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Oral History Interview with SP5 Clarence E. Sasser

AMEDD Medal of Honor Awardees > Specialist Five Clarence E. Sasser

AMEDD Medal of Honor Oral History Interviews

SP5 Sasser (then PFC) received the Medal Of Honor for actions performed 10 Jan 1968. Read his Medal of Honor citation for distinguished actions while serving as a medical aidman on a reconnaissance in force operation in Vietnam.

In this interview, Mr. Sasser gives us an insight into his experiences as a combat medic in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. He also shares with us his satisfaction in having received the Medal of Honor for saving, rather than taking lives.

This interview was conducted 23 March 1987.

Interviewer:  Mr. Sasser, you received a Congressional Medal of Honor for actions that occurred on, I believe, January 10, 1968. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got into the army?

Sasser: Yes sir. I like to think I was drafted into the service, but if truth be told, I volunteered to be drafted. I wanted to discharge that obligation. I had had a student deferment because of being in college. And needed to work, so I dropped to half time and I was sure I was going to be drafted anyway, so I just thought I might as well do the best I can. Maybe cut my loses a little bit.

Interviewer:  Where were you in school at?

Sasser: I was in school at the University of Houston, Houston, Texas.

Interviewer: Where did you train to be a medic after you came on active duty?

Sasser:  I trained to be a medic here at Fort Sam Houston over in the medical training corps area. And it was a ten week course program. I really enjoyed it. It sort of struck something that I had wanted to do. I had entertained hopes maybe of some day becoming a physician. But, you know, because of monetary problems, situations, I wasn't able to go on there. So, when I was drafted, and being sent to medical corpsman school sort of filled a little bit of that desire that I had always had.

Interviewer: When did you go to Vietnam?

Sasser: I went to Vietnam in late September 1967.

Interviewer:  And you were there until when?

Sasser:  I was there until March of '68. And at that time I was medevaced to Camp Zama, Japan.

Interviewer:  Could you tell us a little bit about what your duties were as a medic in Vietnam? I know you went on patrols with the infantry and things like that.

Sasser:  As medical corpsman I was assigned to an infantry unit, at that point, with that particular infantry, or rather with that division, 9th Infantry Division. Medics were assigned to their initial six month in country as a combat type medic. And then after the six month period then they were removed to the evacuation hospitals. Because it would lessen their chance, or at least, pardon me, increase their chances of survival, if I can be as bold as to say that. I was assigned to an infantry platoon as their particular medic. This was with the 9th Infantry Division down in the Mekong Delta, 3rd of the 60th Infantry, Company A, 1st Platoon.

Interviewer:  Did you go on patrols with them, or did you hold sick call, or?

Sasser:  Sure. I went on the patrols with them. The sick call was held at the company dispensary or aid station, whatever we want to call it, within the company area, at the base camp. But my job specifically was to accompany my platoon when they went outside of the perimeter area, the base camp grounds. I of course went on every mission that we went on. And of course I went on some of the search and destroy missions that they had, the nightly ambushes that were done.

Interviewer:  So you spent quite a bit of time out in the field?

Sasser: Yes sir. Yes sir. The very nature of where we were, down in the Mekong delta, a very, very wet area, dictated, and it was battalion policy, that the unit would only stay out at the most five days, four nights. Because of what it would do to the human skin. Of course, that were the leeches. Oh god, don't mention the leeches. But there were the leeches, and the jungle rot, the fungus infections that were very prevalent over there that we had to contend with.

Interviewer:  Were things pretty, was your unit engaged in a lot of fire fights and activities up until January when you made that movement, or you were? You were...

