The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces. The recipients must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.
During the years of the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975) the United States awarded 257 Medals Of Honor to soldiers from that conflict: 171 U.S. Army, 15 U.S. Navy, 57 U.S. Marine Corps, and 14 U.S. Air Force.
In 2011, NBC anchor Brian Williams collected 117 stirring videos about the Medal of Honor recipients that featuring excerpts from their oral histories along with archival footage; his collection spans WWII, Korea and Vietnam and are all combined on YouTube. I’ve pulled all the videos relating to the Vietnam War (56) and have them posted below and in one place – none are longer than 12 minutes. I’ve listed them chronologically by date of action even though the MOH was awarded at a later date…in the case of “Too Tall” Freeman – a much later date! Please keep in mind that this list is not all inclusive and I am not aware of the criteria used to record these interviews. The attached archival footage is used as a visual aid and may or may not represent the action taken by the recipient. All in all, there’s several hours of viewing and a chance for you to learn more about these Heroes.
To start, I’ve included the author’s short introduction video about the MOH which also includes previews of those recipients in the collection. Enjoy!
On July 6, 1964, Captain Roger Donlon rallied his men and led the defense of his camp, despite serious wounds, while under fierce attack near Nam Dong, South Vietnam. Donlon was awarded the Medal of Honor on December 5, 1964—making him the first recipient of the Medal during the Vietnam War.
Second Lieutenant Walter “Joe” Marm, Jr., led an attack against a heavily fortified enemy force on November 14, 1965, personally knocking out several positions in the Ia Drang Valley, South Vietnam. He was presented with the Medal of Honor on December 19, 1966, and three years later volunteered for a second tour of duty in Vietnam.
Major Bruce Crandall made over 20 flights into intense enemy fire during a battle in the Ia Drang Valley, South Vietnam, in November 1965, evacuating 70 wounded and delivering ammunition. The battle was later dramatized in the film We Were Soldiers. On February 26, 2007, Crandall received the Medal of Honor.
On November 14, 1965, Captain Ed Freeman made repeated flights into the Ia Drang Valley under intense fire to bring in supplies and evacuate the wounded. Due to a statute of limitations being lifted, Freeman was awarded the Medal of Honor on July 16, 2001.
On December 18, 1965, Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr., took control when his unit commander was killed in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam, directing a counterattack and a withdrawal. He was presented with the Medal of Honor on February 27, 1967, but it would take years for the fragments of that day to come together in his memory.
Army medic Alfred Rascon, himself injured, tended to the wounded while under devastating fire in Long Khanh Province on March 16, 1966. On February 8, 2000, after a reevaluation of his recommendation prompted by the men in his battalion, Rascon received the Medal of Honor.
On March 28, 1966, Navy corpsman Robert Ingram tended to wounded Marines and held off the enemy under intense fire in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. With the help of the men of his company, who insisted that his recommendation be reevaluated, Ingram received the Medal of Honor on July 10, 1998.
On June 19, 1966, just two weeks after arriving in Vietnam, First Lieutenant Ronald Ray led his unit in a rescue of trapped soldiers in the Ia Drang Valley, South Vietnam. He then covered his men from an exploding grenade. He spent six months recuperating from his injuries, and was presented with the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970.
In July 1966, Staff Sergeant John McGinty III covered a Marine withdrawal in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. Although wounded, he defended the troops against an overwhelming enemy force. President Johnson presented McGinty with the Medal of Honor on March 12, 1968.
In July 1966, Captain Robert Modrzejewski led a defense against a fierce enemy counterattack in Quanq Tri Province, South Vietnam, calling in artillery and air on his own position. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on March 12, 1968.
After his unit was ambushed near the Demilitarized Zone on July 24, 1966, Lance Corporal Richard Pittman destroyed numerous enemy positions. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1968.
On August 8, 1966, Captain Howard Lee came to the rescue of a besieged Marine unit near Cam Lo, South Vietnam. Though wounded himself, he took charge of the unit and led a successful defense. On October 25, 1967, he received the Medal of Honor.
In November 1966, Captain Robert Foley led a fight to rescue a besieged American unit, single-handedly destroying several enemy positions near Quan Dau Tieng, South Vietnam. As a result of the recommendations of his soldiers, Foley was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 1, 1968.
Private First Class John Baker, Jr., destroyed six enemy bunkers and saved eight comrades during a firefight to relieve a besieged unit in Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam, on November 5, 1966. On May 1, 1968, President Johnson awarded him the Medal of Honor.
When his fellow pilot crashed in the A Shau Valley on March 10, 1966, Major Bernard Fisher knew that a rescue chopper wouldn’t reach him in time, so Fisher called off the rescue and landed on the debris-littered runway himself. He made it back with the other pilot and, on January 19, 1967, became the first airman in Vietnam to receive the Medal of Honor.
