Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Toby Cosgrove Shares His Vietnam Story
At age 28 Dr. Toby Cosgrove was thrust into a leadership role in the most harrowing of conditions. It was 1968 and six months after the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese People’s Army launched the Tet Offensive, which eventually resulted in 80,000 troops attacking more than a hundred towns and cities in South Vietnam. And as a newly commissioned Air Force Captain, Cosgrove found himself in Saigon.
While Cosgrove is best known as the outgoing CEO of the Cleveland Clinic and a world-renown heart surgeon who holds 30 patents, one thing that may come as a surprise is that he earned a Bronze Star Medal for his service in Vietnam. In five and a half months, the young doctor was responsible for evacuating 22,000 sick and wounded troops from a coastal city in the northern portion of South Vietnam. On his off time, he also volunteered at a local clinic treating Vietnamese civilians.
Cosgrove chronicles his experience for ideastream, which took him from Saigon to Da Nang where he became head of a 100-bed evacuation hospital on the perimeter of Da Nang Air Force Base. On his off time, he also volunteered at a local clinic treating Vietnamese civilians.
Cosgrove recounts his second day in Vietnam when he got a rude awakening into the realities of war. He boarded a helicopter for what he thought was an aerial tour but instead became a combat mission firing .50 Caliber Machine Guns and rockets at the enemy below.