Sasser:  Yes sir, we were pretty busy. It was at that point in time, fairly early considering in the war. We were the only infantry division, or I should say division down in that area. And of course that's a very large area. We were part of the riverine forces that worked in conjunction with the Navy, patrolling the rivers down, that laced the Mekong delta. That was our particular job. We worked side by side with the Navy people. We, we...almost anytime we left out of the base camp area there were fire fights, ambushes. Let's say combat, almost every time we left out of the base camp. It was, and sometimes very, very heavy. But predominantly we contended with a lot of sniping, and hit in rocket attacks, and of course the booby traps. The delta, the very nature of the delta, in my opinion, indicated that there'd be a lot of booby traps. As I mentioned earlier, it was laced with, with the rice fields, the irrigation canals. And the only place you could walk, unless you were fairly knowledgeable, were the dikes or the banks of the rivers. So that sort of narrowed down in my opinion, the area in which they could booby trap. Most people, at least American GI’s, they thought, did not want to wade in the water as much as what would have been necessary to avoid all the booby traps. So consequently every time we went out there was a problem with the booby traps and things of that nature that could be detonated and sustain casualties to a unit, and make them pretty effective. Now, the area also was worked, predominately by Viet Cong with North Vietnamese regulars as the cadre, for those particular units. So they utilized a little bit of just regular, if I can phrase it as such, standard type warfare, and guerrilla type warfare.

Interviewer:  What kind of injuries were you treating when you were out in the field mostly? Was it...

Sasser:  Most of the time we were out in the field, the injuries we sustained would be of course the gunshot wounds, shrapnel wounds of various types. Small shrapnel wounds and of course the larger ones that come from the larger mines and the junk type apparatus that they would make up to cause injuries, such as, you know, nails in an old tin can, and things like that. But predominantly we treated gunshot wounds and multiple shell fragment type wounds. Penetrating through and through in a lot of instances, things like that. There was always the jungle rot, or the crotch itch, or, I forget there's another, jock itch is I think the name for it. But there were always those, and sometimes those were worse than treating a shrapnel or a gunshot wound, because with the DUSTOFF helicopters, the medical evacuation teams, a gunshot wound for sure, or a shrapnel wound if it was major, or even semi-majors, were sent back to the evacuation hospitals. Whereas, the jungle rot and the crouch itch was highly irritable, and caused a lot of pain and hard feelings, suffering. But it wasn't the type of incapacitating accident for which you could send a guy back in. And most instances the medics over there had the sole authority as to whether or not this guy went in or not. With a little bit of justification, but ultimately the medic had the say as to whether or not this guy was sent back in.

Interviewer:  Could you explain the events of the 10th of January? You know, like starting at the meeting when you found out you were going to go out on this mission, and then kind of how things transpired?

