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Wizard 6: A Combat Psychiatrist in Vietnam

Overview

Wizard 6 describes my tour of duty as a psychiatrist assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam during 1969 and 1970. It was another existence. We referred to home as "the world." . . . As with any combat environment, there was the irony of military psychiatrists helping men adjust to a crazy place.

In 1969 six psychiatrists were assigned to combat divisions in Vietnam, charged with treating soldiers showing psychiatric symptoms in order to get them back into battle. Doug ...

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Overview

Wizard 6 describes my tour of duty as a psychiatrist assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam during 1969 and 1970. It was another existence. We referred to home as "the world." . . . As with any combat environment, there was the irony of military psychiatrists helping men adjust to a crazy place.

In 1969 six psychiatrists were assigned to combat divisions in Vietnam, charged with treating soldiers showing psychiatric symptoms in order to get them back into battle. Doug Bey, whose radio call name in the 1st Infantry Division was Wizard 6, was one of those psychiatrists.

Drawing on graphic detail gleaned from a journal Bey transcribed when he got back stateside, this psychiatric specialist describes the daily life of a military support unit, the boredom and mind-numbing routine, but also the social issues and psychiatric crises he confronted. In Vietnam he treated people with a range of coping mechanisms, including counter phobic reactions, self-medication with drugs and alcohol, and "gross stress reaction," as well as the gamut of psychiatric illnesses.

Each month Bey and his staff saw some four hundred men, including characters like the Vietnam equivalent of Klinger from M*A*S*H, a killer dentist, soldiers addicted to killing, and others who did not want to go home. He witnessed firsthand black pride, Vietnamese prejudice, racial conflict, and the Viet Cong's fear of mental illness.

Bey's book provides a rare and powerful account that views the immediacy of combat from the perspective of thirty-five years in psychiatric practice and extensive study of combat and post-combat psychology. Wizard 6 offers new perspectives on the Vietnam war and itsaftermath and draws cautious comparisons with the issues today's troops may face both in the field and when they return home.

Author Biography: DOUGLAS BEY completed his medical degree at the University of Illinois in Chicago, as well as a rotating internship and a three-year residency at the Menninger School of Psychiatry, before serving in the U.S. Army. He is now semi-retired but continues to practice psychiatry on a limited scale in Normal, Illinois. Bey has written a number of professional articles about men in battle.

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Editorial Reviews

William M. McBride
"A rare, insightful, compelling, and excellent memoir of the Vietnam war. Bey makes a significant contribution to the literature on the Vietnam War and his unique perspective as the 1st Division’s psychiatrist enhances this contribution. His presentation of army psychiatrist practices stateside and in Vietnam is informative and contravenes popularly held misconceptions about the extent and nature of psychiatric casualties in Vietnam. I know of no comparable book."—William M. McBride, United States Naval Academy
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Doug Bey completed his medical degree at the University of Illinois in Chicago, as well as a rotating internship and a three-year residency at the Menninger School of Psychiatry before serving in the U.S. Army. He is now semi-retired but continues to practice psychiatry on a limited scale in Normal, Illinois. Bey has written a number of professional articles about men in battle.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 24, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a thorough treatment of war, psychologially speaking!

    A quick paced review of Viet Nam through a psychologist's perspective. Written 30 years and 2 heart attacks (with open-heart surgery as well!) the author's treatment, impressions and comments make you feel like you were there yesterday! A very informative and easy to read book from a psychological perspective.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2006

    Wizard 6 In Vietnam

    Velcome Captain. You are the new Vizard-Ya?' 'Ya. I mean, yes sir.' 'Vell, I must tell you dat I don't know if I believe in psychiatry.' 'That's okay, sir I'm not sure I belive in colonels.' This interchange took place in 1969 when Doug Bey M.D. aarrived at the base camp of the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) in Di An, Vietnam, to begin a one year tour of duty. His reponses to the U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel with the German accent are vintage Doug Bey. They show his quick wit and his way with words, his irreverence and his college-wrestler toughness. I write with familiarity because Doug and I took psychiatric residences togther at the Menninger School of Psychiatry in Topeka, Kansas. We were goth in the Berry Plan, in which the Army allowed us to complete our training but then expected us to go on active duty for two years. Doug and I both ended up in Vietnam. I was hospital based at the 67th Evaucation Hospital in Qui Nhon. Being assigned to a division meant that Doug had a Jeep and the freedom of movement to get a good pulse of the whole unit. His radio call sign was Wizard 6. He and his talented techs took care of all kinds of emotional problems but found the so-called combat fatigue of previous wars less prevalent in Vietnam. Instead were acting up personality disorders, racial issues, communications problems between officers and the often quite young soldiers, alcohol and drug problems, and anti-establishment attitudes reflective of the anti-warm movement in the U.S. In Topeka Doug had studied the psychology of organizations under Dr. Harry Levinson. Doug applied the techniques of organizational case study to the 1st Infantry Division. His goal was to find stress points, such as abusive officers or nonsensical regulartions, and to try to deal with such problems before they became major. This emphasis prevades the book and provids exceptional insights of a unit at war. Doug also writes of his own coping devices in an unpopular war far from home. He tried to forget about home, immersed himself in his work, developed relationships with his colleagues, observed and kept notes, isolated negative feelings and stayed away from war politics.He also admits that he overused alcohol to self-medicate. He reports one frightening experience when he was to intoxicated at the time of a Red Alert that he mistook a friend for the enemy and pointed and pulled the trigger on his .45. What saved a tragedy was that he forgot to remove the safety. Throughout the book he is unsparing in presenting his own failings, which makes his story ring true. He writes of how his Vietnam experiences affect him even to this day. He has a lifetime of things to ponder, such as the obviously battle-hardened infantryman who barged into Doug's office and announced that he wanted the doctor to know that he was gay and who then ran off or the grieving crowd around a Vietnamese boy who lay next to his mangled bicycle, the victim of a US military truck that didn't stop. Doug also compares and contrasts Vietnam with Iraq. His disquieting conclusion is that the two conflicts are becoming more and more similar. This book has value not only for the people with military interests but also for mental health workers. The descriptions of the smells and noises of the country and of the people and their sad plight rang so true to me. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read. Doug really got it the way it was. My biggest disappointment is that I didn't write this book. But I'm glad somebody did. Ed Colbach M.D.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2006

    Loved it!!!

    Great narration of life in a support unit in Vietnam, the problems faced when returning home and the lasting effect on the lives of those who served. Very much enjoyed and appreciated

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2006

    A Must-Read for Boomers!

    An easily readable chronicle of the heat, the stress, and the humor of daily life in a support unit in Viet Nam. Invaluable insight for those of us who were not there, but loved someone who was.

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