Operation Paraplegic

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name: Operation Paraplegic
Location: Republic of Vietnam
Date: November 8–9, 1965
Emergency: South Vietnamese paraplegics needed treatment and rehabilitation.
Organizations: 44th Air Transport Squadron
Airlifted: 56 South Vietnamese paraplegic medical patients.
Aircraft Used: C–141 (one)

By late 1965, the escalating war in Vietnam had produced thousands of casualties. Some of the wounded suffered crippling disabilities. The United States decided to transport some South Vietnamese paraplegic war victims to the United States for treatment and rehabilitation. The move would benefit the patients, symbolize U.S. commitment to South Vietnam, and, possibly, soften U.S. domestic criticism of the conflict.

In November, MATS launched Operation Paraplegic. The 44th Air Transport Squadron flew a C–141 Starlifter cargo aircraft for the operation. On November 8, 56 South Vietnamese paraplegic patients boarded the plane at Tan Son Nhut AB in Saigon and flew via Yokota AB, Japan, and Travis AFB, California, to Stewart AFB, New York, landing less than 24 hours after leaving Saigon. Fourteen South Vietnamese medical technicians accompanied the paraplegics.

At Stewart AFB, Gen. Maxwell Taylor and the Vietnamese ambassador to the United States greeted the patients when they landed on November 9. The patients and medical technicians went to nearby Castle Point Veterans Administration Hospital near Beacon, New York, for treatment, rehabilitation, and training. Eventually, the South Vietnamese returned to their native country, the last reaching South Vietnam in June 1967.

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