Sasser:  Oh boy, I’ve often thought about that. That day is probably the worst/best, however you want to look at it, depending on what perspective you put on it, day in my life. Certainly it was the longest day of my life. We were already out of our base camp on a search and destroy mission. It was a battalion wide operation. There were a whole bunch of companies out that day. We for once had, in our opinion, became lucky. We were the backup company. If any other company had a problem, or became engaged with the enemy, we were the company that would be helicoptered in to help these people out, to try to get them out of the situation they were. So for once we thought we were going to have a good mission here. We'd just lay back and eat the Cs, and get the beer when they brought the food out. Every once in awhile they'd bring us beer. But we just thought we had an easy time for a change. We soaked in the sun, and do whatever we wanted to do without hopefully too much of a problem. We had been out for two days, and on the morning of our third day orders were received that told our company to be prepared for a helicopter pickup. It brings back memories, why the hesitation and everything. To this day sometimes I still don't discuss it. But, we were ordered to board the helicopters and we would be taken into this particular area. At that time no one knew, no one even pretty much cared. It was the orders were to do that, and that's what we were to do. The helicopters came in and picked up our whole company, and we headed out to this area. This was about, this was about 10:00 that morning. I knew instantly that something was wrong, because they told us we better eat. And at 10:00, 10:30 in the morning, for your platoon sergeant to tell you all had better eat, you know, that tells you that maybe he knew something that we didn't know. And I’m not saying that we should have known, or anything like that. But at least we didn't know. And we were picked up by the helicopters. We went into this rice paddy. I'd say...it was, in terms of the helicopter flight, maybe 20 minutes along, which it couldn't have been that far. We went into this rice paddy, and immediately we began receiving fire. You know, of course, we realized we were getting fire, but as far as we knew we were just to check something out. The second helicopter that went in was shot down. Which sort of complicated the situation, because everybody had to go in now that we had a helicopter along with, oh 10-12 infantry soldiers on the ground, we had to go in. So, the helicopter I was on was maybe the fourth or fifth helicopter and we went in. And just as I was getting out of the doors, I was shot through the leg. Just, it's really a superficial wound through the leg, which of course pitched me out in the mud. Mud in the rice paddies over there was a little bit different from here. The mud, along with the water, maybe two and a half feet deep. So immediately you're out in the water. The door gunners on the choppers were just firing their weapons and trying to provide cover while the machine, while the helicopters came in. We all dumped off into the rice paddy. And, I don't know, possibly it could have been a better situation, but the rice paddy itself was framed on three sides by woods. There was a wood line on three sides of the rice paddy, and they were entrenched in the wood lines on the three sides. We spent the remainder of that day in that rice paddy. It was not until dark that we managed to reach the wood line, which of course provided a little bit of cover for us. The, we were hit with, of course, automatic weapons fire, carbine fire, and they had the rice paddy zeroed in with mortars. Those were, for that particular day, probably the worst thing that we could have faced. The mortars were just something. They were so close to us, in terms of our being in the rice paddy, until you could almost see them shooting them straight up and coming down. It was, like I said, the longest worst day of my life, so far. But basically that's what happened. We finally reached the wood line at dark. And of course there was sporadic combat, mortar, incoming mortars, snipers, and automatic weapons fire throughout that afternoon. Now, understand at that time it's about 11:00 o'clock when it originally began. At the latest it was 11:00-11:15 that morning. We were in the rice paddies, as I just mentioned, well into the next day. But we were in the rice paddy well into the night, when some of us finally made the wood line. We spent the night in the wood line. Course they shelled us all day and into the night. They sniped at us all day and into the night. As to why some of us made it out alive, very few of that company made it out without any injury. More made it out with just minor injuries, or at least were living. The majority of our company was killed in that rice paddy. The thing that I give the credit to for keeping, for my being here today, were the Cobra gunships, the Phantom F4 fighter pilots, and if some of you guys ever view this, some of the guys that view this tape were over there, they'll know who Puff the Magic Dragon was. Between those three entities, I am here today. Were it not for their support, then we would have most certainly been overran. As I said earlier, predominantly we faced Viet Cong. And I don't think their warfare dictated that they rush us. If they had rushed us they would have overran us. But they never did. They were content to shot at us with automatic weapons and mortars and snipers for that day. And because of that, that's why I, at least I attribute that to why I’m here.

Interviewer:  What kind of wounds were you treating out there?

Sasser:  The wounds that were treated, of course, were massive gunshot wounds. Remember we were in a rice paddy. Most of the body is under water or at least in mud or slush, so this left the upper body exposed to the snipers. So they were, of course, the chest wounds, and of course a lot of head, face injuries. A lot of shrapnel type injuries. That may have been the greatest types of wounds we had that day, the shrapnel injuries. They were particularly nasty type injuries too. Very painful with very little we could do about them.

Interviewer:  How did you get from one patient to another if you're out in the open like that, and you're exposed?

Sasser:  Well, I know what the citation says, and...that is the truth. I found there, I was wounded of course, as I said earlier, getting off the helicopter, through the, through my right leg. Which sort of incapacitated me. But I found it was a lot safer, you present much less of profile if you were to just slide along in the water. You know, the rice of course grew in tufts, and you could grab yourself a tuft and it was almost like swimming. You just glide right along the water and the mud, and it was almost like swimming. You could make faster time like that, along with presenting less of a silhouette, or at least let's say exposed area to be hit again, by doing that than by trying to get up and walk. Because of the depth and the nature of the mud and the water.

Interviewer:  Supplies hold up?

