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"You can't learn until you're injected into a new experience." (Video Interview, 29:28)

   Raymond Emilio Torres
Image of Raymond Emilio Torres
Raymond Torres in his barracks, Vietnam [1968]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Navy
Unit: E Company, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division
Service Location: Khe Sanh Hill 861 and Phu Bai, Vietnam
Rank: Hospitalman Third Class
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A Navy medical corpsman in Vietnam, Raymond Torres didn't spend his tour of duty in a hospital, but out in the field, carrying a gun (not permitted by the Geneva Convention) and being shot at (also not permitted). In a lecture to a community college class, Torres offers a wealth of detail about daily life in country, with a long section devoted to what he saw during the siege of Khe Sanh, when he was manning an aid station on Hill 861, three miles north of the embattled base. Torres discovered that his training hadn't prepared him for much of what he encountered, from bloodsucking leeches to dealing with the culture of Vietnam.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview   (113 min.)
  Photos
»Photo Album (20 photos)
 Personal Correspondence
»View List (2 items)
 Other Materials
»Program from the Battalion Memorial Service
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»Hispanics in Service
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Getting on a C-130 to go from Okinawa to Da Nang; versatility of C-130s, sometimes used as medical transport; assigned to Marine Corps units in Vietnam; going to Fubai, where he was attached to his Marine unit; guarding bridges along Highway 1; Vietcong were active in the area but not North Vietnamese Army. (04:31) On 3-day patrols, carrying a weapon, getting shot at (neither permitted in the Geneva Convention); carrying a 70-pound backpack, so he chose a light .45 pistol as his weapon; describing and showing the contents of his medical bag; figuring in a fight he could pick up a stray M16 or other larger weapon to defend himself. (06:39) Praising resourcefulness of the Vietcong and how they could repurpose any item US troops discarded; learning about booby traps; admiring how even a pregnant woman could carry heavy loads on bamboo poles, a maneuver he could not master. (03:40)
First time on patrol; learning lessons not taught in medical school; attacked by leeches all over his legs; wise not to remove them; you can apply heat to get them to release voluntarily; enemy always attacking at night, when they had more of an advantage; standing watch at night in two-hour shifts; having trouble sleeping then and still does; at night, a sudden sound setting off firing; sometimes U.S. sentries would shoot their own people in the confusion. (07:12) During the Tet Offensive, on a flight way to Hue, orders changed to land at Khe Sanh; rough landing; evacuating the plane under mortar fire as it kept moving; heading for trenches on either side of the runway; beautiful country around Khe Sanh; it was not a strategic point and the battle was unnecessary; walking to their outpost on Hill 861, three miles north of the base; "Marines are hard-core; they have to walk everywhere." (13:18) The scene at Khe Sanh; intensive bombing altering the landscape; 6,000 Marines vs. 40,000 NVA; their camp inside a bomb crater, with trenches dug around it; central aid station was in the middle of the crater. (04:34)
Wounded by a grenade; showing some shrapnel that was dug out of him; rescued by another corpsman and a Marine. (08:37) Being overrun by the NVA; using tear gas against the enemy; wind shifted, but most of US forces had gas masks; being treated for his wounds during the attack, the gas making his wounds sting; artillery helping them out; losing about 20 men, with 40 wounded; choppers evacuating the wounded; the one he was supposed to get on filled up and was later hit by fire and blew up. (02:51) Questioning the strategic importance of Khe Sanh and the need to defend it at such great costs. (04:15)
  
 Personal Correspondence (2 items)
Letter to Ray [2/17/1968] Letter to "Doc" [4/18/1970] 
  
 
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  October 26, 2011
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