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When you have a difficult task, call on the U.S. Marines

The Reporter's Notebook


Last updated 1/30/2019 at 10:48am

When living in Bothell, we belonged to FIUTS (Foundation for International Understanding Through Students), a program through the University of Washington where you could sponsor foreign students. Through the program we sponsored students from Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand. You were expected to share time and your home with them, and they, along with others we met, spread a lot of good cheer to us and our family.

We also belonged to a group that raised money to provide supplies for Dr. Pat Smith, a Seattle doctor who had opened a hospital in the Central Highlands in South Vietnam, about 250 north of Saigon and close to both the Laos and Cambodia borders.

I was planning my first visit to Vietnam in 1968 and had planned to visit my FIUTS families along the way, with stopovers in Japan, Hong Kong and eventually Thailand.

When the Pat Smith group learned that I was going to Vietnam, they asked me if I would deliver a portable electrocardiograph machine to Dr. Smith. I said sure, and afterwards wondered how I was going to do so. I went to SeaTac to meet the Pan American station manager to ask for his assistance.

He asked me to deliver the machine to him and he would see that it was sent without cost to the Pan Am station manager in Saigon, where I could pick it up.

I had fulfilled my plan to visit the parents of our FIUTS students in Japan, and Hong Kong and in Vietnam, a village some 35 miles north of Saigon. My next stop was the Pan Am station manager in Saigon. Things were sailing along pretty well until he told me that he hadn’t received any machine for me.

He wired Seattle where he learned that the station manager there forgot to send the machine, and he said it would be on its way.

In a couple of days I returned, still no machine. Seattle said it was sent the same day of our wire. I checked the next day, no machine, and the following day the same.

I still had to go to Thailand to visit the family of our Thai student, and so on I went, machine or not.

After several days in Thailand, a call to the Saigon station manager produced the same result — no machine.

My 30-day leave from my work was about up, so I went back to Hong Kong, where I had been earlier, to contact a woman working there for the U.S. government. I asked to see one of our military attachés and a Marine captain came out to see me.

I walked him through the story and told him where the machine was supposed to be and where it was to go.

He took some notes and said not to worry, that the Marines would pick up the machine and deliver it to Dr. Pat Smith. It was a few weeks later that I received word from Dr. Smith that the machine had been delivered and it was in good working condition.

I thought I was going to be on the hook for a replacement machine, but the Marines really came through. Dr. Pat, as she was called, reported that a Marine helicopter pilot had delivered it personally to the hospital.

Got a tough job? You can always call on the Marines.


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