I just finished reading a book “Through the Eyes of a Tiger, An Army Flight Surgeon’s Vietnam Journal” written by Laguna Beach’s own Jim Hall. Heck, I have never addressed Jim as Doctor.
The book is a captivating story of a brand new medical doctor sent to Vietnam for a year 1962-63. This is early in the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War, however, there is plenty of fighting and injuries to attend to. Captain Jay Hoyland (pen name for Laguna Beach’s own Jim Hall) is not assigned to a hospital where he can confer and learn from other more experienced doctors, but he is assigned to a base being the only doctor south of Saigon in the Mekong Delta.. As the commanding officer of the lab at the Soc Trang airfield, he has to care for the military at the base including the helicopter pilots who become his best buddies. In addition, he provides the Vietnamese town medical care, inspecting restaurants and the house of prostitution, and assisting the leprosarium and the nuns at the local orphanage.
What a busy year, learning as he tends to the medical needs, from stitching up soldiers getting too close to the base’s mascot Taffy the tiger to putting helicopter buddies and a subordinate into body bags, and at the same time, being the chief fundraiser for projects like the officers’ club expansion, a washing machine for the orphanage and more.
I did not have any particular interest in learning about 1962 Vietnam or the adventures of a brand new Army flight surgeon, but what a most remarkable story. That story is written so each page reveals interesting and exciting details with the author sharing his emotions as the ups and downs warrant. Also, the personal narrative is intertwined with official Vietnam progress communiqués which are quite illuminating and particularly so since by the end of 1963 a US acquiesced coup involves the killing of South Vietnam’s President Diem.
I have always known Jim Hall to be a complete gentleman, and now know much more about him and his early accomplishments. A fun and enthralling read.