Walter Reed had earned a medical degree by age 17 and joined the army as a surgeon at age 23. Reed had spent nearly 18 years at various western forts by the time he arrived at his post as curator of the Army Medical Museum in 1893, also working as a professor at the Army Medical School and at what is now George Washington University. As the 1890s started seeing important advances in medicine, Reed quickly moved to lead the charge against infectious disease, most notably yellow fever.
A worn pair of Marine combat boots presented to the Calhoun county museum took me back fifty-two years. The boots belonged to PFC Sammy Gray Evans KIA (1947-1967). These same US combat boots were issued to all Marine recruits in the 1960’s. Marines were issued two pair and one had to be re-soled with all the marching and hill climbing in sunny California (Marine recruits from west of the Mississippi River train in California). This pair of boots were in Sammy’s sea bag for over fifty years and tell a story of transition from a lowly recruit to a qualified Marine. From the time you stood on the Recruit Depot yellow footprints until deployment six months later those boots were well worn. I was issued jungle boots in 1969, but Sammy, being two years earlier may have worn these boots in-country. In Jan of 1967 Sammy’s company Foxtrot, 2nd Bn, 1st Marines assumed control of a strategic position on Loc Son mountain. Company commander Cpt Gene A. Deegan (Major General at retirement) informed 1st Marine Regiment in mid- April that elements of the 2nd PAVN Army (NVA) had infiltrated the Que Son Valley. On the 21st of April 1st Marine Regiment began “Operation Union” with Fox/2/1, the lead element making initial enemy contact at 07:00 hours. Fox company was heavily engaged in the open at 09:30 near the village of Binh Son by a dug-in NVA battalion. Sammy, an M-60 machine gunner was killed that day along with twenty-eight others. One member of F/2/1 received the Medal of Honor and three others Silver Star Medals, all posthumously. After long and costly battles from 21 April to 5 June 1967 the 2nd PAVN lost over 1400 killed by Marines– Wikipedia. The Marine Corps operated in I Corps in the north of Vietnam from the DMZ to south of Chu Lai. Calhoun County Marines who served in I Corps were Sammy, Len Bradford (1946-2018, WIA - 2 Purple Hearts), Boyd Allen, Sterle Ware, Earnest Williams, KIA (1950-1970) and myself. Boyd, Sterle, Earnest and I were in-country the same time for a few overlapping months. In fact, Boyd and I were in the same artillery battery south of Danang that fired support for Sterle and possibly Earnest. I have often heard the military axiom “no matter how much firepower you have, you can’t control any terrain without a rifleman’s boots on the ground.” Those boots are often well worn by the time they hit the ground.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in American medicine is that of Dr. Walter Reed. Reed would become a symbol of army medicine in the years after his death with the naming of the military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, in his honor. Before that, his work resulted in important advances in patient care and taming one of the most feared diseases of the time, yellow fever.
A recent CalCo Museum addition is neither old nor new, even though it has been around almost six decades. This item is a Hasbro Spiderman circa 2014. Standing about 12” tall, the still popular figure can be posed in different heroic positions. In addition, with fresh batteries installed pressing a button renders loud, snarky remarks appropriate for a teen superhero.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” were the words of Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell when an explosion crippled the spacecraft and threatened the lives of the crew. What started as a terror that threatened their lives and for days gripped the attention of the world became one of the great adventures of manned spaceflight, now 50 years ago this month.