December 2023
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Slide Show: Memories of American Community School as 3rd Field Hospital 1965-1966

This is the third of the three part series of slide shows contributed by Pastor Tom Johnson who was assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital (formerly American Community School) as a Chaplin’s Assistant and Medic from late 1965 to early 1966.

In this slide show you’ll see the old school buildings during the final stages of conversion to the Third Field Hospital.

You’ll find that some of the pictures will give you a *reality check* of the price some of our military personnel paid while serving in Viet-nam.

You’ll also see many pictures of dignitaries and celebraties who visited the hospital to cheer up and comfort the patients and staff, such as, American, Australian and Korean Chaplins, Henry Cabot Lodge, General Westmoreland, Vice President Humbert Humphrey, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Anita Bryant, Joey Heatherton, Kaye Stevens, Carrol Baker, Jerry Colonna, Danny Kaye, Johnny Unitas, Miss Viet-nam, and several Missionaries.

One picture is of the Memorial Service for Lt. Carol Drazba and Lt. Elizabeth Jones, nurses from the 3rd Field Hospital, who were killed in a helichopter crash near Saigon. They were the first American nurses to be killed in the Viet-nam War.

There are several pictures of Chaplin Hanley. Tom is still trying to locate Chaplin Hanley. If you have any information which might help locate him and or his family, please leave it in the comments section below. Any assistance you can provide will be very much appreciated.

[ Note: I’m sure you Saigon Kids who were there during the *Water Tower* incident will enjoy seeing a few shots of *The Water Tower* in these pictures. I can’t make out if those infamous words “The Eyes Of Novick Are Upon You” were still visible on the water tower or not – LOL. ]

3rd Field Hospital: 1965 – 1966

Click Here to view the changes and what our old school looked like while serving as The 3rd Field Hospital.

[ Note: You can slow down the slide show by clicking on the * + * Icon located on the tool bar at the bottom of the screen. This will increase the *seconds* between slides to a comfortable viewing speed for you. ]

Tom, thank you again for sharing your pictures with us. I’m sure I speak for all Saigon Kids in saying we really, really appreciate your kindness of sharing them with us and the memories they bring back for each of us.


PS: At some point in the future I’ll put up a Post about how the school was converted to the hospital in *record time*. It is quite a story of how *the biggest crook and criminal* in Southeast Asia at the time was contracted with by the U.S. Embassy, U.S. military services, and CIA to *take care of the details* of accomplishing the conversion. He was the only person who had the connections, contacts and influence through out Asia and the Pacific Basin to make the conversion happen by whatever methods necessary, legal or illegal. It has been estimated the conversion would have taken 2 to 3 years through *proper* channels – he completed it in just under 6 months.

22 comments to Slide Show: Memories of American Community School as 3rd Field Hospital 1965-1966

  • Mike McNally

    Tom, fantastic pix. And, Bob, I look forward to reading about how the school became a hospital with help from a shady character…Mike

    [ Mike … I’ve not forgotten your plane pix. Will be putting a Post up about it within the week.

    LOL @ shady character … lets face it one had to be shady (by American standards, anyway) to be successful in business in Asia – no courts, no laws that were enforced (if you had enough money to pay the right people, anyway) – lol – wits and wits alone was the name of the game … LOL – Bob ]

    • stevie westmoreland

      Wow, those are powerful photos of our school of fun and flirtation…not much education for me…transformed into hallowed grounds of healing for some ,suffering and death for others. My Papa Westmoreland in the pics is years younger than I am now. I returned from my pilgrimage back to VN in May 2009 with American Vets…the trip was very healing for me and my family. I was welcomed with the words “that was then and here is now”….Buddhist thought and actions are still very much alive in VN. I wish all of you all the God’s peace and grace, Stevie Westmoreland 1964 -1965 Saigon
      And hello Mike McNally

      [ Stevie … Amazing how now days our parents seem soooo young when they were in Viet-nam, yet when we were in Saigon they seemed so, so *OLD* – LOL – 🙂

      By the way, I’ve been in contact with the Vets organization you returned to Viet-nam with in 2009. We’ll be putting an informational Post on the site about the organization and a link to there website, shorty. It’s a great organization with no hidden agenda – just helping folks to heal in their own way and time, etc.

