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"You wish you were in the ground, but there's no hole to dig." (Video Interview, Part 1, 32:07)

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   Larry Schwab
Image of Larry Schwab
Schwab in Vietnam
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army
Unit: 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 7th Surgical Hospital; 7th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Battalion, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Medical Corps
Service Location: Xuan Loc, Vietnam; Tay Ninh, Vietnam
Rank: Captain
Place of Birth: WV
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Larry Schwab was drafted during his medical internship to serve as a medical officer in Vietnam, a war he personally did not approve of. But he felt it his duty to serve his country and apply his medical skills to wounded soldiers. In May 1968, Schwab's resolve was tested during an assault on his base that caused many casualties. His long and detailed description of that horrible night is testimony to the vivid memories that war inflicts on its survivors; he suffered nightmares from the experience for years. Schwab returned to Vietnam in the 1990s to provide medical treatment and advice, and he became active in the international movement to ban land mines.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview  (134 min.)
Download: video (1) | video (2)
»Transcript
  Photos
»Photo Album (26 photos)
 Manuscripts
»Letter from Schwab to Laura Palmer [1/1/1988]
 Official Documents
»General Orders #4788, Award of the Bronze Star Medal for Heroism
 Other Materials
»View List (2 items)
More like this
»Vietnam War: Looking Back
»10th Anniversary
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
His mixed feelings about being drafted to serve in a war he didn't approve of. (01:24) Ambivalent about serving in a war zone and apprehensive about being killed or wounded and maimed; first impressions of the country; encountering the thousand-yard stare; duties for his first seven months in country; treating all patients, including the enemy, with a priority order set up; work periods could be long and intense, followed by inactivity, but they were confined to base. (10:25) Frustrated at being denied leave to attend funeral back home for his grandmother; not going AWOL because of his sense of duty; knew of no medical person who shirked his duty in Vietnam. (05:39)
In his second posting, getting to know the soldiers personally; balancing that with his professional duties; writing to his wife every day and depending on his family for emotional support. (09:02) His reaction to receiving medals; one was for performing his duty, the other for performing under fire on the night of May 8-9, 1968 in an intense attack on his base; "the worst four hours of his life," which are still giving him nightmares; he doesn't feel like a hero for being awarded medals; he was only doing his job. (04:33) The attack of May 8-9, 1968; intense mortar rounds coming into the camp, suppressing everyone in bunkers; sappers came through the wire with cutters and disarmed the mines; NVA soldiers used Bangalore torpedoes to blow up the wire; chaos ensued, with many men burned and wounded, crying out for help; commander severely wounded and Schwab was asked to treat him; support aircraft bombing and firing on the enemy; enemy removed bodies of their dead; Schwab and colleagues treating the wounded the morning after, knowing that many burn victims would not survive; breakfast was served in the morning; senior officers arrived in pressed uniforms to award medals to some of the survivors. (31:49)
Went back to Vietnam in the mid-90s; to Hanoi, which he could not visit when he was serving; helped him to reconcile by working with Vietnamese to do eye surgery; coming home from the war to U.S., no antiwar confrontations in Albuquerque, where he was living; went to Harvard, where he did see political reactions to the war; did go to anti-war rallies. (02:55) Bothered by combat dreams, stemming from the attack as well as minor episodes; developed fear of guns; doesn't own any weapons; finally decided to go back in 1995 to work with the people on eye illnesses; this trip helped him reconcile a number of emotional issues. (05:08) Supporting legislation banning land mines; had seen the evidence of it when he went back in 1995 and took a side trip to Cambodia, where there are many mines still armed; got interested because so many people had been blinded by mines; U.S. has still not signed the treaty banning land mines. (05:40)
  
 Other Materials (2 items)
Collection of terms, phrases, and graffiti used by US military personnel during the Vietnam War Personal notes written by veteran on his 1995 meeting at Huyen District Hospital with Dr. Ding Cong Thoa, a Vietnamese ophthalmologist. 
  
 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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