Portrait of an NVA Medic

Medic’s friend Jeff Wolin hoped to follow up his Vietnam Veterans: Inconvenient Stories, a remarkable collection of 50 portraits/profiles of American vets, with a similar book featuring Vietnamese war veterans from North and South Vietnam. Since the book did not find a publisher Jeff posted much of it on his website.

Nguyen Vin Luc, combat medic

“We walked the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos to get south of the DMZ. I was in Da Nang, Quang Ngai and Quang Tin. We lived in tunnels during periods of bombing. Otherwise our quarters were built half-below and half-above the ground and we stayed there when there was no bombing. It was in a thick forest. We weren’t worried about being attacked by ground troops.

The tunnels were “A” shaped, 2-3 meters deep and 3-4 maters wide–we could walk upright in them. There were many tunnels–they were connected by trenches dug into the ground buy uncovered.

During battles I would fight as a regular solider–I had an AK-47. But when someone was wounded I was a medic. I would give them something for the pain, dress their wounds and help carry them back to the base for further treatment. Sometimes the American helicopters would fire rockets at our base but they never hit near the hospital. They never found our tunnels in that thick forest.

In that part of Vietnam during the monsoons we got heavy rain. One time two of us were carrying a wounded comrade on a litter and it was raining very hard. A helicopter shot at us. We hid my friend by the base of a tree and covered him with our bodies to protect him from the rockets. I was hit once in the head with shrapnel but it wasn’t serious.

If someone died we also carried them back for or five hundred meters from the battle zone where someone else took care of the body. The dead were buried in the south and a map was made of the graves so families could locate their loved ones later and give them a proper burial.

During the war we didn’t have enough food to east so our bodies were not as strong as usual. We all got malaria but we didn’t have enough medicine to treat the disease. It took until two years after the war before the malaria was completely gone from my body. I lost all my hair; my eyes turned yellow and my skin green. All of us caught the disease. We had to fight anyway.

After the war I returned home to work as a farmer and rebuild my hometown–so many years of fighting but now the world is at peace.”


Used by permission.