|From: Kendall McNabney
To: Richard B. Abell
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2003 12:19 PM
Subject: Further explanation
You have done an amazing job of recall of 33 year hiatus. I might help you extrapolate a few of the gaps.
Nearly all high velocity missile wounds are not closed primarily because it has been shown that the wounds
would get infected at a high rate and easily re-debrided if that becomes necessary based on observation.
Ergo, DPC (delayed primary closure) is SOP in military medicine. In your case, I closed your abdominal wall
fascia (tough layer) with stainless steel wire and left the skin open because of your bad colon injury
(teeming with bacteria) I don't know whether any DPCs were done on your abdominal or other wounds
(groin, etc.+) DPC is usually done in 4-7 days. I suspect you were too sick for that and they just left
dressings on and allowed for secondary healing (or not).
All long distance fixed-wing patient transfers are under aegis of USAF. Once you go to staging area you are
under their care. Unless 3rd Field medics had complicity, the Air Force gets blame and or credit for your
"bleed." Actually, this happens fairly often in transferring patients, but usually it gets corrected fairly quickly.
This back bleeding usually looks worth than it is and we are more concerned about air actually being
sucked in than blood coming out.
If you think there was celebration in Japan, you can imagine what it was like in Tay Ninh. We knew the
ARVNS were crossing on 30 April but mostly just wondered why helicopter insignia were blacked out. Then
Nixon made his famous announcement. We had been getting daily mortar and rocket attacks on base camp
and then for two months, May and June, nothing.
The prescience your wife describes has been reported too many times to not have some validity.
Explanation is more difficult, but let's face it, we don't have all the answers. The kindly physician who
prescribed 'spirits fermenti" for you had to have a reason - one kidney is as good as any even though
Your urethral stricture has done amazingly well if I do say so myself. I would say the same for your fecundity.
Hope you have a good day in Norfolk. My best friend in Vietnam (now dead) was from Newport News. His
father was Secretary for the big ship builder there. Will Nancy be there?
Later, ~ Kendall
From: Kendall McNabney
To: Richard B. Abell
Sent: Monday, July 14, 2003 10:00 PM
Subject: Sojourns of a Patriot
I found A. P. to be a fascinating read. (Note: A.P. Adamson wrote the family letters in Richard's book
Sojourns of a Patriot.) Primary source documents are the only true history.
I received copy of Elaine's letter. Thank you for saving it. Although I did not know about the letter
heretofore, the contents did not surprise me. She is a jewel.~ Kendall
From: Richard Abell
To: Kendall McNabney
Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2003 11:13 AM
Subject: Re: Sojourns of a Patriot
Received your package yesterday. Many thanks! I will soon read the book of your father's letters. There
should be more of that type of thing before the history is lost. I applaud your family's effort. I enjoyed the
articles reference to yourself; at least one of those articles is on the Internet where I read it previously.
However, the photos are difficult to see clearly on the computer. (Why should we waste perfectly good
testosterone on superfluous cranial hair?) Someday I would like to see the slide show referred to in the
article on your Vietnam experiences. Parenthetically, one of my recent law clerks asked me "Now you were
in Vietnam. What was that all about?" The significance being that a new generation is growing up with zero
When I was wounded on 5 April 1970, we had just finished building a firebase (probably begun about 2
April). No one ever referred to it at that time with a specific name ... although, later an associate referred to
it as "Firebase Blondin." Can you confirm or deny the correct name? There were two of us WIA and seven
KIA to my current recollection. Sometime soon I will relate to you the story leading up to my presentation on
your table! Godspeed. Deo Vindice! ~ Richard
In Repy, Kendall McNabney wrote:
I found A. P. to be a fascinating read. Primary source documents are the only true history. Letters and
diaries always seem so mundane when read when written, but add a few years and you realize how
historians take liberties with details of ordinary citizens. I received copy of Elaine's letter. Thank you for
saving it. Although I did not know about the letter heretofore, the contents did not surprise me. She is a
jewel. ~ Kendall
From: Richard Abell
To: "W. Kendall McNabney, M.D."
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2003 10:46 AM
Subject: 5 April 1970, 10:20 am
As promised, I am now about to relate my experiences that brought me to your "table" no doubt as a
challenge to your professional abilities! We had just spent three days constructing Firebase Blondin, co-
ordinates XTO17730, when my rifle squad (Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry
Division) was ordered to join another for an extended recon patrol circumnavigating the firebase to search
for evidence of NVA build-up. In retrospect, I now realize that this forward firebase on the Cambodian border
in Tay Ninh Province between the fishhook and the parrot's beak was built for use in our incursion into
Cambodia in May of 1970. This was a major NVA infiltration zone with feeder roads coming off the Ho Chi
Minh Trail in Cambodia. It generally took us 5 to 7 days to complete a firebase. It was also generally
experienced that the NVA would attack after the 4th day of construction once they knew of our location and
had brought up their infantry and crew served weapons.
