My name is Maureen Robinson.  I was a Captain in the Army Nurse Corps stationed at  the 27th Surg in Chu Lai (Apr'70-May'71) and 91st Evac Hospital (May-Sept'71). This website is dedicated to my son Dinh Nit (Mark), who  is a member of the Hre' Tribe and to all Montagnards everywhere who continue their struggle for the basic human rights that are denied to them. Also I dedicate this site to all who served in Viet  Nam  and especially Lt. Steve Thayer, who helped us through all the twists and turns of this struggle and to Special Forces who never  forgot their loyal allies --God Bless You All.                                                                                                       
                                                                                            
  
 It is my hope that by telling our story, someone may recall  something that will help to piece together the first three years of  my son's life.  
Any stories regarding the Hre', Tra Bong or surrounding areas are welcome.


This  was my second tour in VN-- in 66/67, I was attached to the 24th Evac in Long Binh.  I was discharged in early'68 and moved to DC to work at Walter Reed. I  worked in orthopedics and the majority of my patients were wounded in VN. I never forgot my time there and in late '69 was ready to return. Initially, I was going to return as a civilian and interviewed with Catholic Charities and also considered a plastic surgery hospital in Saigon but then the Army came up with an offer I couldn't refuse--a thirteen month  tour for former army nurses who were VN vets. So by April 1970, I was on my way.                                                                                           


My assignment was the ER  but I guess you could say that a twist of fate had me working on the  wards set up for civilian casualties and ARVN soldiers. That temporary assignment turned into a permanent one by choice.                                          
   Our patients ranged from premature babies to geriatrics and we cared for the casualties of war--traumatic amputations, fractures, shrapnel wounds, burns and all the after effects of mines and weapons. We were also challenged by tropical diseases, too many to mention but malaria, blackwater fever, scrub typhus, dengue fever were a few. Then there were the assorted medical problems which included severe cases of malnutrition. A lot of our patients were children and there were times they were beyond our help.                                                                                                               
 The staff  tried very hard to do their best under difficult conditions.  I can't name them all but  Cpt. Grace Squires was the Head Nurse and very dedicated to her patients. Lt. Lucy Linenweber (Nit's Godmother), Lt. Jayne Slagel and Lt. Barbara Watson were like second mothers to many of the kids. Our ward master Sgt. Seones and corpsmen Julio Acosta,  Ed Dees, David Kohout, Chuck Morris and Eddie Reed were "the best". There were three Vietnamese Nurse Aides--Lee, Mai and Tam  who   were an integral part of our unit. There were good and bad times--funny and sad and I will never forget the staff of Wards 5 and 6. 


Time passed and we were busy with a few lulls along the way. There had been an increase in activity and we had the usual alerts. Then at the beginning of November the nurses BOQ was destroyed by fire. We were moved to  two unoccupied wards used for storage .  Most of us lost just about everything. The  EM'S  rushed to try and salvage what they could for us  but I can still remember seeing my "smoking" jungle boots thrown over the side. For the next few days I worked wearing flip flops and a uniform two sizes too big-- had to improvise with a belt to hold it all  together. Guess it provided some comedy relief for all.  The nurses at the 91st Evac donated  clothes  to  help us out. I was upset that all of the clothes that I had obtained for the kids were destroyed in the fire .    


