According to author Mark M. Hough in his publication UNITED STATES ARMY AIR AMBULANCE, copyright 1999, "The 237th was constituted as the 237th Medical Service Detachment (Supply) on 23 April 1944 and activated on 22 November 1944 in France. It was redesignated on 10 April 1945 as the 237th Medical Supply Detachment and assigned to the Seine Section on 11 June 1945. It was inactivated in France on 31 January 1946. It was redesignated as the 237th Medical Detachment (RA) on 9 January 1968 and activated at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland as a helicopter ambulance unit on 1 July 1968. It deployed to Vietnam on 28 November 1968 and stood down there on 4 March 1973. The 237th returned to its new station at Ft. Ord, California, where it replaced the short-lived 32nd Medical Detachment (RA). It was inactivated there in 1993. (This webmaster highly recommends Mr. Hough's publication for any research or information on Viet Nam Dustoff units. It is the most comprehensive volume currently available and likely will be for some time.)
An interview with (then) Major Donald R. Hull, original Commanding Officer of the 237th, provides most of the following details of the initial days of the Vietnam Chapter of the 237th...
Maj. Hull originally served with the 498th Medical Detachment, Helicopter Ambulance (HA) from 1966 to 1967. Upon completion of his tour of duty, he was assigned to the Command General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1967. He is quick to point out that there was more to his assignment to Leavenworth than jail!
When he arrived at Leavenworth, he was told he would be forming up a Dustoff detachment and taking it to VN. Of course, he told them he already had orders to the Staff College, but he was informed that the orders were just to get him his new Dustoff assignment!
Moving his family to Ft. Meade, Maryland, he arrived May of 1967 to form the 237th Medical Detachment (HA) and he discovered that he WAS the 237th. With only papers in hand, he began accumulating personnel and equipment to take overseas. One of his first acquisitions was John “Yogi” Taylor, a medic Maj. Hull served with in the 498th. Somewhat reluctantly, Yogi agreed to a second tour, since it would be with Major Hull.
Next up was Richard P. Mullen, RPM. “I stole Dick from another unit, he was my maintenance supervisor. He was a real powerhouse!” And so, the 237th began to form with the addition of more and more people as the Army began “Officially” to send some experienced crew and ground personnel.
Experienced pilots were in short supply, however. Captain John Colvin, a pilot with his first tour in the 254th out of Nha Trang completed, was assigned as Executive Officer to the unit, and 1LT David Tousignant, a recent Flight School graduate arrived the same day as Colvin, swelling the ranks of pilots to 3. Next to arrive a few days after Colvin and “Tous” were the Warrant Officers. Ten of the greenest pilots from Class 68-3 the military could muster up…and by luck of the draw, the Army simply took the last 10 names of that graduating class and sent them to the 237th. Thus, the Warrant Officer 1 (WO1) pilots of this newest Dustoff Unit were Watson, Willis, Wood, Woodyard, Yeck, Yike, Yost, Young, Ziemba and Zuvela.
As far as equipment was concerned, the unit quickly began accumulating the material they would need upon arrival overseas. Important things like refrigerators, etc. were “scrounged up” and while Hull couldn’t remember where everything came from, his comment was “I wouldn’t tell you even if I COULD remember!” Resourceful man, he is.
Next in the unit were the aircraft, 6 of the newest UH-1H Hueys the Army had to offer, with serial numbers that were “pretty much” sequential. 67-17624, 626, 627, 671, 673 and 675 were the tail numbers. Tail number 675 had the distinction of becoming the first aircraft “loss” in the unit. As of this writing in 2009, 624 still flies today in the Army of Argentina as a gunship, with the designation of AE432. See the Argentine Huey web site www.uhclub.org for photos as it appears today.
The Unit trained with their new aircraft until November of 1968, when the Hueys and other equipment with a few ground personnel were loaded on board a ship headed East. The rest of the men flew to VN, arriving in Da Nang, I Corps, Viet Nam on Thanksgiving Day, 1968. At the time of arrival, they still had no idea exactly where their Area of Operation (AO) would be. Finally, they were told they would be at Camp Evans, located North of the old Imperial Capital City of Hue and just a few minutes flight from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and North Vietnam. The 237th was now the northernmost Dustoff Detachment in South Vietnam where they soon came to call themselves “DMZ Dustoff”.
Camp Evans greeted them with rain and mud, a few buildings and not much else. Fortunately for the 237th, the 18th Surgical Hospital (MUST) was already located there and was able to provide meals and logistical support.
One of the first orders of business at Evans was building more living quarters, plywood “hootches”, and filling sandbags in an attempt to protect those living inside them. Filling sandbags for the hootches and underground bunkers during rocket attacks created quite a few negative comments from a lot of the workers. Enlisted men and pilots alike set to the task of shoveling sand and filling sandbags, with complaints also filling the air. However, Major Hull remembers, “That night we had a rocket attack and everyone scrambled for the partially built bunkers. The next day, there was renewed effort to complete the sandbags and I never heard one more complaint!”
Also at Evans was a SeaBee unit of the Navy, and the 237th took advantage of anything they had to offer, often trading materials that the 237th had recently brought with them. Knowing what they might need from his first tour, Major Hull apparently was well equipped with “trading material”. (Can you say Jack Daniels? I thought you could!)
The 237th was one of the last Dustoff units to arrive in VN and one of the last to leave, arriving November, 1968, and departing in May, 1973. The unit was based at Camp Evans, Quang Tri, Phu Bai, Khe Sanh (during Lam Son 719, in Laos, where they sustained heavy casualties to both men and equipment), Qui Nhon and Lane Army Airfield. In 1973, the 237th flew the Hueys that were painted all white with the red cross in a very controversial move that was meant to reduce the losses of the crews and aircraft of these unarmed Air Ambulances. Leaflets were dropped all over the AO notifying the enemy that these were unarmed helicopters used solely for medical evacuation. Unfortunately, the white paint only made them easier targets, with losses increasing instead of decreasing.
More detailed information of the 237th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) is found elsewhere on the internet. This is meant only as a brief History of the Unit to give the reader an idea of how “we” all came about as the men who served as medevac crews. As for this writer, it was one of the proudest moments of my life to have served with a Dustoff Detachment. It has been an honor and a privilege to have served with so many heroes. Dustoff crews consisted of men performing at their best, risking everything in the prime of their lives; these were the pilots, crewchiefs and medics that flew in harm’s way, so that others may live.
A note from our Web Designer, George Rose Yakush-
Since we were a small detachment, there is a great opportunity here for us to leave a concise record of what we did and who we were. I envision this section of the web site to be more of an anthology of artilces. I am counting on stories from everyone who wants to contribute. These stories can be accounts of missions, a day in the life type stories, episodes of wild exploits, and simple reflections of your experiences in Vietnam and of the people you served with. As the webmaster, I will only make editorial changes after your approval. Whenever possible, please include photos and maps with your stories.
To launch this part of the web site, I am including 2 artilces Phil Marshall wrote for VHPA.
In order to be Old and Wise, One must first be Young and Stupid.
There was no billboard that said "Welcome to Laos"