Markle:

Oh, yeah.

Jeanne Markle:

-- from supply and we would slide the spaghetti in that and carry those back to the Tony force so they could eat spaghetti later that night, cold spaghetti. We didn't have microwave ovens.

Brian Markle:

___+.

Jeanne Markle:

And when we got there -- about two months after we got there, in February, I got very ill with dysentery. And I was the only one in the hospital that got ill. And so they did their little public health investigation. And I had noticed it -- everybody had noticed it. We would eat in the mess hall three times a day. All they had was Kool-Aid, purple Kool-Aid, and it was horrible. Sometimes we were lucky and got iced tea, but there wasn't any pop.

Brian Markle:

No milk.

Jeanne Markle:

No milk. It was all dried milk. It was horrible. And I thought, Why didn't I notice that? Everybody's kicking themselves. Why didn't we notice this? As you went through the drink line, here's Vietnamese workers and they're standing with their hands over these great big open pots and they're dipping the Kool-Aid up and putting it in the cup and it's running over their hands back into the pot and nobody noticed until I got sick. I mean, they searched and searched for "Where do you eat? I have eaten nowhere but the -- but the mess hall. That's the only place I've eaten. Where have you drank? At the mess hall. That's the only place I've eaten." And so they had to go in there and they said they just sat and looked to see what was going on in the process and so they got the great big covered -- with the spigots and did away with the Vietnamese workers. But the latrines were what you would call blocks away. Even when I was at work at night I had to walk a comparable two blocks to get to the latrine, which was just louvered buildings and with rat traps outside of them. And we would keep soap there, but it was stolen all the time. The Vietnamese would sell it on the black market so --

Mark D. Doud:

What was the rat trap?

Jeanne Markle:

To collect the rats. The Vietnamese --

Mark D. Doud:

I mean, how did it work?

Jeanne Markle:

I don't know. They were little boxes and they were -- with the lid up with the stick.

Mark D. Doud:

Okay.

Jeanne Markle:

And when it had something inside, when the rat went in, it -- you could hear them. If you were in there using the latrine --

Brian Markle:

Some of them were expanding cones that once they got in, it would collapse and they couldn't --

Mark D. Doud:

And who was setting them then?

Jeanne Markle:

The Vietnamese. They took them home and sold them for meat.

Mark D. Doud:

Oh, come on.

Jeanne Markle:

That's what they told me.

Brian Markle:

The medical -- the medics, the entomologists and the sanitation people.

Jeanne Markle:

When -- the nurses didn't like the latrines. Okay. They -- we -- we griped and we griped and we griped about the latrines. And --

Brian Markle:

___+.

Jeanne Markle:

-- they were a big, long building, not as wide as this room, and they just had like 12 places and there were little half walls and there were barrels underneath there, half barrels. And the guys that had been bad, this was their punishment because they had to go get those barrels out once a day and take them out to another place on -- on the working area and put kerosene in them and set them on fire. That's how they burned the -- the waste products. And then -- and so when they pulled out the can, they stuck a clean one in. And we didn't like that because nurses were there sometimes when they were doing that and you could hear them out there making jokes about the women's latrine and seeing people in there and so we hollered and hollered about that. So they decided that they would put real toilets in for us, and they would put them in this building. They built this building, put them in where we did our laundry. There was some washing machines and stuff, and so they put these toilets in, about three of them. And it was the first day, they got plugged up. We were so happy, you know, we had a party. (END OF TRACK ONE. BEGIN TRACK TWO.)

Jeanne Markle:

And we got accused by the plumbers, whoever they were, that we were plugging them up. You know how women supposedly put things down toilets and plug them up. And we kept saying, "We're not plugging them up. We're not plugging them up." And after two weeks they said, "We got to dig it up, you know; we got to dig it up." The Vietnamese workers had poured concrete between the pipes putting them together. And so we never got to use the real latrines ever again. We planted flowers in them. We had flowers in them.

Mark D. Doud:

Do you have any pictures of those?

Jeanne Markle:

I don't think so. I got lots of pictures.

Mark D. Doud:

Sounds like MASH.

Jeanne Markle:

I don't know whether I have pictures of those flowers. But that's what we -- (END OF CD.)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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