Sasser:  Not very long. At the rate that we were going, it was, they just didn't really last that long. Plus we were a backup, and not expected to be engaged in combat. So where if you went out on an actual search and destroy and you had a particular area or job to do within that battalion's responsibility, you might have carried more, more supplies than what I had that day. But I just had the basic shoulder bag that particular day. I didn't have the pack. But I had the basic shoulder bag, with the jungle fatigue stuffed with the bandages that we were using. They didn't hold out that long, not with the area, not with the types of injuries we were receiving. With the length of time that we were there. And complicated by the fact that I was the only medic that survived out of that particular company. Each platoon had a medic, and I was the only one that survived. And I survived a lot longer than a lot of the other guys. So consequently, I ended up treating a lot of the people, regardless of what platoon they were in, as long as, you know, as long as they were with that company, which that was all that was there. I ended up treating, or at least I hope to, treat all of the people in the company that I could get to, until I ran out of supplies.

Interviewer:  What did you do when you ran out of supplies?

Sasser:  Well, from that point on I had no supplies. I had really nothing. The only thing I could offer was, shall we say, mental support, emotional support. Which I thought was part of medics job too.

Interviewer: You said the soldiers called you Doc, and they kind of looked out for you? Tell me about that.

Sasser:  Oh yeah. That's probably the best thing I remember about the whole (inaudible). The thing that pleases me most about my tour over there, was the reverence that was afforded the medics by the infantry soldiers. To them you were Doc. You were the man that if anything went wrong, you were the person that could help them out, possibly save their lives. You had the authority, sometimes on the negative side, you had the authority to determine whether or not this man ought to be sent back to the base camp. Sometimes that was negative, as I said. But, you know, you make do with the best, and with every good there's some bad. But you were Doc to the guys. While you were in base camp, with nothing to do, a medic had absolutely nothing to do. There was one detail that the medics were assigned to, and that was the, I think they call them outhouses, outdoor latrines, officially I think would be what they're called. But the medics job was to oversee the disposal of the human waste materials. You know, of course over there we used a lot of kerosene and a good lighter to dispose of it. But your job was, of course, to oversee it. It was actually done by the infantry soldiers. But again, your job was to oversee it. Other than that, you had no other job, or responsibilities, other than to keep your back and your pack ready, fully packed and ready. We enjoyed the best of the company area. And on the base camps the guys would make sure that Doc got his share of the C rations when it came down, or the hot food when it was flown out. In particular I loved, as most guys did that were over there, I loved the beans and franks. And when a case of C rations were dropped to us, you know, I got first choice out of, I at least got one can of beans and franks. And I sort of appreciated that. In return for that, all the guys asked for were that you look after them when they became injured. I understood that, I like to think, and considered that my job. My job was to look after this man when he was injured. In return for that I received all kinds of adulation and pats on the back, and the best that the company had to, or the platoon had to offer. I really enjoyed that. And I like to think that I returned, or at least did my job. The thing that always worried me, not necessarily worry me, but let's say that I considered, was if I was that infantry soldier...before I say this let me back up and just say that the orders were that if the medic didn't think that he could make it to that person over there that had been injured, then he really did not have to go. It was not the policy, nor was it taught to us here at Fort Sam that we had to, shall we say, endanger our lives excessively. Because, to lose a medic going after one person when there's 30 other guys here was not really equitable. So consequently, we were never told during our training that we had to, emphatically, go see about someone injured. I think friendship, common decency, repayment of the previous favors that I mentioned, and whether or not you want to call them favors or anything, call it adulation. Repayment of the adulation these guys heaped on you demanded that you go. There's no way that, in my mind and opinion, that a person could soak up all of the benefits and not return anything to these guys. You live right there with them, day in day out. It wasn't like you came over from the headquarters, the headquarters when they got ready to go on the missions. You lived and stayed with them there. So, along with all of the adulation you also built up companionship, you built up friendship. There's no way that I could have, in my mind, not went to see about someone when they hollered medic, or when they called Doc. There is no way in my right mind that I can justify not going, or at least attempting to go see about this person.

