Soldiers in the Army Medical Department served in all areas of Vietnam. Doctors treated patients in battalion aid stations and in hospitals. Nurses cared for patients from the time they first arrived at a medical facility until they were evacuated from the combat zone. Dentists, physical and occupational therapists, and dieticians treated the sick and wounded and ensured that they received the highest possible level of care. Veterinarians both ensured the quality of food sources and took care of military working dogs. Medical Service Corps officers flew MEDEVAC helicopters, controlled the flow of medical supplies, and performed the administrative and technical functions that kept the Medical Department running.
No member of the Army Medical Department was more universally present or charged with greater responsibility than the combat medic. Medics served in hospitals and in the combat units where they were known as “Doc”. At the end of the Second World War, the War Department approved the Combat Medical Badge as a companion badge to the Combat Infantry Badge, for the express purpose of recognizing those medics who shared the hardship, danger, and sacrifice of the Infantry. Medics accompanying the Infantry in Vietnam were technically noncombatants, but providing care to the wounded during a firefight often proved the more hazardous occupation. Over one thousand Medical Department personnel were killed in Vietnam and of the 159 Medals of Honor awarded to Army personnel during the conflict, seventeen were presented to Army medics.
The UH-1 Iroquois “Huey,” icon of the Vietnam War, was used for command and control, as an aerial fire support and observation platform, and to ferry troops to and from the battlefield. The Huey was designed with casualty evacuation in mind, and the D and H models could carry up to six litter patients from the point where they were wounded to a supporting hospital and life-saving surgery, usually within an hour. The 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) was the first MEDEVAC unit in Vietnam, serving from April 1961 until March 1973, and its call sign, “Dustoff,” came to be synonymous with Army aeromedical evacuation. MEDEVAC units carried 390,000 Army personnel to hospitals, and 97 percent of those arriving at a hospital alive survived.