To my current recollection we contributed 9 of the 19 men on this recon mission (2 squads). Ruefully, the
lieutenant in charge was brand new/green and not from my platoon. He had the M-79 grenade launcher.
That morning (5 April 1970) one of my squad members, a boy with very blond hair, had volunteered to go
and fill all of our canteens from the nearby airlifted-in water tank. He had neglected to wear his helmet (the
wearing of our headgear was SOP) for this very routine short walk. As he was filling one of the canteens, he
bent over and hit his forehead on the spigot. He broke skin with very minor bleeding. Soon after he returned
with our full canteens, we were notified that we were to go on the recon mission. This forehead-cut trooper
was slated to take "point." The afternoon before, another squad member had just returned from his
Hawaiian R&R with his wife; he had one more month to go to complete his tour from Vietnam and return to
the real world. This returning short-timer noticed the forehead cut of his buddy and volunteered to take his
place as point man that day in exchange for when his turn at point would come. The injured trooper stayed
behind for concern that the forehead cut would chafe with the helmet-liner and thus have more
damage/infection. This charitable act saved the one soldier's life (at least for a time) and caused the
married short-timer's wife to soon be a widow.
Our two squad recon patrol left the firebase about 9:00 am. Our "leftenant" apparently used his compass to
guide us through the heavy jungle. I was point security - second man in file. The short-timer point man (first
man in file) had a machete. It was so hot and humid that we had left our flak jackets back at the base (it was
SOP that we wear them) - much to our misfortune.
We had just traversed around in front of a massive termite den when we were hit from directly in front by a
cascade of small arms fire, presumably AK-47 and/or SK-50. They sounded like they were no more than 20
feet away. I could later hear them talking in a singular excited high pitch. Although I have no idea as to how
many Communists had ambushed us, there were the sounds of numerous rifles and automatic weapons. Of
course the AK-47 has a sound quite distinct from the M-16. The bullets hit the point man and he went down
with no movement or words. I presume that he was KIA instantly. It is possible that one of the 7.62 mm
rounds that passed through him may have penetrated me. We were too close together (the proper military
term is a cluster f--k).
I was first hit in the lower left side (as you know, I lost my left kidney and spleen from this round, no doubt
some of my large and small colon damage, and perhaps the one lumbar vertebrae fissure). As I went down I
returned fire ... no doubt with zero accuracy. When I was prone and turning over (I fell onto my right side,
felt the blood running on my left and reasoned (!) that I should turn over so the blood would run out of my
left rather than internal to my right - do not expect me to explain this rationale, I just know that is why I turned
over) I was hit again in the crotch area (where I had urethral damage, bladder damage, lost a testicle, and
had my right femoral vein completely perforated) - it was not a good day. The trooper behind me was hit
multiple times (to include by a round going through me?) and instantly KIA. In toto we had 7 KIA and 2 WIA
in perhaps thirty seconds. The other troopers were utilizing the termite structure for cover (it was also
slightly elevated for counter fire advantage). The leftenant used his M-79 to engage the enemy. The rounds
apparently would fly out several feet, activate, and then bounce back on us! We sustained casualties from
this fire; I may have some shrapnel in my back from this fire. Why he would try to use the M-79 at this short
range defies credulity. Out troopers were screaming for him to cease - which he did. He then called in
indirect fire (presumably mortars) which also manifested his panic. Thank G-d he called in the wrong co-
ordinates. We could hear the rounds landing/exploding in the distance. He then called in gunships which
came in directly above us; we could see them, I truly doubt that they could see us. During this whole time
there was continual unrelenting rifle and machine gun fire and exploding grenades – an intense quantum of
din, small arms fire, confusion, and yelling/screaming ... just normal garden variety combat. For whatever
reason the NEVA broke off contact and retreated. I suspect that the entire skirmish was at most a half-hour
Once I was hit and down, the first thing that I did was look at my watch to see at what hour I was killed! (No
doubt this fact would be of grave importance at the next in-processing center!) It was
10:20 am. Immediately thereafter, an INTENSE feeling of sadness overcame me as I thought of my wife,
stepson, and the "one in the oven" who would never know his/her father. (We were married in December of
1968 in Medellin, Colombia, and ergo had been married for some 16 months. My wife, Lucia, was at that
time pregnant.) Immediately subsequent to this unpleasant realization, I began some VERY heavy duty
prayer! It is not always that our prayers are answered - but they were in this case! Perhaps I should mention
that I still recall the impact of the rounds on my soft tissue as a swelling/burning sensation. I knew that I was
a hurting puppy.
Of interest, as a matter of sidebar, just prior to our entering the jungle we were in a clearing in a short
break. I looked down and picked up an AK-47 7.62 mm empty shell casing. A moment later I spied a 7.62
mm spent round, picked it up, and inserted it into the shell casing. Logically it fit perfectly. However, I
immediately and inexplicably had a strong premonition that I had just done something very wrong; I "felt" that
I had just activated the round that would hit me and that I could do nothing to undo what I had done!
