Untold Story

UNTOLD STORY section - vnafmamn.com


      Vietnam War has been participated not only by a great numbers of warriors, but also countless Angels of mercy. It produced some "the quiet Americans" and "the ugly Americans" who finally sent the poor people of Vietnam to hell on April 30th, 1975; but on the other hands it also introduced a lot of good, true American who relentlessly tried to "Deliver us from Evil." Unfortunately, the good Americans' efforts have been buried under tons of biased reports and bungled news stories written by unscrupulous journalists throughout the Vietnam War. And with passing time, those inspired stories have been fallen quietly into oblivion.

But today, you will know at least one good guy, a folk American hero, an angel of mercy, a Saint, or merely a good soldier of Vietnam War: Lt. Tom Dooley.

Dr.Tom Dooley

Dr. America: Thomas Anthony Dooley

       Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in the heart of America. Early studies were made in St. Louis University School of Medicine in 1953. for his internship he rejoined the navy and was assigned to the Navy Hospital at Camp Pendleton, California. In May, 1954 he was assigned as a Medical Officer aboard the U.S.S. Montague and worked in the evacuation of Haiphong. There he witnessed the suffering of more than 600,000 refugees from North to South Vietnam. Shocked by the inadequate medical care in the small country of Laos, he decided to return there after his release from the Navy to set up small clinics and hospitals. With the aid of doctors, nurses, medical assistants and other interested persons he was able to alleviate the sufferings of countless people in Southeast Asia.

Stricken with malignant melanoma he continued to carry on his medical mission of mercy almost to his death on January 18, 1961 in New York City.

Men and women of all faiths have followed his dedicated example to humanity by offering their services in various areas of spiritual and material needs.

The heroic and virtuous example of this young doctor, his services to mankind, and more especially acceptance of suffering, sickness and death have served as a great inspiration to many.



Listen to the agony of mankind

I who am fed, who never yet went hungry for a day,
I see the dead, the children starved for lack of bread.
I see and try to pray.

Listen to the agony of mankind
I who am warm, who never yet have lacked a sheltering home,
In dull alarm, the dispossessed of hut and farm
Aimless and transient roam.

Listen to the agony of mankind
I who am strong, with health and love and laughter in my soul,
I see a throng of stunted children reared in wrong
And wish to make them whole.

Listen to the agony of mankind
And know full well that not until I share their bitter cry,
Their pain and hell, can God within my spirit dwell
And bring America's blessing nigh.

•Dr. Tom Dooley

Gunner & kid

The Unforgettable Aussie

To Australia and her Vietnam Veterans with love and gratitude...

There are memories in my childhood
Sorrowful, indelible...
My fellow villagers lied dead on the road
When the fresh sun ray shined on the hamlet
One had his throat cut open
The Viet Cong left him there in the darkness of last night
He was accused of being an American sympathizer,
A written note pinned on his cold, bloody body
Signed by the "Communist Committee"
Chills were running down on the passerby's spine
One day my home was bombed
When the VC flew their flag from the roof
Nothing was left
We became refugees, fleeing to Qui Nhon
Life was hard..

The war was rumbling eerily
Life pretended to be oblivious to its treacherous happenings
Many times my younger sister got sick
She was 2 years old
I carried her to Holy Family Hospital
I was only in sixth grade
Mom wasn't home, Dad was not around
The white-skinned Doctor was so gentle
His warmhearted touch was felt
In the heart of a child
The nurses called him Bac Si Uc, an Aussie Doctor
His smile was broad
His loving gaze seemed to extend to a space faraway
His fellow Aussies were fighting the Viet Cong
Some place where the sound of the gunfire echoed...

April 1975 came and departed
But the sorrows stay
Thirty years later
I am writing this poem from the land of the free,
Embracing the sacrifice of an Aussie...

Linh Duy Vo
The boy in the poem April 15, 2005©


      Dr. Tom Dooley, a man who lived the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy and who had his share of controversies as politicians, lobbyists, rebellious reactionaries, and military spinmeisters tried to downplay his contributions and blame him for the Vietnam War and a whole slew of sins in covering up their own mistakes. He died prematurely of cancer at the age of 34 in a New York City hospital, a half world away from where his heart truly was - southeast Asia and the people who he cared for and in return who loved and venerated him.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 17, 1927, he was brought up as a cradle Catholic, attending Catholic grade school in his parish, then High School before being accepted at Notre Dame where he delved into a career in medicine. Still young and caught up in the "now," without realizing his true vocation in life, he resented the strict discipline of the Holy Cross Fathers as he admitted in a letter to Notre Dame President Father Theodore Hesburgh on December 2, 1960 from Hong Kong six weeks before he would die after being flown from there to New York: "Notre Dame is twice on my mind...and always in my heart. That Grotto is the rock to which my life is anchored. Do the students ever appreciate what they have, while they have it? I know I never did. Spent most of my time being angry at the clergy at school...10 p.m. bed check, absurd for a 19 year-old veteran, etc., etc., etc." But he was no longer bitter for the fourteen years since he was a freshman in South Bend transformed him from a resentful, rebellious teen to an introspective saint to many. Because of his lack of commitment in his teens his grades suffered at Notre Dame and he left the University. He returned home, enrolling in another Catholic institution whose requirements were not as strict as the former - St. Louis University's School of Medicine. Though he struggled in keeping his grade level above water, he did graduate in 1950 and, rather than going into private practice, entered the United States Navy and was sent to Indochina as a Navy doctor. During this time, as a young lieutenant, he spearheaded a Navy operative called "Operation Freedom," helping to evacuate nearly a half million people from North Vietnam to South Vietnam in 1954-55 after the French had abandoned their presence there.

