When I Arrived in Hue in May 1970 I was billeted at the MAC/V Doezema compound. This was two years after the infamous battle for Hue in the Tet offensive of 1968. Hue City still showed signs of this epic battle. Many of the buildings were pock market with bullet and shell fire; other building were simply destroyed. Military units were still discovering mass graves of S. Vietnamese military, government officials, and civilians executed by the National Liberation Front. The imperial Citadel, which took the brunt of the fighting, was under repair but very much destroyed. I heard the stories of how the Doezema compound was one of two military facilities never captured by the communist. How the army and marines put snipers in the towers in the compound to kill the enemy but also shot the dogs who were eating the dead bodies still lying in the streets.
But who was Doezema? I was never told and maybe I never asked. I found out about him reading the excellent account of the Hue battle in 1968 written by Mark Bowden (Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam; Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-8021-2700-6).
Specialist 4th Class Frank Doezema was an army radio operator stationed in the MAC/V compound in Hue. He was only two weeks from leaving Vietnam when the attack occurred. A former fellow adviser writes; “Frank was one of the bravest of the brave. He didn’t have to be where he was when the NVA struck the MACV compound. He was just completing a tour in the Thua Thien Tactical Operations Center and should have been safe in his quarters. Instead, he discovered an unmanned guard tower and from that location, he engaged the attackers head on with nothing more than his personal weapon. It was largely due to his heroism that the compound was never penetrated by the enemy, but I doubt that anyone will ever know the real extent of his involvement in the defense of his buddies. I for one will never forget him.”
And Sp4 James M. Mueller wrote; “As Doezema was firing at the NVA, an explosion blew off the lower part of his legs. His place at the machine gun was taken by another soldier, and Doezema was taken to the MACV dispensary. A medevac chopper was called in to evacuate him to Phu Bai, but the enemy snipers prevented the Huey from landing. I learned later that Doezema bled to death.”
Sp5 Frank Doezema died on January 31, 1968, he was 20 years old. He received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously on April 1, 1968. The citation (General Orders Number 1469) reads in part; “The insurgents unleashed an intense barrage of rocket, mortar and automatic weapons fire on the installation during the early morning hours, Specialist Doezema raced to his assigned defensive post, a twenty-foot wooden tower, and sprayed the assaulting enemy with deadly accurate machine gun fire. Heedless of the hostile fusillade directed at his exposed position, he directed his comrades’ fire from the vantage point. A rocket exploded on the tower roof, and Specialist Doezema was seriously wounded by flying shrapnel. He determinedly remained at his post and continued firing at insurgents who were advancing in defilade behind a cement wall on the far side of the street. While shouting words of encouragement to his fellow soldiers and directing their fire, Specialist Doezema was mortally wounded by the explosion of a second enemy rocket. His fearless and gallant actions in close combat accounted for at least eighteen enemy killed and were responsible for the successful defense of the com-pound”. Specialist Four Doezema’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.