I served with H&MS-11, MAG-11, 3rd MAW from 2-3-66 to 3-19-67. We had at one time 3 R-4D8s s and a C-45 (Beachcraft). I crewed the 50834, 50835 and 17211 including the 17211's last flight. My story is as folows:
My first memory is a voice asking me if I want my first of kin notified. The voice is close to my right ear and even though I can’t see or feel anything, I sense I am laying face up on the ground. My mind is floating around in a fog somewhere with only a very tenuous thread connecting me to reality. I am also overwhelmed by a terrible feeling that something very bad has happened. It is more of a very intense feeling than a memory; an overpowering feeling that something terrible has happened and I was involved somehow in a very bad way.
Then a very supercharged bolt of memory shoots thru me. I AM ALIVE!! I AM ALIVE!! OH MY GOD I’M STILL ALIVE!! Inside my scrambled brain I am ecstatic. I am delirious with joy. I am hysterical. I scream and cry with joy. Only and instant before I was doubled over from unbelievable G-forces – my forehead pressed flat on the deck in a death grip no amount of struggle could free me from. I was pinned helpless in an out of control aircraft that was in its death dive and in seconds I would be DEAD. DEAD!!! NIGHTMARE MOTHER OF ALL NIGHTMARES! NO!! THIS IS NOT HAPPENING!! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING TO ME!!!!
I have no memory of any passage of time between that terrifying instant and the voice asking me if I want my first of kin notified. I was alive. That I knew. I tell the voice, “no”. My folks did not want me to go into the Marines, let alone Vietnam – “get a damn student deferment.” No don’t tell them anything. That way they won’t get mad at me.
Later. An hour, 2 hours, many hours? I do not know. I am vaguely aware I am being operated on and it has something to do with my leg and I am pleading with these vague shapes not to cut it off. Oh God –this nightmare can’t be happening to me! Fade out.
Later still. Once more I can’t see or feel much except this terrible pain in my back. Fade in, fade out. Like struggling up the side of a deep dark misty well and then slipping back down again over and over, but every time struggling up a little higher and falling back less. I am aware that I am in a field hospital and I am surrounded by wounded. They tell me I am at Charlie Med. I know where that is – at the base of hill 327 west of the base (this was in July ’66). My back hurts terribly. I try ever so gently to change my position to see if it will help. Nope. I can’t move or feel anything from my waist down. Shit! There is my leg! Sure glad to see that! It is in a cast up to my crotch but it is still there. It is night outside. What time it is I don’t know or care. Lots of wounded being brought in. Fade in fade out.
I am aware of a wounded guy in the bed across from me. He seems to be lucid but I cant understand what he is saying. A Corpsman comes by to check on me and I ask him about the guy across from me. He gets down close to my ear and tells me he is missing everything from the middle of his hips down and that he will be dead soon. No if ands or buts about it. He was not callous when he said it. It was not the way he said it. All I remember is it made me feel very strange and very sad in a strange sort of way. The Corpsman leaves and I am pissed at myself for not asking him what is wrong with me. Fade in. Fade out.
It is light now. The bed across from me is empty and freshly made. I am becoming slowly more and more lucid. A Corpsman comes by and seems happy I was coming around. I ask him how long I am going to be laid up. He says I have serious injuries including internal injuries and they don’t want to move me until I stabilize. He says after a couple of days they will move me to another hospital but he didn’t know where. I ask him about the rest of the crew and he tells me I am the worst injured. Well I know by now that I am going to get thru this so if I am the worst injured halleluiah – everything is alright with the world after all. Morphine making me very drowsy and very comfortable. Ah – this is glorious. I can go to sleep anytime I want. I don’t have to do anything but lay here. Beginning to think this is pretty good duty. First real rest I’ve gotten since I got here 5 months ago. I go in and out a lot those first few days and really don’t remember a whole lot about it.
Days later. I am much more alert and aware. I am also in a world of hurt. I feel like I have been beaten to a pulp. Every inch of my body hurts and was every shade of red, yellow, purple, orange – you name it. My head hurt from multiple skull factures and severe concussion. My back hurts terribly. My severely dislocated shoulder ached. My leg hurts (2 compound fractures). I have many broken bones, my gut hurts. My chest hurts terribly from many broken ribs and punctured left lung - and pleurisy thrown in for good measure. The shots help. They put me into dream land for awhile but the pain always brings me back to consciousness long before I can have another shot.
Weeks later. Violent G-forces double me over from my sitting position and force my head to the deck. I try to force myself up with my arms but I can’t. The plane begins to buck and jerk – bucking and jerking very severe now. It is crashing and we are GOING TO DIE!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Wrenched awake, breathing hard, drenched in sweat, ward dark and quite. I can see the first hint of dawn seeping through my air conditioned ward on the second floor of the Yokosuka Naval Hospital. I am not hurting nearly so much now but these dreams are driving me crazy.
Months later. The C-130 touches down at Danang just before dawn and taxis over to Marine Air Freight. I grab my stuff and hump the short distance to my old hut. Everyone not still out on missions asleep. I yell revile and wake them all up. IIIIIII’m back – a little gimpy – but back!!!
Decades later. I am on a business trip that takes me to D.C. Although I have been here many times I have not gone even though I always stayed in Roslyn and had to pass by the Mall every day. This day proceedings wrapped up about 1400. I had no excuse. I had to go – to honor them and all the others. The docent helps me find their names. The four of them are all together and I can touch them all with the outstretched fingers of my right hand (just like that famous print) – the rest of my crew. The Corpsman had lied to me you see. I stand there in another world for I don’t know how long caressing the black granite. Why? Why me? Why not me? Why am I standing here and they there? I have never been able to find an answer to that question and probably never will. When we get to the other side maybe for a few beers maybe between the five of us we can make some sense out of the whole crazy thing.
Veteran- Sgt Raymond R. Prittie, Radio Operator, Marine C-117D, BuNo 17211, Cashed on land, Quang Nam Province, RVN, July 25, 1966. 10th day of squadron operations in support of Operation Hastings.