“I Couldn’t Be A Soldier Any Longer And Live With Myself”: An 11th ACR Doctor In Vietnam

Gordon Livingston


Gordon Livingston graduated from West Point in 1960 and attended Johns Hopkins Medical School. After graduating Medical School, he was promoted to the rank of Major and volunteered for service in Vietnam. He was assigned as the Regimental Surgeon for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment north of Saigon in 1968. While serving in Vietnam, he noticed actions that conflicted with his values and ethics, and began searching for a way to redress the concerns he felt. When no one listened to his objections, he chose to voice his concerns through a “prayer” he wrote and distributed to the guests at the change of command ceremony for COL George S. Patton III, with General Abrams in attendance. He was relieved of duty for his actions and temporarily reassigned to the 93rd Evac Hospital before being sent home from Vietnam as an embarrassment to the command. He left the service after returning home and focused his energies on anti-war efforts, including sending a letter to the “Saturday Review” in September 1969. After returning from Vietnam, he became a psychiatrist and a writer. In this interview, he talks about his upbringing, attending West Point, and his service in Vietnam, focusing on the controversial prayer that he distributed at COL Patton’s change of command. He provides examples of actions that conflicted with his values, and the ethics he held as a doctor and as a human being. He discusses Patton as a leader, as well as some of the other Officers he interacted with. He reflects on loyalty, and questions what happens when loyalty to the Army conflicts with the duty one feels as a loyal citizen of the country. Near the end of the interview, he reads the prayer before talking about what it meant to him and how it shaped the rest of his life.


name Gordon Livingston
institution USMA
graduation year 1960
service Infantry / Medical Corps
unit 82nd Airborne / Surgeon, 11th ACR
service dates 1960 1969