Interviewer:  You went after them all?

Sasser:  Everyone that I could. Regardless of whether or not I had medical supplies or not, regardless of whether or not I was hurt. If he called, and I possibly could, I went.

Interviewer:  You have any advice for the medics training down here at Fort Sam today? Anything you'd like to say to them?

Sasser:  Yes. I would like to say that the guys that are being trained as combat medics now, and particular situations, you will be looked at as I’ve just spoken of, as I was, and as I’ve just talked about. I think that in those situations it would behoove you to do your best to look after your people, because it does pay back. I'm not saying the object is to return, to receive. But what goes around comes back around, as the old saying goes. I think it would behoove you to learn the most that you can, and when you are there, to conscientiously apply it. It does pay off. It pays off then, and it pays off afterwards. Although I’m no longer in the military service now, I work for the Veterans Administration. I review many files every week, and that training I received back then helps me to review and analyze these files and formulate some opinion regarding whatever the problem is. Predominantly we're talking about claims for disability. This training has helped me tremendously. It has also carried over and helped me in my private life. I have a couple of kids, and you always need to know what you need to do in case there's a cut, even if it's severe. It helps to know about butterfly bandages, you know. Maybe get out a couple three or four stitches (inaudible) if you're out there on the economy, it really helps. It helps to know what to do with that bad case of indigestion. It pays for itself. It more than, maybe in some of the other people's estimation pays for itself than myself, because I use it to evaluate these files. Without having to have had prior medical training, and terms, and definitions, and things like that. It has really paid off for me. I have no, I have no objections about having to go back on active duty again. If it was necessary I would at any point go back on active duty again. I have a couple of sons, and I thoroughly hope and intend and hope that I have tried to raise them to the point of where they will consider military service a part of their educational advancement. And put the time in.

Interviewer:  Thank you. I think that's good.

Sasser:  Well, ask some more questions. I'm just kind of rolling.

Interviewer:  You're on a roll, good. You received injuries other than just the gunshot wound in the leg that you got when you were first getting out of the chopper in the landing zone, didn't you Mr. Sasser?

