761st Tank Battalion and Allied Veterans Association

Bronz Star Medal being awarded to Maj Dotson

Vietnam was a unique and challenging experience. My performance of duty as a Psychiatric Social Work Officer in a combat zone involved triage of psychiatric casualties all hours, day and night as the "dust off" (helicopter) brought in the combat injured soldiers and those who were "broke down," from seeing friends, aquaintenances, members of their squad and unit shot up, killed and at times seeing body parts here and there, when hit by a motor shell or incoming artillery or injuries from land mines, and injuries from some type of bobby traps. Some were too frightened to fight any more, some emotionally incapable of fighting, some hysterically regressed to calling for their "mother-ma ma, ma ma, ma ma,". Infrequently an African American soldier would be seen who did not want to return to his unit because as one soldier said tearfully "I shamed the brothers in the face of the white guys when I cracked up and couldn't fight any more, I fu__ed up, I ashamed them, man, and I can't go back, I can't go back, I don't know what to do now".
My job was to diagnose, evaluate, and make disposition of those who were too traumatized and unfit for combat duty. My job was compounded when the psychiatrist I worked with, tour of duty was completed and he return to the United States. Psychiatry replacements were assigned to units in Vietnam and not to the 3rd Field Hospital, Saigon where I was. WHY ??? "Because Major Dotson (Aaron) was holding down the Fort at the 3rd Field, and he is in close consultation with the KO Team here, i.e. psychiatry, psychology, and Social Work Officer at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital in Long Bein Vietnam". For six months I operated alone managing all administration of the psychiatric clinic and supervising staff members. I was surprised when the American Embassy in Saigon had me to psychiatrically evaluate a civilian employee from Switzerland, France, and an adult daughter of an important Vietnamese Government Official. Some short term counseling was given the daughter. Initially cultural differences impeded the therapeutic success.
President Harry S. Truman integrated all U.S. Armed Forces in 1948. Vietnam is the first time African Americans and Caucasian fought together. Sometimes racial problems had to be dealt with. Some African American soldiers would go AWOL or would find a way to be incarcerated in the Long Bien jail intentionally to get a chance to talk with "The Brother Officer" at the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon." Some of the complaints I dealt with was " the brothers are pissed-off at going to engage the Viet-Cong while riding in a personnel carrier with the Confederate flag flying under the American flag, or the Confederate flag displayed with the American flag in front of the Orderly Room. At the base camp brothers did not want to listen to Country Western Music . The Caucasian soldiers did not want to listen to Soul Music, i.e. Marvin Gaye, Areatha Franklin, and James Brown, "The King of Soul" etc.
Racial problems were compounded when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. There were times I was called to help deal with racial tensions which were about to erupt into a race riot. As stated by some soldiers, "Command had ordered that no African American soldiers could be any larger than three together." I talked with unit Commanders and MACV Headquarters (Military Assistance Command Vietnam), in an attempt to get their support in "cooling things down".
Crisis intervention, and building bridges between the races was difficult work, but successful while I was there. I have no idea what happened when I returned to the United States. Because the following problems still had to be dealt with:

1. Slow or no service in EM Club in RVN (Vietnamese waitresses)
2. Physical violence in units (after duty hours) to those who associate with Blacks
3. Why die in RVN when you do not know what you are fighting for....(fighting people the same color as I am and they have done nothing to me)
4. Fight and die at home for our rights, for jobs, housing, education, health, and power.
5. Wearing of black beads, arm bracelets, afro hairstyle, and earring in left ear lobe. (Command had a problem tolerating such)
6. Black Power greeting (clenched fist) "there is nothing wrong with this....Command gets upset ...recalls the occasion at the Olympics"
7. Distrust of Chaplin, IG, and anyone white, they are friends of Command or part of the system, nothing gets accomplished.
8. No communication except one way- from the top down.
9. We get the worst details and job assignments.
10. There are slow promotions or none at all.
11. Plenty Article15s, -unfair punishment, pass and leave policy
12. Cannot prove prejudice therefore nothing can be done to bring charges against an NCO or Officer. The tragedy in use of 67's Dull Normal-can't cut it or heck it (many of these soldiers before had delinquent problems and the Judge gave them the option "Join the Army or go to Jail". Many of them ended up in the Army."... They were not in any shape to be in the military not to mention combat. Therefore many of them were killed or became casualties of the War.

Note: Listening to some of the traumatized soldiers situational reaction to combat stress was very disturbing to me. There were a few times I had to disengage the interview in order to keep from being visually affected by the soldiers experiences. I related..."excuse me for a minute, I'll be right back." (this gave me time to recompose myself and to be able to return and continue the interview).


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