Combat Medic Badge

SP5 Jack Peter De Lange, of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, was twenty years old when he was killed in action in an ambush on the morning of 5 Mar 69, the day before I was wounded. His 21st birthday would have been on 7 Mar, just two days after he was killed. We didn't know that. Jack didn't talk much about himself. His job as our platoon medic kept him busy, and he took it very seriously. Besides being my platoon medic, he was A Company's senior aid-man.

As my platoon medic and senior company aid-man, Jack was a part of my command group, which included myself, my Platoon Sergeant (SSG Robert W. Watt), my four squad leaders, and Jack. Jack's input was useful to me for command decisions because part his job was to help me monitor and facilitate the battle fitness of my men. In this capacity Jack used every means available to him to keep us in good physical and mental health. Helping me manage what the army calls "Esprit De Corps," the fighting spirit, or attitude of a fighting unit (my platoon) was something Jack did skillfully, utilizing a strong sense of determination, stamina, and spiritual awareness that was uplifting to us all--regardless of religious beliefs or the challenges of direct infantry combat.

Jack was a Christian who practiced faith, not religiously (rote), but spiritually (interactively--involved). He didn't carry a weapon because he was a conscientous objector. He carried an embrella instead, and many's the time I told him to keep the safety on on his umbrella, and he understood what I meant--that should the enemy see his umbrella open in the jungle, we'd be targeted. He was more than careful with the umbrella, but it was good while we were on combat operations (but not actively engaged with the enemy) to see Jack walking among my troops in the hot sun or rain, under his umbrella, making his rounds, encouraging us to wash, or change those socks (he carried extra socks for us for emergencies), or brush those teeth (he had extra gear for this), take those malaria pills, or make sure each canteen of water we got from streams was treated with tabs to eliminate parasites and germs. While he'd do this in his good-natured way he'd stop to chat with any soldier having a problem with the combat, or with something else--a disturbing letter from home, a troublesome set of leech bites, or a festering or painful but not serious wound or injury.

I think about Jack nearly every day. This is disturbing, but I need to get this out. On the morning Jack was killed, my platoon was operating separately from the company--as we often did. And as on the day I was wounded, our mission was to locate, establish, and defend an extraction point for the company. When we were hit [purple star on map at BT148109], our immediate responsive fire failed to suppress the intense enemy automatic weapons fire, and this caused a dangerous immobility in my platoon--instead of rapid responsive fire-and-maneuver, or withdrawal (textbook ambush responses), we took cover and I attempted to organize a hasty defense. Within seconds two men were wounded. Amid the intense close-quarters gunfire, Jack moved from man to man, stopping the bleeding and dressing wounds. We covered him.

After Jack dressed the head wound of a rifleman (Leos) who was fighting beside me, another man took a round to our left front. Jack moved immediately to his aid and threw himself across the wounded man to protect him from increasing fire, and in that instant a round struck him center forehead, killing him instantly. Soon after Jack was killed, Brian Wolfe appeared in the thick of the fight to help my wounded men.

~~ I was able to contact a nephew of Jack's last year and inquired if the family received the Silver Star I recommended for him,  but his nephew wrote back that he didn't know. I hope Jack's family knows about his gallantry. He gave his life for us--he didn't lose it.

~~I mentioned on another of these pages that Brian Wolfe was the medic who treated me on the battlefield when I was wounded. Brian lives in Ohio now. We exchange emails and intend to visit someday. Brian, like Jack, has a remarkable sense of humor and a steady and efficient "bedside manner." 

~~I was wounded the following day, and Brian gave me medical attention for four hours while we waited for the medevac chopper. Between his dashes to aid other wounded, he kept me conscious, concentrating on my breathing. One of my lungs was pierced (sucking chest wound) and full of blood, and the other was bruised. If I'd lost consciousness, I'd have surely died. The traumatic injuries to my lungs and rib-cage made breathing inefficient, painful. I had to concentrate on every breath, taking it in and letting it out on prompt. At times Brian kept me whispering short responses to questions about anything he could think of--between breaths. He asked me about my hobbies and I'd told him someday I was gonna be a drummer. On our first communication after 30 years, he asked me: "So are you a drummer now?" This kind of recall shows how important Brian's job was to him. He & Jack were alike in many ways. Brian has followed a nursing career since he left the army, much decorated and wounded himself...