 About a week  later,  the twist of fate that found me assigned to my unit was about to take another turn. I remember that evening on 8 November 1970. I walked on the ward and saw a new patient. His record stated that he was about three years old and picked up by Dust Off in Tra Bong District. His name was Dinh Nit and  he was suffering from severe malnutrition and several infections.  His muscle tone was so poor  that every time he went to the bathroom, his rectum would prolapse. His  abdomen was swollen from parasite infections and protein deficiency and he  weighed eighteen pounds. There was a young boy with him who said he was his brother and fifteen. He appeared to be no more than twelve . I remember he wore the tiger stripe fatigues common to PF and Montagnards attached to SF. After a couple of days, he left  and word was that he had to get back. I never saw him again.                                               
         During the weeks that followed, Dinh Nit  thrived. He was putting on weight and his infections were responding  to treatment. His prolapse ceased to be a problem. He was picking up English and Vietnamese  and I was becoming  more and more attached to this little guy. I can't  say the exact moment that I  made my decision to adopt but I remember the day that I asked him if he wanted to be my son and go to America. He asked me if there were bunkers in America and when I said no --he looked very surprised and said--"What you do when VC come?". This was the world as he knew it--VC - war--he like so many others could not imagine any other life.                                       
    Time was passing too quickly and I was due to Deros in Apr'71. I put in for an extension and  began the one step forward and ten  backwards that would be our story for the next nine months. It is too involved to cover here but will relate a few incidents along the way. I met a Lt. Steve Thayer, Civil Service who would be instrumental in helping us through the tough days that lay  ahead. He  arranged for our trips to Tra Bong and  provided Sgt. Minh to interpret and helped me through the adoption process. He would be Nit's Godfather.                                                                                                
    My Deros date was nearing and no word was coming regarding approval. Whenever, Col. Fore, the Chief Nurse would ask me about it--I just said the paperwork was due anytime. In reality, I didn't have a clue but  Plan A  was to keep reporting for duty. There was no Plan B. On the day that was to be my Deros date, I arrived on the unit and was told that Col. Fore wanted to see  me. That was the longest walk that I ever took. I was trying to think of a plan that would permit me to stay and keep Nit from being placed in an orphanage. Col. Fore looked at me and said "Your extension  came through this morning". I knew that we were on borrowed time. If things didn't look promising--Nit would be discharged to an orphanage.                                         
    There was an increase in  VC activity around this time and  one night the navy fired into the mountains that  were just across fro the 27th.For some reason, the 27th Surg was situated in front of Americal Hq and other units. Artillery hill was just across HWY 1
 from us  and the Aussies had turned it over to the ARVN . I was on duty that evening and remember  when the first round hit. Somehow the 27th was not informed of  the plan so we were  all caught by surprise. The ground shook and everything seemed to be in double. We scrambled to get the patients that  could be moved under the beds and  cover the ones who couldn't be moved with any protection we could find. Dinh Nit and Dinh Duong spent that night under the nurses station wearing our helmets. The  VC managed a few  rounds of their own but no damage was done.   

 


We made several trips to Tra Bong to get permission from the District Chief to adopt. I rember flying in a chopper  and  following a dry river bed to the  mountains and Tra Bong. There was a SF base camp and I can remember an airstrip of sorts where C130's landed. There was a small waterfall coming down the side of a mountain and in the valley below were rice paddies. The district headquarters showed signs of a previous attack by the VC. There were large shell holes in the buildings . There were hamlets up in the mountain side and  I also remember  seeing Montagnard homes.                              
     I managed my visits in  my off time and never really asked permission to go to the
mountains--think I sensed what the answer would be so it was a case of  noone asked and I didn't tell. I was told that I would have to bring Dinh  Nit  to  Tra Bong  per order of the District Chief. I was hesitant for obvious reasons but felt there was no choice.                 
    On this trip, there was a long line of Montagnards  waiting to see if Nit was the son, brother, nephew etc. that each was seeking. It was sad. One Montagnard arrived  with his crossbow over his shoulder and  wearing only a loincloth. He lifted Nit's shirt to look for signs of a bullet wound. He was trying to find a nephew. He shook his head no and looked directly at me and nodded as if to say -- take care of this child. Nit was very quiet during this whole period. He was not afraid but I think somewhat overwhelmed by the experience.                                                                                                               
     On one trip, our flight was cancelled due to the weather and  we   had to spend the night . I managed to get a call through to Grace Squires to cover for me. Thankfully, my shift the next day, didn't start until 1900.They  were expecting  a "visit" from charlie and we were told what to do if that happened. Artillery fired all night and every time a round went off --Nit would roll over and at one point he fell out  of bed .He was the only casualty that night suffering  a black eye. The next morning we were on our way. The chopper crew had to pick up and deliver ammo so we were  dropped on a hilltop "somewhere" and picked up  about  a half hour later. There was a camp down a  dirt road and a platoon   was coming in from the bush. They looked so tired and beat--am not sure what they thought  passing a young Montagnard boy and army nurse sitting  on a hilltop  just down from their base camp.                                                                               
      After many setbacks, received permission to adopt. The next hurdle was to  process the adoption and obtain a visa. Vietnamese law stated one had to be  married and at least thirty. I was single and twenty-six. The orphanage in An Thon recommended Star of The Sea  Orphanage in  Da Nang. They handled adoptions for the US and Europe. I found an attorney  who was affiliated with the orphanage and she agreed to help us. This was just the beginning.