Sasser:  Yes sir. Yes sir, Major. I was, oh I was sprayed all over the back and the left side with shrapnel. That's a very interesting story there in itself. Which I’ll tell that first before I tell what I thought was probably the most serious problem that came about. As to the shrapnel injuries, as I said earlier, we were within meters, I mean 100 meters, somewhere in that range, of the wood line, and you couldn't...as the sun started to wane that day, you could sort of see the people dropping them in the tubes and everything. You could hear them. They were landing all around. I, maybe I’m being a little bit facetious, but I sort of thought they saw me in the activity that I was engaged in. Of course medics were a premium over there, as far as the enemy were concerned. But I was pulling myself along, just gliding on top of the mud in the water. It actuality, that part was a little bit of fun, and funny once you stopped to think about it. Because it was, in my opinion, so much quicker. You could just reach along there and there was no way you could make the time covered, the distance that you would cover in that amount of time, just by trying to walk. Above and beyond the danger you were exposing yourself to. But anyway, I was pulling myself along by the grass, and I heard the sound that all, shall we say, combat veterans are aware of that indicates incoming rounds. Incoming mail as we used to call it. And I heard it and I knew that it was coming right for where I was. So I started pulling real fast and everything, and real fast. And I was almost to the point where two dikes crossed. Maybe I was using my head, I like to think so. But I hurried and got to that spot and in terms of distance we're talking very short distances, maybe 25-30 feet at the longest. Maybe a little bit less than that. So I got to the cross of the dikes, and I said well I’m going to slip over on the other side of the dikes, and have a little bit of cover right here where the dikes cross. Just face up in one of those corners, and it would at least give me protection for one side of my body. So just about the time I got up on top of it, and was about to flip over, three rounds landed and they couldn't have been more than five or six feet. Maybe eight feet at the most from where I was. Those sprayed all in my back and my left side with shrapnel. Which of course, as I mentioned earlier, may be one of the most painful, just single injuries that a person can receive, short of a gunshot wound to a vital organ or something like that. These were extremely painful because of the heat that was associated with the broken metal. So I laid there awhile, and finally everything became, began to come back to light. In other words, the aching and the dull ache was just something. That's how I got sprayed with the shrapnel. But what I think probably was the most serious injury I received was this knot here was caused by a ricochet off of my head, the bullet. It puts a new light on what my mother used to say about being hardheaded. Of course by then I had lost my hard hat. It was more of a hassle, really it was more of a hassle than anything. It was heavy and in the mud and the water it of course trapped that. It was more of a hassle, if you discount the protection it provided. And maybe even if you even considered the protection it provided. But at any rate, I had lost my hard hat. So I had nothing on my head. And regardless to where it hit me, it might have been the best thing I lost it. Because for certain it would have, because of the position I was in when it hit, it would have went under the hard had, and there's no telling what kind of damage it would have done under the hard hat, had it went under the hard hat. Most certainly it would have ricocheted around inside of it, and maybe cause some more damage there. But when it hit me, I had been, I had been wounded of course, the gunshot wound in the leg, and the shrapnel all in the back and the shoulder and the left side, and the left leg. And I had been, at this point, the day's waning down to late afternoon. And the noises that have been accompanying this whole incident all day, ceased suddenly. I guess being inquisitive and everything, I was, at that point I was laying beside a friend. And we had of course been holding a conversation most of the day, and sharing cigarettes and things like that. So, I raised up my head to see what was wrong. Now remember we're laying, we're laying horizontal, more on my side with my head on the rice field, rice paddy dike, sort of like a pillow. So when it stopped I raised my head to see what was going on, and at that time I heard, I heard the report from the rifle. And I felt it and I just knew I was dead. I remember grabbing my head and just falling out, or at least just laying out. It had severely stunned me with a concussion. I just knew I was dead. I don't know how long I laid there. After awhile, it was most certainly longer than 15-20 minutes, something like that. I began to become aware of different sounds, the sounds that I had mentioned earlier that were associated with this type of combat. And it gradually came to me that someone was shaking me, and that I was hearing these sounds, and that if I was hearing these sounds then I couldn't be dead. I sort of equated to what you see on TV, oh Lord, I’m dead, and that's it. But thank goodness I wasn't. It really scared me. That, I thought, was potentially the worst injury that I had. Most of the others were fairly superficial. Looked very little artery damage. No nerve damage. I was, of course, a very young, strong, healthy, country boy, and I healed very quickly. So, I recovered. It took me quite a while because of the artery damage to the leg, and the reduced blood supply. There was some thought that possibly I would never walk again. But you know, hey. We were laying, ironic, ironic as it may be, some of the thoughts that cross your mind at that point in time are something. I remember, after dark we had finally made it to the wood line. Within the wood line there was a, like, okay, irrigation ditch. And by now it's starting to cool off. So we got in the water and the water was warm. And we of course laid in the water, in place, smoked cigarettes. There must have been seven or eight of us, most of us wounded there. And of course we were talking, I remember the, possibly asinine thought crossing my mind, of maybe I’m out of here now. Because of the injuries I knew that I wasn't really injured, it wasn't a matter of life and death with the injuries that I had received. And that with a little time, medical care, recuperation, I would be just as, almost as good as new. To reiterate on the question you asked me earlier about what I attribute to survival, to my surviving. It was, again, the Phantom jets, the F14's, the Cobra gunships, and Puff the Magic Dragon. For the guys that have been over there, that know who Puff the Magic Dragon is, they'll understand what the effect that Puff had. If I remember correctly, Puff was a single engine mono plane, I guess, one wing plane, that had twin 20 calibers mounted. And it had such a fantastic rate of fire. I mean something like in the neighborhood of five or six hundred rounds per minute. It was just fantastic the amount of firepower they could put out. We had watched it many a night, and I laid there that night and watched him from the wood line. That he, when they started shooting, all you could see of course was the red line which was the tracers. And in between the tracers there were four other rounds, so it looked almost like a red line. The Phantoms were dropping napalm, or high explosive type ordinance. And without those guys I know there wouldn't have been anyone that came out of that afternoon's engagement. They would come down to tree top level and you would almost think they were going to get caught up in the explosion after he dropped the bombs. They were really some daring guys. And to this day I thank them, because we needed it. The Cobra gunships were flying, shall we say, shifts of two each. And they'd go back to refuel and two more would take their place, and they just ran the air cover for us to get us out of there. We were finally medevaced out by the medevac helicopters, beginning at about 4:30 that morning. And of course when they came in they got the most seriously injured first. And like I said earlier, I wasn't really that seriously injured in terms of life and death. So I was one of the last ones out of there.

