John Rodriguez

Hotel 6
John Rodriguez

Submitted by: Tim "CAPVet" Duffie

Written: July 6, 1998

John Rodriguez, Hotel 6, and I met on the airplane on the way to Manila for R&R. Over the next few days we formed a friendship that has lasted to this day. We don't get to see each other very often, but we stay in touch periodically by phone.

On returning from R&R, John went back to Hotel 6; I went on up to Papa 2/4. After I was wounded I could no longer go on patrol, so I was transferred to supply out of Phu Bai. On a supply run to Hotel 6 one day, John borrowed my camera. He was wounded before he was able to return it. I visited him in the hospital just before he was sent stateside. During our supply run the next day I tried to retrieve my camera. Some of the Marines didn't know me, and they thought I was some "Office Pogue" trying to steal John's camera. Marines do protect their own! Fortunately one remembered me and I got my camera back.

On retrieving my camera that day, I took the following picture of the VC who had ambushed John so I could send it to him. That, too, created an issue. Some thought I was taking the picture so I could claim the kill.

I learned the details of the ambush when John and his family visited us in Fairfield, Ohio, sometime after I found him in 1985. I've added a few notes with the picture from my conversations with John about the incident.

When walking point on a patrol, John moved through an opening in a hedge row and saw a VC squatting in the path with his rifle pointed directly at his chest. John quickly turned right and was bringing his weapon up to shoot when the VC shot him. Since he'd turned, the bullet caught John mid-way between his elbow and shoulder on his right arm, not full in the chest which would have doubtless been a kill shot. John managed to transfer his rifle to his left hand, squeezed off a burst from his M-16 catching the VC full in the chest, killing him.

During the ensuing fire-fight, as John sat on the ground in a state of shock, he crawled around picking up pieces of his arm, putting them in his pocket. He thought the doctors would need them when they put his arm back together.

After the fire-fight, John was too weak to walk back to the compound. For whatever reason, a med-evac wasn't available. John says a Native-American, remembered only as "Chief", carried him the four or five miles to the compound. Until his death on February 24, 2003, John believed that "Chief" was killed in action.

Tim "CAPVet" Duffie With The VC that shot John.

For the remaining 37 years of his life, John was upset because he couldn't remember "Chief's" real name.

In December, 2004, I received the following e-mail from Mack McClendon:

"...I did know Rodriguez briefly, I remember when he got wounded. We had split our squad into two teams: Swift Eagle, Rodriguez, Green, three PFs, Pierret, myself, and I can't remember the radioman.

Swift Eagle carried Rodriguez back to the compound. I will never forget that night; we had just gotten a new plt commander named Hitchins. When he marked the LZ, he tossed a frag instead of an illumination grenade. We were damned lucky that there weren't more people hurt. I don't know why Martinez stuck in my mind but when I read your story, I realized I had the names wrong.

Also, Chief's full name was John Paul Sherwin Swift Eagle, that's if I remember correctly, and he survived. I met him at Camp LeJeune just before I was discharged in 1968.

I believe that he was from one of the Dakotas if...I'm fairly sure he was a member of the Blackfoot tribe. Sorry I can't help more."

I located John in 1985. He lived in Chicago at the time. That same year I located Ray Borowski, also from Chicago. Ray and I had been in "I", 3/3 together, then we'd gone to CAC Papa 2/4 in March, 1967. When I located both of them, we discovered that John and Ray had been in boot camp together.

reunion-85.jpg (93187 bytes)
Left to Right: John Rodriguez, Ray Borowski, Tim "CAPVet" Duffie
CAP Reunion, Washington, D.C., 1985

NOTE: John Rodriguez died before I received the information about John Paul Sherwin Swift Eagle. So, I notified John's family that we now had a name to add to "Chief". Without exception, they all expressed the hope that we can locate John Paul Sherwin Swift Eagle so they can thank him for saving John's life.

Tim "CAPVet" Duffie

NOTE: John Paul Sherwin Swift Eagle (AKA "Chief") died March 12, 2017.

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