Oscar Performance in Ethiopia

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By Richard H. Dick James

57 years ago, 11 May 1964, I was the Demolition Specialist on Team A-6, Company A, 6th Special Forces Group (Airborne). My A-team was one of four on an assigned six-month mission to Ethiopia, during their border war with Somalia. We were in a small village, Negele, in the middle of nowhere in southern Ethiopia, near the Somali and Kenya borders.

On 11 May we began training the 28th Battalion, since they were in the outpost at the time. It was the first of 3 scheduled 8-week training sessions, for each of the 3 battalions assigned to the 4th Brigade, which was assigned to the outpost. The 28th Battalion was the only battalion at Negele at that time, the other two battalions being on the Somali border and in the Congo.

That first day of training, SP5 Kelley made a presentation to the Ethiopian medics at the outpost. He used me as a training aid (a visual aid used for better understanding). Before the class began, Kelley molded a fake bullet wound onto my right arm, on the fleshy part halfway between my elbow and shoulder. He used “moulage” (a type of clay), skin-colored cream and red food coloring for blood. Moulage was a constant companion of the medics on missions such as ours, because of its ease of use when making fake wounds for their classes. The fake wound included an entry wound (a clean, although bloody, hole in the arm) in the front of my arm, and an exit wound (a jagged outward eruption of skin, and blood) in the rear of the arm. “Blood” was also smeared on my arm, around both the entry and exit “wounds.” “Blood” was running down my arm, under the exit “wound.” The entire “wound” area of the arm looked extremely real, and very gory. The students were sitting in bleachers outside, and Kelley was teaching from in front of the bleachers. I was standing behind the bleachers, unseen by the Ethi student medics.

I fired a blank M-1 Garand .30-caliber cartridge into the air, dropped the rifle quietly to the ground, while screaming. I then stumbled around the side of the bleachers to the front of the bleachers, still screaming, where I did my best to act badly wounded and in tremendous pain. I really think I deserved, at the very least, an Oscar nomination. Talk about reaction from the students! They gasped loudly, and some of them began throwing up. Our medic certainly had their attention then! It was priceless. Once our students had finally calmed down, Kelley proceeded to instruct them in how to care for bullet wounds, with me as the training aid. After the class, we left the fake wound on my arm to show our teammates back at the team house. As we pulled into the dirt driveway in our open jeep, Arago (our houseboy) was the first to see my “wound.” I was sitting on the right-hand seat of the Jeep, with my right arm dangling outside of the vehicle. Arago immediately began crying. Even after showing it to him close-up, so he could see how fake it was, it took us a while to calm him down. I had Kelley take photos of my arm. I had been sending photo film cartridges home with my letters when I completed a film cartridge. For those particular photos I wrote home first, explaining what Kelley and I had done, and what the photo would look like. I told my mother to reply that she was forewarned. When I received the reply, I knew to send that film cartridge home. From my Book #2, of my four-book set of SLURP SENDS! Book #1 (“SLURP SENDS! On Becoming a Green Beret Book 1”), #2 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of an A-Team Green Beret Book 2”), #3 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of a Green Beret In Vietnam Book 3”) and #4 (“SLURP SENDS! A Green Beret’s Experiences In Vietnam Book 4”) are all available on Amazon or from me.PHOTOS: My arm (my photos)SLURP SENDS!

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