Specialist Charles Hagemeister took charge of his platoon after an ambush in Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam, on March 20, 1967, tending to the wounded and destroying enemy positions. On May 14, 1968, Hagemeister was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On March 21, 1967, First Sergeant David McNerney, himself seriously wounded, took command of his unit under intense fire and directed artillery and air support during an attack in Polei Doc, South Vietnam. President Johnson presented him with the Medal of Honor on September 19, 1968.
On April 19, 1967, Major Leo Thorsness destroyed at least one enemy plane while leading a desperate rescue attempt of a downed crew member. Two weeks later he was shot down and taken prisoner over North Vietnam. After six years of captivity and torture, Thorsness received the Medal of Honor on October 15, 1973.
Trying to break through a Vietcong stranglehold near Duc Pho, South Vietnam, on April 25, 1967, Specialist Ken Stumpf charged forward to rescue three of his men pinned down by intense fire. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Johnson on September 19, 1968.
On May 2, 1967, after his unit came to the rescue of another unit that had been ambushed, Private First Class Leonard Keller seized the initiative, destroying enemy positions near the Ap Bac Zone in South Vietnam. Keller was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House on September 19, 1968.
On November 18, 1967, Private First Class Sammy Davis, wounded and under intense enemy fire, crossed a river to rescue three wounded soldiers near Cai Lay, Vietnam. On November 19, 1968, Davis received the Medal of Honor. The footage from that day as well as Davis’s citation were used as source materials for the film Forrest Gump.
On November 9, 1967, First Lieutenant James Taylor pulled wounded men from exploding vehicles while establishing an evacuation site and a resupply effort near Que Son, South Vietnam. Taylor was awarded the Medal of Honor on November 19, 1968.
After coming to the rescue of an ambushed American unit on December 15, 1967, Specialist Allen Lynch dragged wounded soldiers to safety while under fire near My An, Binh Dinh, South Vietnam. On May 14, 1970, President Nixon presented Lynch with the Medal of Honor.
Under intense fire in early 1968, Staff Sergeant Drew Dix led the liberation of Chau Phu, rescuing indigenous forces and a U.S. nurse. He was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Johnson on January 16, 1969—making him the fourth recipient from his small hometown of Pueblo, Colorado.
Dustoff helicopter pilot Patrick Brady made multiple evacuations of wounded soldiers in bad weather and intense fire near Chu Lai, South Vietnam, on January 6, 1968. He received the Medal of Honor on October 9, 1969.
On January 8, 1968, helicopter door gunner Gary Wetzel was seriously wounded when his chopper was shot down near Ap Dong An, South Vietnam, and he was hit by a homemade grenade. Despite his injuries, Wetzel destroyed a key enemy position while evacuating the wounded. He received the Medal of Honor from President Johnson on November 19, 1968.
On January 10, 1968, Army medic Clarence Sasser, himself injured, moved from wounded soldier to wounded soldier in a fierce firefight in the Mekong Delta, South Vietnam. The Medal of Honor was presented to him by President Nixon on March 7, 1969.
On January 31, 1968, at the beginning of the Tet Offensive, Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson flew his helicopter through intense fire to rescue trapped Americans in Hue, South Vietnam. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 17, 1969.
Under heavy fire on February 22, 1969, Specialist George Lang led his squad in destroying several enemy positions attacking the American force in Kien Hoa Province, South Vietnam. Lang’s spine was severed by shrapnel during the attack, leaving him a paraplegic. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on March 2, 1971.
In March 1968, Captain Paul Bucha personally directed the successful defense of his besieged unit near Phuoc Vinh, South Vietnam, until they could safely withdraw. He received the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970.
Although seriously wounded, First Lieutenant Jack Jacobs dragged 13 fellow soldiers to safety after an ambush in Kien Phong Province, South Vietnam, on March 9, 1968. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 9, 1969
Captain James Livingston personally led a Marine assault against a heavily defended enemy on May 1, 1968, overrunning their positions in Dai Do, Vietnam. Livingston was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970.
On May 2, 1968, after three days of intense fighting in the village of Dai Do, Vietnam, Captain Jay Vargas rescued a fellow Marine and dragged his wounded battalion commander over a hundred yards to an evacuation point, firing at the enemy as he went. He received the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970
On May 12, 1968, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Jackson flew his transport aircraft into a besieged Special Forces camp at Kham Duc, South Vietnam, rescuing three combat controllers. President Johnson awarded the Medal of Honor to Jackson on January 16, 1969.
On May 16, 1968, Navy corpsman Donald Ballard threw himself on a grenade to save the wounded men he was treating in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. Thankfully, the grenade had a defective fuse and only exploded when, after a few moments without an explosion, he threw it into the air. Ballard received the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970.
Staff Sergeant Nicky Bacon led assaults on numerous enemy bunkers to relieve a unit under fierce attack near Tam Ky, South Vietnam, on August 26, 1968. Bacon received the Medal of Honor from President Nixon on November 24, 1969.
