The Medics

Arkansas Red was a combat med. I was a rifleman. Arkansas Red served in Vietnam

I served in Korea 1950-51

Despite those facts, we have a bond.

Both of us try to forget – but moments lie dormant until memories surface to haunt.

Medics go into combat without weapons.

Infantrymen know that the next second might be the last one.

Medics know that they might not be able to save.

Both of these elements, deciding who can be saved and those cannot, and the last second occurred at the base of a ridge near Kwachon, North Korea, June 3, 1951.

The wounded and the dead lie.

The Med was overwhelmed.

A rifleman was wounded – shot in the throat.

We cradled him in our laps – he smiled and his eyes spoke –

“See ya up younger” and died.

Casualties were heavy – nearly 1,000 that day.

Trucks and ambulances carried the wounded to the battalion aid station where wounds were cleansed and clean bandages applied, and were transported to the Seventh Division Medical Company.

Nurses lifted the wounded from stretcher onto operating tables.

A nurse stated that they had worked through that day and night serving 700 wounded, and more were arriving.

This is exhausting work – and they smiled through it all.

That ability to smile and converse in gentile tones hour after hour … kids’ emasculated bodies in your care, removing blood-soaked clothing, smiling and comforting, then go onto another patient.

Shortly, we were transported to Tokyo by air and then to one of the Tokyo hospitals for surgery.

We were lined up in a line of stretcher.

This, I still hear the nurse’s soft Carolinian voice, “Hello GI.”

Her smile was so soft and friendly, comforting, and you just wanted to get up and do a dance ‘n hoot and hollar!

On down the line, plumb to the end – you could hear that Carolinian nurse spreading her medicine: Sweet! Pure! Honest!

Three days later, I woke up.

First off, I was greeted by a smiling Japanese nurse – “Good morning GI, you sleep three days!”

To this day, I am amazed that they see so much, work, constantly smiling, and do not internalize what they see and know.

For example, a GI, a cast from the top of his head and bottom of this feet – crushed body, smiling.

We were drawn to him

American GI

Tended by medics

Doing what they do – come hell or high water!


Harry Sutcliffe is a U.S. Army veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. He resides in Marshalltown.


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