  
The 27th was due to  close and we all received new assignments. I got the 91st Evac about five miles away. At first, I was told that Nit would have to be placed in an orphanage until the adoption was finalized. I  "pleaded " my case  and  at the eleventh hour the Chief Nurse of the 91st agreed that he could come with me. I don't think many thought that we would be successful. Again I was told if the adoption did not go through,  Nit would be discharged to an orphanage. In May'71 ,we moved.                                           
    Our first night there, there was an alert and  we spent some time in the bunker. Nit slept through it all .patients I was assigned to Ward 4 and continued to care for civilian and  ARVN  casualties. There was also a section for POW. casualties. I would bring Nit to work and he would play  with the kids there. When I worked the night shift (1900-0700)he slept on the ward and  usually one of the nurses  would keep an eye out for him so that I could get a few hours sleep. The staff  on Ward 4 included Cpt. Pat Barber, Lt. Marion Thorton (who also adopted a 7yr. old boy Phan Tri  <Tim> and Wardmaster  Sgt. Williams and corpsmen Jim Wilson, Louis Molina and Jack Litzmann. They  were  all a dedicated group and am glad for the opportunity to serve with them.   This was the ward that Lt. Sharon Lane worked on. She  was killed in a rocket attack in 1969.      


I had put in for another three month extension . The ten steps backward  routine was still  going strong.  Then one June morning, while on duty Steve called me. He asked me how it felt to be a mother. I was a little slow on the uptake but when it sunk in--I was ecstatic. Finally--thanks to help from so many individuals and a lot of prayers--Dinh Nit  was officially my son. I named him Mark Stephen  and his birth date was recorded as 8 November--the day he arrived at the 27th. He would keep his Montagnard name  when confirmed at age 9. The visa would prove to be another hurdle and Steve Thayer was getting ready to Deros.           


While still at the 27th, Nit and I had to travel to Saigon  about 400 miles south to apply for a visa  at the American Embassy, Remember  that one of the corpsmen stood in for me at the airport on  standby so I could  catch a few hours sleep after night duty. As  we left  the 27th, Col. Fore and the  XO  and other 27th staff stood and wished us luck. I had received a  three day pass to cover the trip. The XO ( can't recall his name but can see his face), gave me a number to call if we had problems  returning. It would prove to be a lifesaver. We stayed  at the Third Field Hospital in Saigon. I filled out the paperwork at the embassy and  was told that a number is assigned and they could not tell me when he would be able to receive his visa. All numbers came  by way of Manila. I contacted a n attorney in Saigon but the Catholic  orphanage that he worked with insisted that Nit would have to remain there. I wasn't about to leave him 4oo  miles from where I was stationed.                                                                                                   
   The push was on in Cambodia and all flights  north were pretty much diverted. I placed a call to the number given to  me and was given a list of courier flights that would in reality prove to be  our hitchhiking our way back to Chu Lai. I could not tell you where in VN  we traveled that day. We would board one chopper and then be dropped off in a clearing 'somewhere" and another would arrive and pick us up. That  was pretty much our day and Nit was a real trooper through it all.                                                       
   Finally, I was notified that his number had arrived   but I would have to travel to Saigon to pick up the visa . Jack Litzmann, one of the corpsmen was going to Saigon and volunteered to go to the embassy . Everything was starting to fall in place.  