Although I have never told anyone of this prescience heretofore, I still recall it and its evident irony.
The next thing that I recall is when our medical corpsman came to me, looked down at me, and definitely did
not impart a sense of confidence. He administered a battlefield morphine injection in my upper left leg. In
fact I can still indicate the precise location inasmuch as it still is numb! I presume that he hit a nerve.
Following this, a big black trooper - who I did not know - came over to me, looked down at me (I suspect that
I was a bit of a mess), and was likewise distressed. He didn't know what to do but obviously felt that he had
to do something - so he gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I was not hit in the lungs. Although I
understood a great deal of what was happening to me, I could not communicate. At any rate, while he is
giving me mouth-to-mouth, I could only think that I was dying and when I cross over to the "big induction
center in the sky," how do I explain that my last recollection on earth was that I was in a lip-lock with another
trooper? Somehow I was just not convinced that St. Peter would express approbation of my final conduct! I
was then placed on a stretcher with a different trooper at each of the four handles. There was a lot of yelling
taking place as I was carried to a waiting medevac Huey in a clearing. One of the soldiers lost his grasp and
I fell off. The other troopers were less than verbally gentle with him with their use of traditional Anglo-Saxon
I was eventually placed in the upper berth in the Huey and the other WIA was placed directly below me. I can
still recall his complaining to a corpsman that blood was dripping on him from the stretcher above. I
remember thinking at the time; I wonder who is doing that when it occurred to me that it was me! I probably
blacked out several times (as you know, my blood pressure was 0/0 when I entered the MUST hospital) but
recall the cold air of altitude. I have always liked cold air (of course, this was also an indicator that I was not
near the infernal regions). When the chopper came in to the Tay Ninh M.U.S.T. hospital, I recall looking out
of the descending Huey and seeing "my" gurney on the tarmac waiting with several medical personnel in
their green scrubs. There was a corps woman "greeting" me in fatigues with a clipboard. As I was being
rushed down the corridor, my clothes were being cut off me and the corps woman was asking me questions
from her clipboard (only in a military bureaucracy could this happen) like: name, rank, and then ... name
and address of next of kin. This last so irritated me that I wonder if I survived simply because I wanted to
smack her posterior for such impudence. (Although my First Cav plastic wallet and Army-issue Episcopal
religious medals around my neck were saved and later sent back to me, my actual dog tags were in my
bootlaces and were lost to posterity!) I also recall the crisp icy air of the MUST hospital and that is the last
thing that I recall until I "woke up" in the Saigon Third Corps Hospital a week or two later.
I should mention that the other WIA was from my rifle squad. My recollection is that he was from Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, and was a magician by trade. He was a thoroughly likable, mild-mannered, and sensitive man
-perhaps naive in his own way. We paralleled each other back through the hospital chain to Valley Forge
Military Hospital. Several days prior to this historic engagement, supra, our squad was relaxing after mail call
in a tent when he opened a thick envelope from his wife. (We all took inordinate interest in each other's mail
and families.) Besides the letter, it contained several color Polaroid photographs of his wife in erotic
postures wearing transparent lingerie (Frederick's of Hollywood?). These were sexually provocative and
explicit for the time. He passed them around to a drooling rifle squad (a great idea to pass around lascivious
photographs to a group of female-denied alpha males). She was very attractive and nothing was left to the
imagination. I noticed that there was direct salacious eye contact with the camera. That is when I inserted
foot into mouth by asking who was taking the photographs. He replied that it was her sister. I could not help
but thinking that it must have been some sister with that provocative eye contact. Later in Japan he was in a
bed across from me in the same ward. We would converse about how much we missed our respective wives.
When we arrived at Valley Forge, we were placed in different wards. One day soon after our arrival, I
passed him in the corridor. He was beaming. He explained to me that he was expecting to see his wife that
very day (for the first time in almost a year) and that the base had provided privacy quarters for them. Later
that afternoon/evening, I again saw him in the corridor, although now his countenance was more than down.
He looked devastated, eviscerated, and in shock. I inquired of him as to what had occurred. The only thing
that he could say to me was that it was not her sister who had taken the Polaroids - it was her boyfriend -
and that she had admitted all to him the moment that they were alone! I do not recall ever seeing him again
after this incident. No doubt I will recall more, and when I do so, I will remit.
As you know, today I have a Veterans Administration disability rating of 90%. I can only wonder that I have
survived this well this long. No doubt providence has its own reasons.
Godspeed. Deo Vindice! ~ Richard
|Personal Letter of Thanks
From: Elaine McNabney (Dr. Kendall McNabney's Wife)
To: Richard Abell
|In Memoriam and Appreciation
Elaine L. McNabney
February 9, 1943 - June 17, 2005
"She Was A Jewel"
.....Requiescat in Pace.....
|Click Link Below to Visit Richard Abell's Memoriam to the Seven
Alpha 2-7 Cav Troopers KIA in Tay Ninh Province on 05 April 1970
Honor and Memoriam Page