A True Believer
by Richard "Dick" Arnold
A True believer
by Dick Arnold, A 1/35th, 1967-68
David Littlehale Farley came to us as our second platoon medic in mid-August, 1967. He was twenty-two and hailed from Brunswick, Maine where he grew-up working on his family's large vegetable farm. A devoted Seventh Day Adventist, David attended Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster, Massachusetts. While there he supported himself by working in a broom manufacturing shop; excelling as in all other tasks he undertook, by being the best broom maker on site. A fateful, financial-need decision caused him to drop out for a semester or two; wherein the Draft swooped him up. True to his beliefs, he registered as a Conscientious Objector and, as in many similar situations, was given a 91A MOS, a combat medic.
What a medic he was! Medium-height and average build; blond haired and blue-eyed, but those deep blue eyes simultaneously expressed both kindness and steely resolve. David joined us at a time when the monsoon in the Duc Pho area was causing many more casualties than Victor Charles. Foot problems from always-wet feet were a never-ending source of aggravation. In treating such cases, David was both compassionate and firm in making sure everyone dried their feet when possible and changed their socks as often as they could. He had a knack of putting his patients at ease and quickly gained our confidence.
However, the monsoon was soon to be the least of our worries; for in early October we moved north to the Que Son valley and beaucoup bad guys of the NVA variety. We humped off LZ Mary Lou, working in a generally northwest direction with ominous signs of the enemy all-around. The night of October 8th found our platoon ambushing around the edges of a deserted village in an absolute torrential downpour. I have read a 2/35th after-action that mentions 12" of rain being recorded on the same date a bit south of us. The most miserable night, from natural causes, I ever spent as a soldier!
My machine gun team was attached to a rifle squad that night. Around two in the morning, Rodger Buckley of my team finished his guard slot and, in an effort to keep partially dry, unwisely crawled back in some bushes away from the rest of us. A FNG who was next-up on guard, later heard Rodger moving about, understandably thought he was an NVA, and fired a round that hit Rodger very high in the right leg. Between Rodger thrashing about, the dark, and the driving rain, it was all we could do to temporarily stanch the bleeding. We finally were able to get him to the hooch where David and the CP were located. Rodger by then was very wan and to tell the truth, I did not think he was going to make it.
David was always known to pack a very heavy aid bag with all kinds of stuff that would only be needed once in a blue moon; that blue moon was now present in the form of a dying soldier. David reached down in that aid bag and came up with a miracle; all the bags, jars, needles, and tubing needed to get an IV of Ringers going. David's field IV perhaps would not have passed muster in a hospital, but it kept Rodger alive until a Dustoff whisked him away the next morning. Rodger Buckley is still living down in Tampa, Florida; a testimony to a remarkable and dedicated medic.
If the story ended here, it would be good, but we all know war is not always like that. The very next day, October 9, 1967, the company rested during the day while preparing for another round of separate platoon ambushes that night. At around five in the afternoon, the recon patrol sent to pick likely ambush sites for that night, was hit near a hill about a klick from our day laager. The company quickly responded and plans were hastily made for an assault on the hill. The hill turned out to contain an estimated NVA company who were there to stay. Heavy fighting quickly ensued, eventually leaving eleven members of A, 1/35th dead. Due to the normal fog of war, plus mistakes of omission and commission, the communication between, and alignment of, the various assault elements became problematic.
The two squads that my machine gun was with ended up on the extreme right flank and somewhat separated from the rest of our company. We had initial success in reaching the very top of the hill, but were then hit with a heavy, two-prong attack that slowly pushed us back down and overran us near the bottom. Seven of us took shelter behind a steep bank and it was not a pleasant situation. Being dark by then, the NVA were reconning by fire trying to get us to give away our position. We were responding with grenades at every muzzle flash. Groans from their wounded when a grenade found its mark were mixed with taunts of "GI, you die now" as the NVA were finishing-off our wounded above us.
Suddenly in this hell of war, it fell relatively quiet for a moment and then we heard an NVA above us speaking in perfect English, "Medic, we need a medic." Of course this trick is as old as war itself and I guess our SOP was the same as everyone else's (in such a situation you say "Doc Smith, Doc Jones, or Doc Farley)." I have always believed that David knew the medic call was suspect, but being the gentle soul he was, could not bear the thought that it might be an American needing help. From somewhere on our left flank we heard David say, "Here I am." Seconds later we heard an AK-47 go on full automatic and David was gone forever.
Before he died, he said something else that has taken me all these many years to fully comprehend. He cried out "Murderers!" Murderers, how many of us would have chosen that word? Would it not more likely have been a vulgar oath, a scream for help, or perhaps even silence? But "murderers?" Except you see, to David that was what war truly was...murder. So even at the very end, this magnificent example of a very caring human being stayed true to the beliefs of a lifetime.
RIP David Littlehale Farley, "And I should have told you Vincent (David), this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."