      Not hard to tell you’re from the South … where else do they say *all of you all* – 🙂

      You and I might possibly be related – my ancestors on my grandmother’s side of the family were some of the original colonist who settled Westmoreland County, Virginia – had large plantations there during the earliest colonial days of America.

      Bob ]

  • Suellen Oliver Campbell

    Tom, those were amazing shots and I appreciate you sharing them with us. I could not imagine how our old school(9th and 10th grade for me) was transformed, but your pictures are so informative and also heartwrenching.
    I could not help but wonder where many of those men are today and what lives they have led since. God Bless them.
    I thanked God that my husband returned unhurt after a year with Silver and a Bronze Stars and has had a wonderful life, but were those wounded fellows as fortunate when they returned home?
    Thank you for these poignant reminders of the tragedy of war, the incredible dedication of soldiers and medical personnel and for sharing the pictures “to prove you were there.”
    Suellen 1958-60 SK.

    [ S’ellen … I see you also noticed that Tom is not camera shy!! – LOL – 🙂 – Bob ]

    • Thomas Johnson

      Thanks for the comments. I have been surprised how many Saigon Kids have seen the pictures and commented on them. The school buildings were perfect as a hospital. Most of the enlisted men slept in the former gym. Yes, I did have to throw in a couple of pictures just to “prove that I was there.”

      [Tom – an interesting bit of information about the gym/cafeteria building is that the students never got to use it. It was scheduled to open a week or two after the evacuation of dependents in February 1965. So the hospital staff were the first to use the gym/cafeteria building. – Bob]

  • Harold

    Thanks for sharing these photos.

  • Robert Gammie

    I recognize Thomas also Capt Labbe who was the head nurse for the ward where I worked. Also recognized several of my fellow medics.


  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    Thanks Tom for the great photos. Unfortunately, some of them are poignant reminders of the horrors of war.

    What we can be thankful for is that with each war, our doctors, nurses and researchers learn more and with each new (damn) war the survival rate if for the wounded GIs is much better. While some of the returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering some terrible wounds, the majority are getting better treatment at the first and second stages of medical aid and thus, are able to survive their wounds.

    We can never do enough for the young men and women in uniform who are serving the country. But it seems today the problem is the internal wounds to the brain that are not getting the attention deserved. Too many commanders still will not recognize PTSD and are denying the solders treatment and Purple Hearts.

    • Thomas Johnson

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them. Yes, the hospital did a wonderful work with the wounded soldiers. I agree PTSD was not recognized after Viet Nam. Thank God it is today and is being dealt with. I am of the conviction that no one came home from Viet Nam exactly the same. I thought I did, but found out 40 years later that I was carrying alot of “junk” from working at the hospital that had to be dealt with. Wish I had been able to recognize it and deal with it 40 years earlier.

  • Elizabeth Warner Respess

    Tom, your photo essay is wonderful. Thank you for preserving the good, bad, and ugly of it all. Truth is in the details, and your photos of the stretchers speak volumes.

  • Sarah J Rogers

    Wonderful photos. It is so poignant to think that we, as students of ACS, were up and down those hallways with joy and laughter and later, the soldiers were up and down with pain and death.
    However, the hospital looked much better than the school ever did. Was there a gate in front of the school? I don’t remember. Fun to see the infamous water tower…how well I remember.

    • Thomas Johnson

      Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for the comments about the pictures from the 3rd Field Hospital. I never thought about the hallways being filled with joy and laughter when the school was there and then filled with pain and death when it became a hospital. Wow, that is a powerful comparison.
      Yes, there was a gate in front of the school. Also, as you faced the front of the hospital, there was a gate to the right that was the ambulance entrance. When we arrived in late 1965 there was no protection at the front gate. When I left in 1966, the MP’s were there and there were sandbag defenses at the gate.
      I keep reading about “infamous water tower.” Can you tell me in public what that was all about?