In late September, Nit and I were getting ready to leave. I had mixed feelings about leaving .So much had happened in the 17 months that I spent there and I knew that this would be a final farewell. It was hard to say goodbye to all the friends we made. Nit was almost 4  now and he knew we were going on a long trip but I also knew that he would be leaving a way of life and beginning a new one. It was a gigantic step for one so young
   We said our goodbyes and  arrived in Cam Ranh Bay--problem was that Nit had to leave from Saigon. So the  next morning at 0400 ,we were on another flight to Saigon. We spent a couple of days at Camp Alpha while I tried to  get a flight to the US.  One sergeant told me that there were no seats available for two weeks.  After I said  that we would sit on the floor of the plane--whatever it took--he told me not to worry and got  us a spot on a flight the next day, When we were going through customs the  Air Force  
sergeant commented-''wow you just made it"--I realized that this was the last day for Nit's visa to be valid. The Vietnamese guard was the last step before getting on the  plane and he   looked at Nit's passport  over and over --then at me-finally he waved us on and what once seemed to be impossible was coming true.    


Today, Mark is a father himself  to Kathy  ,Stephen and Jason. He met  his wife in Pittsburgh while attending the University   Ling is from Thailand. He currently works for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center .                                                                     
    He grew up in Chester, Pa. near Philadelphia. He was a popular kid and  my claim to fame was being known as Mark's mom. My parents were devoted to their new grandson and each had an influence on him  during his childhood. It was love at first sight.                  
    He excelled at sports in school and as one neighbor  stated--"That boy can run like the wind"-  Thinking back to his  arrival at the 27th--it was quite a remarkable recovery.         
     Now, he passes on his story to his children. The boys hear bedtime stories of  their dad in VN  and the Montagnards. I am proud of my son for many things but mostly for the fact that he is a decent man  and devoted  to his family. His parents in Viet Nam would have been proud of their son.  He is a good man.                                                      
       There is one short story I would like to relate. When Mark was about seven, I passed by his room and he asked me how to spell Montagnard. I asked him what he was writing and he was composing a letter to his mother in Viet Nam. This was around the time  things were going from bad to worse there. This is what I remember--the original I saved and gave to Mark a couple of years ago.                                                    
     Dear  Mom,                                                                                                            
          I hope that you are well. I am fine. I have a new family now and am happy.                  
             I am sad that the VC are fighting the Montagnards. I hope that you are OK           
                 We will win . We are Montagnards and a proud people.                                  
                                                  Love,                                                                           
                                               Your Son   Dinh Nit                                                         
           It was a very poignant letter and then he asked me to mail it. I didn't know what to say  but kept it and gave it to him years later. The Hre' spirit lives on in my son and will be passed on to his children That is the way it should be.

"I am trying to locate the Dust Off crew who
picked up my son in Tra Bong  or ground unit who put him on board this was on the 8th Nov 1970. 
He was about three at  the time and a
member of  the Hre' Tribe. It was a morning/afternoon mission. Mark (Dinh Nit)
was suffering from severe malnutrition and several infections. There was a
young boy with him who said he was his brother and fifteen. He appeared to
be no more than twelve. I remember that  he wore tiger stripe fatigues
common with PF and Montagnards attached to SF. After a few days he left. 
Word was that he had to get back. I never saw him again"

Maureen Robinson:   mrobin1213@aol.com

 

27th  Surg Hospital, Chu Lai  1970

N1 MARK.jpg (66065 bytes)

Dinh Nit (Mark) after is admission to the 27th Surg, he was a sick little guy and  like most children in Vietnam was showing signs of malnutrition. Nov 70

 

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Mark eating his lunch , if you look closely you can see the ankle bracelet he wore.  Nov 70

 

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Having a snack at the nurses station. Nov 70

 

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Mark Vo Thi Nam and myself (Nam was admitted with a chest wound but recovered well. Dec70

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Hre Montagnard soldier  who often spoke Hre to Mark and Jo  Jo.  April 71

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Four month after admission, you can see his progress. March 71

(It is interesting to see that Mark is saluting  the French way and not the American way, this was quite usual  for children in Vietnam as this was often learnt from the oldest who fought with the French army)

