‘It was up to me’ - Retired physician gained early medical experience serving in Vietnam War
As early as the eighth-grade, James Allan cultivated an interest in someday becoming a medical doctor. With encouragement from his parents, he enrolled in the University of Missouri (Columbia) after graduating from a St. Louis area high school in 1960. This educational endeavor not only marked the beginning of a lifelong professional pursuit, but resulted in his induction into the armed forces during the Vietnam War.
“My college experience began with three years of undergraduate school followed by four years of medical school,” Allan recalled. “During my junior year of medical school in 1965, I married my fiancée, Terry, whom I had met through church in St. Louis and was also attending the university.”
Upon graduating from medical school in 1967, he began an internship in Wichita, Kansas. The following year should have been a joyous occasion when he and his wife welcomed their first son, Daniel, but he and many of his fellow interns received notice that abruptly changed their future plans.
“It was a letter from President Nixon that stated we could become medical officers in the military at the rank of captain … or wait and be drafted as a private,” he said. “The letter was very clear and military service had not been in my career pathway, but the war in Vietnam just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
By September of 1968, Allan was in San Antonio, Texas, attending “doctors’ bootcamp.” For the next three weeks, he and many other inexperienced physicians were provided crash courses on wearing a U.S. Army uniform, performing drill and ceremony, undergoing brief classes specifically related to military medicine and conducting training exercises in a field environment.
He quickly received orders for Vietnam, flying into Saigon in the cover of darkness. When exiting the aircraft, he observed explosions along the skyline and immediately felt the heat and humidity that defined the jungle-laden country.
Allan recalled, “I was assigned to a replacement battalion and told that each doctor would receive six months of relatively good duty and six months of duty that wasn’t so ideal. My first assignment was at a dispensary at Cam Rahn Bay in South Vietnam, which was not bad duty.”
Allan continued, “It was myself and another physician in the dispensary and we had an X-ray, laboratory and a hardworking, well-trained staff. We did a sick call and it was a busy place because the base was a stop-off point for military personnel entering or leaving the country or for those traveling back and forth for R&R (rest and recreation).
As he recalled, some of his responsibilities became the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases that servicemembers contracted during their recreational periods in locations such as Japan, Saigon and Hong Kong.
Several months into his deployment, he was transferred to an artillery battalion under the 25th Infantry Division located on the Michelin Rubber Plantation at Camp Rainier near Dầu Tiếng, South Vietnam. Again, his duties were to conduct sick call and provide routine medical care, but came with the added responsibility of supporting clinics in three additional locations.
“One of the locations where I treated people was at a civilian hospital,” he explained. “I also visited a relocation camp where there were Vietnamese civilians who had been moved from areas that had been deemed free-fire zones. Also, I supported a little clinic for civilians situated along the perimeter wire of our base camp.”
Later in this assignment, he accompanied the 25th Infantry Division when they moved to a larger base camp at Cu Chi, where he was assigned to a headquarters company of an artillery battalion. He was often flown by helicopter to forward support bases, providing general medical care to infantry and artillery troops stationed there.
“It was generally just minor injuries I was treating since the war wounded were flown to evacuation hospitals,” he said.
While stationed at Cu Chi, the medical officer became more involved with assisting the civilian population. During his time there, Allan traveled to several remote locations to practice general medicine with local populations in a government effort to “win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people.”
Dr. Allan recalled, “We were told which locations we were to visit and filled our ammo cans with assorted medicines that might be needed. We developed a large following of civilians—often between 100-200 who would come see us—and I communicated through a Vietnamese interpreter.” He added, “Many of those coming to see us needed injections to treat tuberculosis.”
His overseas tour came to an end in November 1969 and he was assigned to Ft. Leonard Wood to finish out his active-duty commitment. Dr. Allan was subsequently awarded a Bronze Star for the medical service he provided to Vietnamese civilians in remote locations.
When returning to the states, he not only reunited with his wife and his young son, but met his second son, John, who had been born shortly after his arrival in Vietnam. After leaving active service in September 1970, he relocated his family to Jefferson City, maintaining a private medical practice until his retirement in 2008.
Allan acknowledges that his military experience was mandatory and something he recognized as an obligation or duty, but became a brief period early in his career leading to many important experiences.
He explained, “It was certainly an interesting period in my life that taught me to work alone, which benefitted me in later years.” In conclusion, he added, “Previously, when I had trained in a hospital environment, there were several physicians I could consult with on a diagnosis, but when I was in a remote area in Vietnam, it was up to me to make rapid medical assessments and treatment decisions.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
‘Part of it all’ - Killed in World War II, Ralph Haldiman is remembered through letters and memories
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,” wrote British poet Laurence Binyon in his poem “For the Fallen.” He added, “At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.”
