Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sergeant Hanaway – Vietnam 1962-1963

Thomas Hanaway was an Irish Catholic lad who grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. At 19 he decided he wanted to see the world, so in 1960 he joined the Army for a three year tour of duty. Tom attended basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, followed by five months of electronics at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Next stop was Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and jump school with the 101st Airborne Division. President Kennedy had just expanded the Army’s Special Forces to deal with the growing situation in Vietnam and Tom wanted to participate. Now he had a budding career in aviation electronics, and was looking forward to serving with the 101st.

One of his jumps resulted in a severe knee sprain. After he got the cast off he was given a brief furlough to go home and visit his folks. Upon return to his outfit he was disappointed to learn the Army was over staffed with electronic technicians so he was given the choice of becoming a radio operator, a demolitions expert, or a medic.  Tom chose medical training because it was interesting and more useful. He spent the next nineteen months at Fort Bragg, North Carolina before shipping out for Vietnam.

Camp Chau Lang: 
Special Forces originated during World War Two. Their job was to infiltrate behind enemy lines, gather information, organize opposition, and waste bad guys. This carried over through Korea and into Vietnam. Early on in VC Land, before the heavy fighting began, part of our Special Forces were sent there to assist the population and win their confidence. As a medic, that was Thomas Hanaway’s assignment.

“My enlistment was going to run out a month before my Vietnam tour ended, so I extended my enlistment to go to Vietnam with my buddies. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. The lasting memories from that experience are a real treasure. I’m sure that never shooting at another human being and never being shot at contribute to my having such good memories of that time. The medical work we got to do over there treating the natives has also left wonderful memories.” 

Chau Lang was 10 miles from the Cambodian border, 25 miles NE from the Gulf of Thailand, and about 80 miles SE of Saigon. This was the An Giang Province of South Vietnam in the region of the Seven Mountains. During the early stages of the war there was a truce there between the local tribesmen and the Vietcong.

In 1962 the Cambodians constructed a camp for the Americans at Chau Lang. Tom and Fred Paulson set up shop that October working together as a team with ten other Special Forces medics. The villagers had never received medical assistance from the Diem Government.

Fred and Tom held sick call almost every day. Their patients walked over from Cambodia, and the surrounding Mekong Delta. The medics also made rounds to the villages. It was a rewarding six months in the lives of twelve great Americans. Tom Hanaway is a practicing psychologist today in Knoxville, Tennessee. Fred Paulsen established a fishing boat repair business in Petersburg, Alaska. He sold his repair business ten years ago. 

Tom Hanaway (right) Chau Lang.

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