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Both of them looking pretty tense in the nurse station  during a night alert. The Navy was firing into mountains near us where VC activity has been spotted.  April 71

 

 

N10  MARK JOJO.jpg (81165 bytes)

Mark and Jo Jo (best buddies) Jo Jo  (Dinh Duong) was the nephew of a local tribal chief and they often spoke and laugh in Hre. Jo Jo was a patient  at the 27th , and it was eventually retuned to his uncle, it was a sad day for all of us. Mark was a sleep when he left  and he missed him  for  quite a time. March 71

N13 MARK JOJO.jpg (76214 bytes)

91st  Evac Hospital , Chu Lai 1971

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Mark took to the water like a fish and somebody managed to get a surf board and Mark loved it. June 71

 

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Mark holding a crossbow near a  bunker at the 91st Evac. June 71

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Nine months after Dinh Nit admission to the 27th Surg.

Mark like all the little boys like dressing up, he his wearing  ARVN  Day Uy  Airborne uniform. 
 September 71

 

N23 MARK.jpg (52821 bytes)

Can Ranh Bay, we finally got his passport for the US.
September 71

 

N24 MARK MAUREEN.jpg (71123 bytes)Back in the "World"

Mark fourth birthday, home a little over a month, 8th November 71, PA

N26 MARK.jpg (78611 bytes)

Mark after hitting a triple for his school baseball team.

 

N30 Mark  Ling.jpg (55704 bytes)

Mark and his bride Ling (from Thailand, but they met in  the USA)

kathy stephen jason.jpg (104877 bytes)

Mark's and Ling's children

Jason, Kathy and Stephen

 

N32 Maureen.jpg (58417 bytes)

Myself and grand children, Jason and Stephen, 1999

The 27th MASH was in Vietnam from 27th of March 68 to June 71 and  located at Chu Lai in the I CTZ. 
It was under  the 67th Medical Group and associated to the 23rd Infantry Division AMERICAL, it supplied  resuscitative surgery and medical treatment to prepare for evacuation critically wounded or ill patients received from  Divisional Medical elements and this case
provide medical support to the United States Army Vietnam (USARV), Free World Military Assistance Forces (FWMAF)  and  designated Civilian War Casualties (CWC) located within the Southern  1 CTZ (1 Corps Tactical Zone).   
 It was declared operational on 13 April 1968 and was equipped  to handle 135 bed patients. It comprised of 27 officers, 40 ANC (Army Nurse Corps) and 95 enlisted men.  During the hospital's first year of operation in the Republic of Viet Nam, it achieved an unsurpassed record in medical care. For its superb record, the 27th Surg  was recommended for an award of the Meritorious Unit Commendation.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                   

The 91st was in Vietnam  from  14th  of December 66 to November 71. It arrived at Vung Ro Bay on 14 Dec 1966 and moved by convoy to  Tuy Hoa. After 85 days of construction, facilities were opened on 15 March 1967 with 100 beds .  It provided hospitalization for all military patients as well as limited outpatient from the immediate vicinity and prepare patients for further evacuation to other medical facilities.
By 15 June'67 the facility was expanded to 300 beds.   On 15 July 1969, the 91st Evac was relocated to Chu Lai taking over facilities previously occupied by the 312th Evacuation Hospital and fell under the command  of the 67th Medical Group
The 91st Evacuation Hospital was located in Chu Lai in the southern portion of Military Region1. It was situated on a cliff overlooking the South China Sea midway between DaNang and Qui Nhon.    The 91st Evac  operated in direct support of the 23rd Infantry Division--AMERICAL in both Quang Tin and Quang Ngai  Provinces of  Southern Military Region 1. The dispensary/out-patient service also provided medical care  for 1500 USARV personnel assigned to Chu Lai  post. The hospital received two unit awards.       


Thanks to  Jean-Luc for giving me this opportunity. He has encouraged me to continue this search. I would also like to thank all of the SF members and Dust Off who have been so great to reply to my emails  and share their stories. My son and I  both appreciate this more than we can ever say.

Maureen Robinson:   mrobin1213" at" aol.com

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