The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Summer of '68

July 13, 2008

Enid surgeon spent summer of ’68 treating wounded soldiers

By Dave Kinnamon

Staff Writer

Dr. David M. Selby, a 1953 graduate of Enid High School, performed a surgical wonder on a wounded Army infantryman that made the front page of The Enid Morning News on Sunday, April 21, 1968.

“Dr. David M. Selby: Surgical Feat By Former Enid Doctor Saves Life Of Soldier,” trumpeted the headline of the three-column, above-the-fold front page story.

Earlier, Dr. Selby removed a .30 caliber bullet casing from the lung of Pfc. Ronald Palmer, an Army infantryman. Pfc. Palmer had earlier been shot by a Vietcong sniper. The enemy bullet struck Palmer in his right thigh, breaking his right leg and severing an artery before entering the adjoining vein.

Palmer was on a medical evacuation flight which stopped over in the Philippines en route to a U.S. hospital in Japan — standard procedure for some combat evacuees— and was removed from the flight and admitted into the Clark Air Force Base Hospital after complaining of chest pain and registering a fever.

Selby recalls Clark AFB Hospital received 6-10 flight stopovers daily during his tenure of active Air Force duty on the Philippines.

“I was on call that day. We had certain criteria we checked. If the wounded personnel had tubes in their chests or soiled dressings or fevers, we would take them off the airplane,” Selby said.

In Pfc. Palmer’s dire situation, from the vein in his leg, the shell’s jacket entered the large vein —vena cava — entering his heart before being pumped into the arterial passage of the right lower lung, Selby recollected.

Palmer was 20 years old at the time.

“The x-ray showed the fragmentation in the lung. It was very easy to find,” Selby recalled.

The blood had already started to clot around the shell casing, and medical staff at Clark AFB concluded Palmer would not have survived the medical flight from the Philippines to Japan, the 40-year-old newspaper story stated. Dr. Selby, interviewed by the Enid News & Eagle on July 3, recalled the same details.

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Summer of '68