Such a spirit of remembrance has for years inspired three brothers –Don, Paul and David Jungmeyer—to never let fade the memory of the sacrifice of their uncle, who was killed in action during his service in World War II.
Ralph Lehman Haldiman was born November 17, 1923, on a farm near Sandy Hook in an area colloquially referred to as “Haldiman Valley.” The youngest of six siblings, he attended school for several years at nearby Prairie Home before transferring to Jamestown High School for his senior year.
“He graduated from high school in May of 1942 and was vice-president of his class,” said Paul Jungmeyer. “He and his family were also members of Grace Methodist Church in Jamestown.”
Since he had an older sister living in Kansas City, Haldiman moved there to work for the Hall Brothers, which later became known as Hallmark. However, the young man soon received his draft notice, underwent his induction into the military and was sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for in-processing in November 1942.
“We have all of the letters that he wrote to my mother (his sister) and also to his parents,” said David Jungmeyer. “These really provide us with a lot of insight into many of his experiences during the war.”
Assigned to the U.S. Army Air Forces, Haldiman completed his initial training at Kearns Army Air Base near St. Lake City and was then placed in a path of training that would eventually land him overseas.
“I took my physical yesterday for aerial gunner and I made it o.k.,” the airman wrote to his family on November 21, 1942. “All I am waiting on now is to start my training as a gunner. I won’t get that training here at this field, so I expect to get shipped out in a week so.”
His assumptions proved correct and, on November 29, 1942, Haldiman was transferred to an airfield near Las Vegas. For the next several weeks, his letters to family describe the range of training he received in gunnery school. Then, on February 5, 1943, a short time after being promoted to sergeant, he was transferred to Buckley Field, Colorado, for additional training.
A record maintained by Haldiman notes that he continued his training at locations including Myrtle Beach and Greenville, South Carolina, the state of Washington and Grand Island, Nebraska. Through all of this, he was able to acquire proficiency as a right waist gunner aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress. In early summer 1943, he returned home to the family farm in Missouri for a brief furlough, which became the last times his family members saw him.
“I was about four years old, I believe, but I can remember him sitting at the table with grandma and grandpa,” said his nephew, Don Jungmeyer.
The 20-year-old Missouri airman was promoted to staff sergeant on December 17, 1943, while at Wendover Army Air Base in Utah. Soon, word was received that he and his fellow bomber crew members would deploy overseas, necessitating certain preparations.
“Today I got my will made up,” wrote Haldiman to his parents on Christmas Eve of 1943. “I’ll send it along for safekeeping. I probably won’t be needing it, or you won’t, I mean.”
The following month, he boarded a troop ship and arrived in Peterborough, England, on January 25, 1944. He and the members of his aircrew flew their first bombing mission on February 22, 1944, striking targets in Germany. An engagement record maintained by the gunner reveals that as a member of the 457th Bomb Group, he successfully completed a total of nine missions aboard the B-17 they named “Silver Queen.”
In a V-Mail letter to his parents dated April 12, 1944, Haldiman remarked, “Just a few lines to let you know that I am o.k. and getting enough to eat. Yesterday I went to Poland. It was a long trip and I don’t care to do it again.”
Eight days later, April 20, 1944, Haldiman and his crew were flying a mission along the French coast to destroy V-1 flying bomb sites. The “Silver Queen” took a direct hit from enemy flak and broke in half. Only two of the crewmembers were able to parachute to safety; Haldiman was among the eight who perished in the incident.
Don Jungmeyer recalled, “Although I was quite young, I can remember standing in the front yard when an Army truck pulled up to the house and two officers came inside to inform my grandparents that Uncle Ralph had been killed.”
The body of the airman is interred in the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial in Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium.
David Jungmeyer, who was not born until after World War II, feels that he has achieved a connection to his late uncle through the letters sent to family members during the war.
“I had grown up hearing people speak about him and the kind of person he really was,” Jungmeyer said. “Going through all of those letters really helped paint for me a picture of how tumultuous those times were and everything that was unfolding in World War II.” Concluding, he added, “And Uncle Ralph was a part of it all.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
‘A gallant soldier’ - Dr. Frank Rumbold became military leader, adjutant general of Missouri
Military history is replete with stories of physicians who served in uniform, tending to the wounds and medical emergencies of their comrades. Less often witnessed are accounts of those forgoing their medical background to pursue careers as soldiers, demonstrating their aptitude for command and embracing opportunities to lead troops in a combat environment.
Frank M. Rumbold, born in Meeker Grove, Wisconsin, on January 4, 1862, became just such an individual. In 1886, when four years old, his family moved to St. Louis, where he was raised in the shadow of his physician father.
