Wednesday, May 31, 1972

Hospital Spared By Reds

KONTUM, Vietnam (AP) --North Vietnamese troops who infiltrated this central highlands city five days ago occupied for a second time a hospital founded by an American woman doctor.

But in contrast to the last time, when they ran through the place shooting women and children in the legs and throwing grenades in a terrorist frenzy, the Communist troops harmed neither patients nor staff, a U.S. civilian source said Monday.

When Communist troops charged into the hospital just after Tet, 1968, Dr. Pat Smith, who operated the hospital for Montagnards, survived only because she was hidden by more than 30 Montagnard staff members and patients.

The infiltration this time marked the start of five days of fighting inside the provincial capital.

The North Vietnamese seized a large residential area south of the city's airstrip, including a Roman Catholic compound where Dr. Smith's hospital was moved after the 1968 destruction.

She was just preparing to move her 87-bed medical facility back to the original site when the current Communist offensive broke in the highlands last month. Dr. Smith then moved most of her patients and staff to Pleiku, 27 miles south.

Dr. Smith, who is known to her tribal patients of 13 years as the "Big Grandmother of Medicine," is operating one wing of the provincial hospital of Pleiku.

"When the North Vietnamese occupied the area they marched into the hospital and wanted to move everybody out," said an American who spoke to Montagnards fleeing from that part of the city.

"It was explained to them that this was a hospital and the patients could not be moved, and they then agreed to shift only the people (non-patients) outside the hospital.

"The hospital was jammed with about 200 Montagnard civilians who had been wounded in the fighting around Kontum.

"Members of their families moved into the hospital grounds.

"As far as I know, the North Vietnamese did not kill any civilians around the hospital or in other parts of the Catholic compound."

The Catholic compound houses a cathedral, a nuns' residence, and an orphanage. Two French priests, seven South Vietnamese priests, several South Vietnamese and Montagnard nuns and about 500 civilians were reported still there when the North Vietnamese seized the area.

American and South Vietnamese military information said an attempt by government troops to clear the infiltrated area had pushed Communist troops several hundred yards back toward the southeastern edge of the city.

"Hospital Spared By Reds", by KONTUM, Vietnam (AP) published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Wednesday, May 31, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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