Some detractors hint that Dr. Dooley was merely a CIA plant scouting the area for the military, but no proof has ever been provided for this claim. Had that been true, it is highly credible that Dooley would have remained in the service and risen through the ranks. Yet, they still blame Dooley for initiating America's involvement in Southeast Asia and the ultimate, tragic Vietnam War. Again, these statements hold no credibility. The same with slanderous statements that he was homosexual. They base this on wild rumors of his sympathy for those who were gay, the fact he never married, and his successful recruiting of young men at Notre Dame to serve as doctors. Again, these are slanderous statements with no credibility, only more persecution to slur Catholics and the man, perpetuating the ridiculous myth that if one doesn't marry, they must be gay; sinisterly implying that priests as well were gay and there was a vast homosexual network within the Catholic clergy in America. It was merely more Catholic-bashing by many in the secular media who were unabashedly anti-Catholic, a trend that began with Nast in the 19th Century and continues to our present day. The truth is Dr. Dooley never married for he did not have the time. He was married to his vocation in life. Though not a priest, nevertheless he lived a celibate life and held his faith dear to him. Yes, he was sympathetic to gays, but he was sympathetic to everyone. Rank had no privileges with Dr. Dooley. Like Mother Teresa he saw in each person Jesus Christ and used his God-given talents of healing and reaching people in his mild, bedside manner to heal both body and soul.

Though he had charm, talent, came from a well-to-do family, and enjoyed social position to become a "society doctor," he chose to practice medicine in the poorest of the poor countries and when he was discharged from the Navy, rather than returning home to reap the spoils of his profession, he opted to remain with the people of Laos. He founded MEDICO, recruiting young dedicated doctors and medical personnel from the states to give a few years of their lives to others. He worked closely with the missionaries in that region, especially the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who had been a motivating force in evangelizing that area of Southeast Asia. This editor can remember Dr. Dooley personally speaking to our class at the Oblate Seminary in Carthage, Missouri in 1958 during one of his states tours, entreating all of us to be dedicated in our lives, to give all to God and see Christ in every person, regardless of race or color, man, woman or child - to treat them all as we would if it were Jesus in person. That struck quite a chord with all of us. It also struck a chord with a man who would go on to become President of the United States the same year Dooley died, John F. Kennedy who, many believe, established the Peace Corps due to the efforts inspired by Dr. Dooley, publicized greatly through his best seller "Deliver us from Evil."

When criticized for practicing 19th century medicine, his reply was that prior to his efforts, the people he served were practicing 15th century medicine. When asked by a fellow doctor "What do you get out out of it?" he answered, "I get lenty. All of us have the same quiet, inner joy that you have when you see your patient's eyes light up just a little bit because of you. But take that patient and put him in a hospital, in a high mountain valley, half a world away, where without you he has black magic or sorcery: you heal him and glow inside of you is a wonderful thing, a thing full of wonder." He felt this way until his death and we gain a greater insight into the man and his empathy for others in his letter to Fr. Hesburgh when he wrote, "It has become pretty definite that the cancer has spread to the lumbar vertebrae, accounting for all of the back problems over the last two months. I have monstrous phantoms...as all men do. But I try to exorcise them with all the fury of the middle ages. And inside and outside the wind blows. But when the time comes, like now, then the storm around me does not matter. The winds within do not matter. Nothing human or earthly can touch me. A wilder storm of peace gathers in my heart. What seems unpossessable I can possess. What seems unfathomable, I fathom. What is unutterable, I utter. Because I can pray. I can communicate. How do people endure anything on earth if they cannot have God?"

He established seventeen medical programs in fourteen countries and always stressed throughout his very brief career that his efforts were to be financed by private entities, that his was a job that needed to be done by individuals, not governments (further proof he was not a CIA plant in the Navy). He also insisted that his was a medical effort, not a religious effort. But it was his religion that spurred him on even on his death bed and no doubt converted countless patients he served over the years as a loyal servant of God.

He finally received his degree from Notre Dame on June 5, 1960 when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Fr. Hesburgh. In attendance to honor him was the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Giovanni Baptiste Montini who three years later would become Pope Paul VI. Seven months later, on January 18, 1961, shortly after receiving the last rites, Dr. Dooley died of cancer, a hero to many of his peers. In his last days, he received a letter addressed "Dr. Tom Dooley, Saint." Although he scoffed at this, many of the young people of his generation made a hero of him and, we suspect, many a young man considered a career in medicine hoping to perpetuate his legacy and emulate the virtues exhibited by this "Jungle Doctor" who accepted his own suffering, but could not accept the suffering of others without doing something about it in the manner Christ taught. Truly he was a man who lived the Works of Mercy and God took Him Home, mercifully shortening his own suffering from the devastating cancer that cut short a life of dedication to others.

ByTracy Dowling


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