Specialist Randy “Doc” Matsuda
Researched and written by DC
Randy is the platoon medic for 2nd Platoon, B (Bravo) Company at Firebase Ladybird for the first fourteen episodes of Season One until the character’s death in Under Seige.
He is from Santa Monica, California
Age: Approximately 21-22 years.
Physical attributes: Randy’s heritage is Japanese American. He is a handsome young man, approximately 5’8”, slender with dark brown eyes and straight black hair.
- Firebase Ladybird, I Corps (Late summer 1967 until he is killed in action during an assault on the firebase in December 1967.)
- Advanced training, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.
Awards and Decorations:
- Purple Heart (awarded posthumously for wounds resulting in his death in the episode Under Siege.
- National Defense Service Medal
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal
- Combat Medical Badge
(Note: at the end of the episode Under Siege, Captain Larry Heath tells Colonel Dalby he wants to recommend Matsuda for a Silver Star.)
Randy “Doc” Matsuda is already a member of 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company when Lieutenant Goldman and the other new members arrive at Firebase Ladybird in August 1967. Randy only appears in the first fourteen episodes of Season One and unfortunately, not much is said about his background until the final episode that he appears in.
He is Japanese American. His parents were in an internment camp during WWII, Randy telling Percell and Taylor they lost everything.
He is “short” in episode Under Siege having only fifteen days and a “wake-up” before going home.
He decides to “re-up” for another six years as the Army will pay for him to go to medical school.
He carries a pistol when out with the squad and/or platoon in the bush.
Unlike Doc Hockenbury in Season Three, Randy’s character is sorely underused and never really explored. After his death in Under Siege there is no mention of a formal replacement of platoon medic.
Randy is a sweet natured young man who gets along with everyone. He is loyal and stands with his buddies and is comfortable with Lieutenant Goldman, even giving him a cigarette in Road Runner when Myron asks him for one.
Regrettably, his character is used very sparingly throughout the few episodes he appears in. He is quick to join Taylor and Ruiz in pointing out to Goldman the lieutenant’s interest in Lang in Dislocations, and keeps a close eye on the elderly mama-san as they relocate the villagers.
There is no doubt that Randy is brave and will stand up for himself. After Ruiz comes scrambling out of the tunnels in Notes From the Underground, Randy goes right in to retrieve the badly wounded Clyde. And he often butts heads with Goldman in Road Runner over the fact that moving Captain Slater is likely going to kill the pilot.
He also is angry with Innis and the other racists in Burn, Baby, Burn, when they want Doc and the others to pick sides. Randy wants to know who’s next after the blacks, will it be him and what about the Jewish lieutenant?
It isn’t until Under Siege that Randy’s background comes out. While handing out water to Percell and Taylor, they ask him how much time he has left. He smiles and tells them that he has fifteen days and a “wake-up.” But he’s already re-upped for another six years much to the shock of his buddies. Randy explains that the Army will pay for him to go to medical school, and that his parents had lost everything when they went to an internment camp during WWII. His father told him to get all the education he could as no one could take that away from him.
Later, when things are looking hopeless, Taylor gives Randy his grandmother’s rosary. He tells Randy that he could see he is going on to great things, and he wants Randy to have it.
During the final siege of the firebase, Randy tries to help those wounded during the attack. As Goldman and Anderson shout to him to get to safety, he is shot and killed by the enemy.
In the morning, after the destruction of the base, those few who survive emerge from the CP bunker. Goldman, in shock, stumbles over to Matsuda’s body, Taylor pushing past him. Myron collapses to his knees as Taylor grieves over the medic’s body, holding the rosary he’d given him the day before. Heath watches until Dalby comes up, wanting to know if he’s okay. Heath, also on the verge of shock, quietly tells Dalby he wants to recommend Matsuda for a Silver Star. We will never know if it was awarded posthumously.
Randy is the second “regular” character to be killed in the series.