Interviewer:  Did you make the determination who went when?

Sasser:  No. When the medevac came in it had a nurse and a doctor on it, and when they came in that was officially the end of my day, other than medical treatment. The thing that, one of the worst things I remember about that day, was spending that night, spending that night there and listening to the guys call for their mothers, their daddies, somebody help me, I’m dying, please help me. That's probably the worst thing that I remember about the whole day. As to, it's something to hear a big strapping healthy young man, that in any other instances would never beg for anything, beg for help. You'd have to be awfully cold hearted not to at least try to help them, or at least to do whatever you can. Even if it's nothing but holding and patting him on his hand. One of, the most comical incidents that occurred that day...excuse me, that still bothers me some times. But one of the most comical incidents that occurred that day was after dragging myself, oh I don't know how far through the mud by these tufts of rice, I got to a guy that I knew that was in my, you know, platoon. And he was screaming bloody murder. I thought he was dying or something. He was screaming bloody murder. Now this is a big old strapping guy. I mean 5'10", 5'11", 210 pounds, a big strapping guy. Just screaming his head off. When I got there a piece of shrapnel had nicked the skin off of his ring finger there, and he was just paralyzed by the blood. I guess, in the finest tradition of a combat medic, I pulled a Band-Aid out, put a Band-aid on him, picked up his weapon...he was a grenade launcher, a M79 grenade launcher type person. I picked up his weapon, put me a round in it, and got me a shot off and gave it to him and told him to shoot it, to fire your weapon then, we got to get out of this rice. And if you don't do something, hey we're all going to die here. He looked at me, shook his head, and he went back to work. But that, to me, was one of the most comical things that happened in a very poor day. There were some others, but they were more of the gruesome terribly injured variety, that we'd really not profit by here. I was, and I am to this day, particularly proud that my medal, of course I’m naturally proud to have won the Medal of Honor, so it puts you up there with guys that I read about. Guys that I used to read about on the back of a Walt Disney comic book. They used to publish the pictures and the official photograph and the citation on the back of the Walt Disney comic book over there. Guys that to be, it's something to be in the same group, or associated and talked about, in the same breath as some of the most legendary military heroes. Army, Navy, Air Force, whatever, Coast Guard, or whatever. It's just something to me. I've gotten to know some of the more notorious ones. Probably the first one that jumps to memory, Patrick Boyington of the Marine Corps, the Black Sheep of the Marine Corps. One of the most, oh, how do you say, reverent guys that's in, that received the Medal of Honor, Admiral Stockdale of the Navy, that was the submarine commander that destroyed ships in Tokyo harbor in 1943. To me that's something.

Interviewer:  You said you were particularly proud.

Sasser:  I am particularly proud that my medal was for saving lives, rather than destroying lives. That's not to say anything against the guys that were combat soldiers, or whatever, that killed people, and of course received the medal. I do not mean to insult or belittle their accomplishment. Of course, in war, war is just what it says, someone has to die and so on. And of course if someone dies someone has to kill them. I don't begrudge anything like that. I have no compunctions whatsoever about that. It's just that I’m particularly proud that mine was for being a medic, and was for saving lives, rather than taking lives. It's a source of pleasure with me to have received it for that.