By John Boors, Army
Writing Type: Prose
By John Boors
As I write this story for a great magazine, I am pushing 91 years of age. But I think this story should be told because it may touch the hearts of many men and women who lived through this hell called prejudice.
I was born and raised in a small coal town in southwestern Pennsylvania. I graduated with the class of 1950. Two months later I was a combat medic with 110th Infantry, 28th Division, Pennsylvania National Guard when President Truman activated us near the beginning of the Korean War.
I don’t know to this day why I was picked to go to Brooke Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston in Texas, where I spent several months learning to be a surgical nurse even though my MOS was combat medic.
After that training I was transferred to Ft. Riley, Kan., where I served as a scrub nurse in the operating room until my honorable discharge.
My roommate was a combat medic who served in the 7th Division, a black man. I believe he was from Michigan or Illinois. I was 18, and I believe he was 20 or 21. We never had an issue with race, and I do not even recall having a discussion about race. We just respected each other. We were roommates for about a year when he either was transferred or discharged. Just one great kid, and he taught me a lot.
After my discharge in 1953 as a sergeant first class, I followed one of my childhood dreams to become a Pennsylvania state trooper, and I applied to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia because I wanted to study anesthesia. I enjoyed my duties in the operating room, but we had so many burns from white phosphorus bombs and amputations, dozens every day on kids returning from Korea.
Often only one Chinese soldier would have a gun, but a dozen other Chinese troops would have knives, hatchets, ice picks, etc. All these wounds would show up in our operating rooms. I never read a newspaper about this travesty, then or now, but they did exist, and the guys lived through this hell to tell us in the operating room about this savage treatment by mostly Chinese troops.
Sorry, I digressed. I became a state trooper, served five years, then joined the Port Authority Police for 10 and a half years. I was talked into submitting an application as chief of police in Edgewood, where I served only four years. One day one of my desk sergeants informed me that a CIA agent was on the phone and wanted to talk to me.
His name and how we met will remain with me until my passing. He informed me that the State Department was seeking men with my command experience to go to one of several countries where they had advisors stationed. After a discussion with my wife and kids I resigned as chief and went to DC for extensive training to including Fort Bragg and Georgetown and ended up in Vietnam in February 1969.
A week later I was assigned to Ba Xuyen province in the delta. I was stationed there almost three and a half years, then transferred up to II Corps. Getting back down to Soc Trang, I studied my roster of the people assigned to my office, then referred to as Public Safety Directorate, or commonly called the police advisor.
I asked my staff, “Who is this Sergeant Dorsey?” They kinda smiled and told me he runs the enlisted men’s (EM) club. Later that day I walked over to the EM club and asked the Vietnamese lady bartender if Sergeant Dorsey was around. She said he was there somewhere. So I ordered a beer, and a few minutes later this big black man showed up, and I asked if he was Sgt Dorsey. He said he was, so I introduced myself, and we had some chit chat about the Village Hamlet Radio System (VHRS), where he was my advisor to the program.
He didn’t seem to want to discuss the program, even though we were the only two people in the club and the bartender was busy cleaning tables, floors, etc. So, I told Sergeant Dorsey, “I’ll see you at 0800 tomorrow at the office” and he replied, “Yes sir.”
He arrived before 0800, and I told him where the coffee pot was and to help himself. He brought no briefing papers, charts, into the office. What he started to tell me was an eye opener and somewhat sickening personally to me in 1969.
He told me my predecessor was from Georgia or Alabama, a sheriff for many years with a total disregard for people of color. Sergeant Dorsey often requested a vehicle and interpreters to do his job as the advisor to the VHRS and was rejected time after time.
Here was a man trained in communications and communication equipment but was not allowed to perform his duties. I asked Sergeant Dorsey if he talked with the PSA or deputy, and he informed me “they” knew the problem but also did nothing.
It didn’t take me but a few minutes to inform Sergeant Dorsey there was a new ballgame in town, and from then on as long as I was there, not only was he going to get the tools he needed, but I would also go with him sometimes because I wanted to get to know my province. I told Sergeant Dorsey I had five vehicles out front, and he could use any one he wanted. Also, one of my interpreters was a retired ARVN soldier and Sergeant Kiet was in the ARVN but assigned to this office, and he could use either man to do his job.
I never once heard Sergeant Dorsey complain about anything. His work ethic was excellent, attitude fantastic. I received numerous field reports as well as oral reports from village and hamlet chiefs about his exemplary knowledge of the radios and his patience in explaining their working parts. His reports were always current. If a radio was captured or lost, I was made aware of it as soon as Sergeant Dorsey was.
Overall, he made my responsibilities easier to manage. Therefore, I wrote him up with my highest recommendation for a Bronze Star as a team player who made numerous trips into enemy-controlled areas and never shied away from his responsibilities. He got approvals up the command with no negatives and only favorable comments. He was awarded the Bronze Star a few weeks later.
I was so pleased that he was awarded the Bronze Star for going far above and beyond what he was asked to do. He richly deserved this award.