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Richard A Carlson

San Francisco, California, US

United States Army


Quang Tri, South Vietnam, 05/24/1968

Dear Mrs. Carlson,

I received your letter and I’m very sorry about the death of your son Richard. I often wonder if it was worth the sorrow and the pain which so many of us fret over now each day. I guess this is a [situation] nobody can explain.

Richard and I were very good friends, as [we] were the two medics attached to Delta Company, During the month of May our company was on a search-and destroy mission in the South Vietnam National Forest. We advanced without any contact whatsoever when our lead element spotted two enemy soldiers and killed them both. As we continued on farther, Charlie had concealed himself and set up an ambush, which he let us walk right into before he sprung the trap. The enemy opened up, hitting one of our men in both legs. At this time we pulled back, but in the excitement we didn’t know that we had a man laying back there wounded until we heard his shouts.

At this time we couldn’t get to him because the firing was so heavy, so I crawled forward and aided the man but I couldn’t pull him back because they had me pinned down. Richard crawled up to my side and began patching up the nearest man to him when he was shot in the leg. He was bleeding badly and in great pain. I applied morphine to his wound to ease the pain.

He finally told me the pain had subsided a great deal, so I told him to lay there until I could drag him back. But he saw that an officer had been hit in the head and was losing a lot of blood. Richard rolled over several times until he was by the officer’s side. He then began to treat the man as best he could. In the process he was hit several more times, twice in the chest and once in the arm. He called me, and I went to his side and began treating his wounds. As I applied bandages to his wounds, he looked up at me and said, “Doc, I’m a mess.” He then said: “Oh, God, I don’t want to die.

Mother, I don’t want to die. Oh, God, don’t let me die.” We called a helicopter to take him and the rest of the wounded to the hospital. Richard died before the ship arrived.

I did everything in my power to save Richard. Every skill known to me was applied. I often wonder if what we’re fighting for is worth a human life. If there is anything that I can do please, call on me.

Sincerely, Charles Dawson

Charles Dawson wrote this letter to the mother of Corporal Richard A. Carlson, a fellow medic with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, Ist Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Carlson, from San Francisco, California, had been in Vietnam four months when he was killed on 24 May 1968. He was 20 years old.


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