      [Tom – Back during the 1960/61 school year the Principal (and a teacher) of the school was a Mrs. Novick. Out of necessity she watched us like a hawk – lol – as we conducted our mischievous deeds around the school. She was everywhere. She always had her *eyes* upon us. This led to a saying amongst the students, “The Eyes of Novick Are Upon You!” Teenage boys being, well, teenage boys … and the mischievous pranksters they are … well … lets just say mysterious graphics magically appeared on the school *water tank* one dark night – LOL – 🙂

      Only those who performed the act and a couple of others ever knew who did it – BUT – *everyone* knew about it! – LOL – and, nobody to this day has ever fessed up to doing *the deed* – LOL.

      CLICK HERE to read the most creditable account to date of *The Water Tower* prank – 🙂 – Bob]

  • Joe Masterson

    The caption “decorated American Major” is a photo of my father (then major) Col. (ret.) J.H. Masterson. At the time of the photo he was the CO of the 197th Armed Helicopter Company (call sign “Saber 6”).

    His comment on the photo that he sent me:

    I couldn’t figure out why I was in Khaki’s in the picture. The reason was I was attending the memorial for the nurses that were killed. All of the 3rd Field nurses lived in the 197th compound (my gunship unit) adjacent to the hospital. The nurses along with two doctors, my Bn Cmdr,Col. Honour & Cpt. Smith were killed in a helicopter from my unit on loan to battalion. None of my pilots were on board.

    • Thomas Johnson

      Hello Joe,
      Thanks so much for identifying the picture of your father. I remember being drawn to him to take his picture because he looked like a person in command yet he did not look or act arrogant like some officers did. Small world.
      The information from your father was extremely helpful. I knew more will killed in the helicopter crash but never knew who they were.

  • Bill Paschal

    Thanks Tom, brings back memories. Bill Paschal, 3rd Field Hospital 67-68

  • John G. McAnlis

    I was a surgeon at 3FH, June 1966-June 1967. Some of the personnel in your photos were at #FH when I arrived in June 1966. I even saw Miss Tu in one of your pictures.
    I do not recall who our Chaplin was. It might have been Fred Hanley. I hope that you are able to find him.

    My wife and I returned to Saigon as tourists in April 2003. The 3FH compound is totally recognizable with few changes. I would be happy to share my slides, many compared to my slides of 1966-67.

    I am pleased to see the early photos of the hospital. Is there a web site to show Parts 1 and 2 of your series.

    Thanks, John G. McAnlis,
    Wadsworth, Ohio
    mcanlisjon [@]

    [ John – Welcome to our blog. Parts 1 and 2 are located here: Part 1Part 2 … Bob ]

  • stevie westmoreland

    Hi Bob, i just returned from SC and learned more history of my Westmoreland family…yes, they did come from Virginia and yes, we are now officially related! Thanks for doing such an amazing job of keeping us all connected. Blessings, Stevie

    [Howdy cousin Stevie … small world isn’t it!?! – Bob 🙂 ]

  • Tom Johnson

    I wanted everyone to know that in my quest to find Chaplain Hanley of the 3rd Field Hospital, I was able to make contact with Chaplain Hanley’s widow who lives in Ohio. We had a long and wonderful conversation on the telephone. She said her husband, who became a major, continued on at the 3rd Field Hospital for the remainder of his tour. He often flew to the Mekong Delta to visit other chaplains. It was there he contacted Agent Orange which took his life. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

  • Duane Thompson

    Tom, I found your wonderful online slide show with images of the 3rd Field Hospital in Vietnam from 1965-66. Some of the people that served at the hospital would like to hold a reunion this year and I would like to set up a web site for them and, with your permission, create a link to that slide show.

    I was with the 629th Renal Detachment stationed at the 3rd Field Hospital in 1970.

    Duane Thompson
    Centennial, CO
    (303) 459-4060, or click here:

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