Dr. John Deaton served as an Air Force doctor in Vietnam in 1967-68 and witnessed the Tet Offensive. He arrived in country mid-August 1967, addicted to the barbiturate Seconal, seeking redemption. “At the 12th Hospital [in Cam Ranh Bay], I found the affirmation I had been seeking, and just in time to save my life,” Deaton writes in his memoir, Rockin’ In the Round-Eye Lounge (Amazon Digital Services, 417 pp., $9.99, Kindle). An internal medicine specialist, Deaton comments on several issues that I have found of interest as a Vietnam veteran.
“Again, it sounds small of me to mention it, but the peculiar military put down of having one person call another a “Remf” is, to me about as small as you can get,” he writes. And later: “By the way, Jane Fonda doesn’t deserve our loathing. Wishing to end the war, as we all did, she made a mistake. Big deal!”
This book gives us as good and intimate introduction to 12th USAF Hospital as we are ever likely to get. The most gory details of that hospital are there for the interested reader. Also the struggles of Dr. Deaton to deal with his Seconal habit, and to kick it, with the help of fellow doctors.
Deaton sings the praises of military nurses, and makes the point that at least 7.500 women served in the military in the Vietnam War. For those interested in details of how the Tet Offensive affected the 12th, no better book than this one exists I know of.
Another thing I loved about Deaton’s book is his comment on the word “’Nam.” To wit: “But in 1967, the last innocent year of our involvement there, we still called it Vietnam.”
Perhaps the wisest thing he says about the American war in Vietnam is: “Stopping a guerrilla war requires a ten to one superiority in numbers, the support of the local populace and a strong network of bases. We had none of the three.”
Deaton points out that the giant Cam Ranh Bay base had a miniature golf course, a bowling alley, and a massage parlor. Also a tennis court and a whorehouse. More reasons we lost that war.
I enjoyed this fine book, and I think that many others will too. If you’ve been an addict, you’ll especially appreciate it.