While on long-range reconnaissance patrols deep into enemy territory on November 26, 1968, Special Operations helicopter pilot James Fleming rescued a surrounded patrol in Cambodia under heavy fire. Fleming received the Medal of Honor at the White House on May 14, 1970.
Despite serious wounds, on December 28, 1968, Sergeant First Class Robert Howard directed his Special Forces troops against a superior enemy force in South Vietnam. Howard received the Medal of Honor from President Nixon on March 2, 1971.
On January 11, 1969, First Lieutenant Harold Fritz repelled an enemy ambush under withering crossfire near Quan Loi, South Vietnam, leading the defense until reinforcements arrived. On March 2, 1971, Fritz received the Medal of Honor.
While seriously wounded, First Lieutenant Wesley Fox led his company in a direct attack against a superior enemy force in the A Shau Valley, South Vietnam, on February 21-22, 1969. He received the Medal of Honor on March 2, 1971.
Despite serious wounds, Lieutenant Joseph “Bob” Kerrey led his Navy SEAL team on a daring attack into enemy territory on March 14, 1969 near Nha Trang Bay, South Vietnam. Kerrey was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970, and went on to become the governor of Nebraska and, later, a U.S. senator
On June 15, 1969 Lieutenant Thomas Kelley’s riverine boats were attacked in Kien Hoa Province, South Vietnam. Despite being seriously wounded, he continued to direct the battle. President Nixon awarded Kelley the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970.
Under fire in A Shau Valley, South Vietnam, on July 11, 1969, Specialist Gordon Roberts destroyed three enemy bunkers while relieving a pinned-down unit and evacuating wounded. He received the Medal of Honor on March 2, 1971.
On October 2, 1969, dustoff helicopter pilot Michael Novosel made repeated trips without air cover or fire support to save 29 wounded soldiers under constant enemy fire in Kien Tuong Province, South Vietnam. On June 15, 1971, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On February 10, 1970, Specialist John Baca dove on a grenade thrown near his firing position in Phuoc Long Province, South Vietnam, saving his fellow soldiers. Baca received the Medal of Honor on June 15, 1971. He returned to Vietnam in 1990 and worked alongside former enemy soldiers to build a United States–Vietnam friendship clinic.
On March 11, 1970, Staff Sergeant Allan Kellogg, Jr., was commanding a 14-man squad in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. After covering a grenade that exploded and seriously wounded him, he resumed control of his men and led them to the Marine company they had been awaiting. He received the Medal of Honor on October 15, 1973.
Special Forces medic Gary Beikirch treated wounded indigenous and U.S. soldiers under intense fire in the Kontum Province, South Vietnam, on April 1, 1970. He was presented with the Medal of Honor on October 15, 1973.
Sergeant First Class Gary Littrell took charge of a South Vietnamese ranger unit on April 4, 1970. For the next four days, he directed its defense and evacuation under fire in Kontum Province, South Vietnam. President Nixon awarded him with the Medal of Honor on October 15, 1973.
On March 23, 1971, Specialist Michael Fitzmaurice jumped on an enemy sapper charge in Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, saving the lives of his fellow GIs. He then continued to fight with serious wounds. He was hospitalized for the next 13 months, but on October 15, 1973 he traveled to the White House, where he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On March 31, 1971, First Lieutenant Brian Thacker covered the withdrawal of his unit after a massive enemy attack in Kontum Province, South Vietnam, calling artillery in on his own position. He was cut off from his comrades and remained hidden for the next eight days without food or water. On October 15, 1973, President Nixon presented him with the Medal of Honor.
Staff Sergeant Jon Cavaiani organized and led an aggressive defense when his force came under fierce attack near Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, on June 4-5, 1971. He evaded capture for 11 days, but was eventually taken as a POW. When he was released in 1973, he heard that he had been recommended for the Medal of Honor. It was awarded to him on December 12, 1974.
In April 1972, Navy SEAL Thomas Norris led a daring rescue effort to retrieve downed American airmen in Quanq Tri Province, South Vietnam. When the rescue was finally declassified, Norris’s actions were reviewed and he was awarded the Medal of Honor on March 6, 1976.
On October 31, 1972, Navy SEAL Michael Thornton was on a mission near the Cua Viet River Base in South Vietnam. In the course of a five-hour firefight, Thornton, himself injured, carried two wounded comrades to safety. On October 15, 1973, Thornton received the Medal of Honor. One of his injured comrades, Lieutenant Thomas Norris, received the award three years later.
Shot down on a secret mission during the Vietnam War, Major George “Bud” Day was captured and resisted severe torture as a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton” from 1967 to 1973. Three years after his release, on March 6, 1976, Day was presented with the Medal of Honor along with fellow POW Admiral James Stockdale.
During eight years of imprisonment in North Vietnam, including three years of solitary confinement, Captain James Stockdale was a symbol of defiance, organizing the other POWs and refusing to serve as a tool for Vietnamese propaganda. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor three years after his release, on March 6, 1976.
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