The young Rumbold chose to follow his father’s medical path, but a seed of interest in military affairs was planted in 1878 when the 16-year-old enlisted as a cadet with a company of the St. Louis National Guard Battalion (which expanded into the First Regiment of the National Guard of Missouri in 1879).
Rumbold “graduated from Washington University in 1884 with the degree of doctor of medicine,” noted an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 4, 1934. “He entered practice here at once, specializing in the nose, throat and ears. For a time, he was editor and proprietor of the St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal … and founded another professional journal…”
His medical practice progressed in tandem with service in the National Guard and Rumbold transferred to Light Battery A in 1882, becoming its commander and captain in 1891.
Captain Rumbold commanded the battery during several interesting events, including its participation in the burial ceremony for William Tecumseh Sherman, a well-known Union general of the Civil War. However, in 1898, the untested officer was called into service for what became the first of four military campaigns of his career.
“The prospect of trouble between this country and Spain aroused new interest in the National Guard and resulted in the accession of many new members,” explained “A History of Battery A of St. Louis.” “During the early spring of 1898, it was no uncommon thing on drill nights to see hundreds of spectators on the armory grounds.”
In response to President McKinley’s call for 125,000 volunteers to serve in the Spanish-American War, Battery A became the first of the Missouri troops mustered into service, departing for training at Chickamauga Park, Georgia, on May 16, 1898.
“On July 24 (1898), a battalion consisting of Battery A … left Chickamauga for Newport News (Virginia), and a few days later sailed in the ‘Roumanian’ for Ponce, Puerto Rico,” described the “National Guard Historical Annual of the State of Missouri” printed in 1939
The battery was “loaded and ready to fire,” but the war came to an end before hostilities ensued. They returned to Missouri and were mustered out of federal service in November 1898.
Imbued with an abiding interest in military operations, Captain Rumbold resigned his commission in the National Guard to enter on active duty with the 32nd U.S. Volunteers and went on to serve in the Philippines from July 5,1899 to May 8, 1901.
During the Philippine-American War, he revealed his command abilities in several skirmishes, even commanding a small cadre of troops in a successful attack against an overwhelming number of entrenched Filipino fighters.
The “History of the Missouri National Guard” explained, “Upon the return of Captain Rumbold from the Philippines in June, 1901, he was again elected commanding officer (of Battery A in St. Louis).”
His medical career was essentially suspended in pursuit of military interests while he worked to maintain Battery A as a highly-proficient organization. In 1907, having avoided matters of intimacy much of his adult life, Rumbold married Susan McCord of St. Joseph, Missouri. Tragedy arrived nine months later when his wife died from “acute indigestion and heart disease.”
In the face of loss, Rumbold found solace in military endeavors. On January 11, 1909, Governor Herbert Hadley, recognizing the officer’s demonstrated abilities, appointed Rumbold as the adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
In the next four years, under the guidance of General Rumbold, the Missouri National Guard continued to grow in strength and improve upon training.
“On January 15, 1913, (Rumbold) was relieved as Adjutant General and again assumed command of (Battery A),” stated the “History of the Missouri National Guard.” Later that year, affairs of the heart returned when he married Helena Abend.
Battery A, under the able command of Rumbold, mustered into federal service in June 1916 and served several months in Texas during the Mexican Border Campaign. The battery returned to Missouri in December 1916, only months prior to returning to federal service for World War I.
Battery A was consolidated with other units during World War I to become the 128th Field Artillery with Rumbold in command. Conducting training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, they deployed to France in May 1918. While in St. Mihiel, France, Rumbold was exposed to poison gas, leading to health problems that plagued him for the rest of his life.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on June 4, 1934, “He took (the 128th) to the battlefields of France and back, returning in February 1919, with the Distinguished Service Medal.”
Sorrow returned when his second wife died in 1922, but Rumbold remained busy by serving in the Militia Bureau, followed by a brief tenure with the General Staff in Washington, D.C. He was again appointed adjutant general for Missouri, serving in that capacity from 1925-1927.
Following his retirement in 1927, Rumbold worked in the financial sector but eventually succumbed to his WWI exposures on June 2, 1934. The 72-year-old retired general was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Shortly after his passing, the Kansas City Star penned a glowing tribute to the late general, describing a “dashing soldier” who invested the prime years of his life in support of his fellow soldiers and the Missouri National Guard.
The newspaper affirmed, “His enthusiasm was contagious and permeated the National Guard under his administration… Brave, loyal, generous, intelligent, a gallant soldier, General Rumbold will be remembered by all who knew him as an overflowing and picturesque personality.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.