Saturday, November 12, 2016

FLASHBACK ... May 30, 1958, Seven of America's greatest war heroes were selected to be HONORARY PALL BEARERS at the dedication of THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWNS presided over by PRESIDENT EISENHOWER.




President Eisenhower speaking to the 210 Medal of Honor recipients at the White House May 30, 1958.

Photo credit National Park Service
President Eisenhower places the Medal of Honor  on the casket of the Unknown Serviceman of the Korean War, Arlington Cemetery, May 30, 1958. 

Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise of Stamford CT was one of seven recipients of the Medal of Honor  who served as honorary pall bearers. 

Photo credit National Park Service



MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS MEMORIAL DAY MAY 30, 1958 PRIOR TO THE
DEDICATION OF THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWNS, AT ARLINGTON CEMETERY

LEFT TO RIGHT, Homer L. Wise, Stamford, CT, World War II, William J. Crawford, Pueblo,
CO, World War II, Jerry K. Crump, Forest City, NC, Korean War, Paul B. Huff, Cleveland, TN,
World War II, Ronald E. Rosser, Crooksville, OH, Korean War, Donald E. Rudolph,
Minneapolis, MN, World War II and Ernest R. Kouma, Dwight, NB, Korean War.
photo Ronald E. Rosser collection


Medal of Honor Citation - Homer L. Wise


While his platoon was pinned down by enemy small-arms fire from both flanks, he left his position of comparative safety and assisted in carrying 1 of his men, who had been seriously wounded and who lay in an exposed position, to a point where he could receive medical attention. The advance of the platoon was resumed but was again stopped by enemy frontal fire. A German officer and 2 enlisted men, armed with automatic weapons, threatened the right flank. Fearlessly exposing himself, he moved to a position from which he killed all 3 with his submachinegun. Returning to his squad, he obtained an Ml rifle and several antitank grenades, then took up a position from which he delivered accurate fire on the enemy holding up the advance. As the battalion moved forward it was again stopped by enemy frontal and flanking fire. He procured an automatic rifle and, advancing ahead of his men, neutralized an enemy machinegun with his fire. When the flanking fire became more intense he ran to a nearby tank and exposing himself on the turret, restored a jammed machinegun to operating efficiency and used it so effectively that the enemy fire from an adjacent ridge was materially reduced thus permitting the battalion to occupy its objective.

Medal of Honor Citation - William J. Crawford

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Altavilla, Italy, 13 September 1943. When Company I attacked an enemy-held position on Hill 424, the 3d Platoon, in which Pvt. Crawford was a squad scout, attacked as base platoon for the company. After reaching the crest of the hill, the platoon was pinned down by intense enemy machinegun and small-arms fire. Locating 1 of these guns, which was dug in on a terrace on his immediate front, Pvt. Crawford, without orders and on his own initiative, moved over the hill under enemy fire to a point within a few yards of the gun emplacement and single-handedly destroyed the machinegun and killed 3 of the crew with a hand grenade, thus enabling his platoon to continue its advance. When the platoon, after reaching the crest, was once more delayed by enemy fire, Pvt. Crawford again, in the face of intense fire, advanced directly to the front midway between 2 hostile machinegun nests located on a higher terrace and emplaced in a small ravine. Moving first to the left, with a hand grenade he destroyed 1 gun emplacement and killed the crew; he then worked his way, under continuous fire, to the other and with 1 grenade and the use of his rifle, killed 1 enemy and forced the remainder to flee. Seizing the enemy machinegun, he fired on the withdrawing Germans and facilitated his company's advance.

Medal of Honor Citation - Jerry K. Crump

Cpl. Crump, a member of Company L, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. During the night a numerically superior hostile force launched an assault against his platoon on Hill 284, overrunning friendly positions and swarming into the sector. Cpl. Crump repeatedly exposed himself to deliver effective fire into the ranks of the assailants, inflicting numerous casualties. Observing 2 enemy soldiers endeavoring to capture a friendly machine gun, he charged and killed both with his bayonet, regaining control of the weapon. Returning to his position, now occupied by 4 of his wounded comrades, he continued his accurate fire into enemy troops surrounding his emplacement. When a hostile soldier hurled a grenade into the position, Cpl. Crump immediately flung himself over the missile, absorbing the blast with his body and saving his comrades from death or serious injury. His aggressive actions had so inspired his comrades that a spirited counterattack drove the enemy from the perimeter. Cpl. Crump's heroic devotion to duty, indomitable fighting spirit, and willingness to sacrifice himself to save his comrades reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry and the U.S. Army.

Medal of Honor Citation - Paul B. Huff

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, in action on 8 February 1944, near Carano, Italy. Cpl. Huff volunteered to lead a 6-man patrol with the mission of determining the location and strength of an enemy unit which was delivering fire on the exposed right flank of his company. The terrain over which he had to travel consisted of exposed, rolling ground, affording the enemy excellent visibility. As the patrol advanced, its members were subjected to small arms and machinegun fire and a concentration of mortar fire, shells bursting within 5 to 10 yards of them and bullets striking the ground at their feet. Moving ahead of his patrol, Cpl. Huff drew fire from 3 enemy machineguns and a 20mm. weapon. Realizing the danger confronting his patrol, he advanced alone under deadly fire through a minefield and arrived at a point within 75 yards of the nearest machinegun position. Under direct fire from the rear machinegun, he crawled the remaining 75 yards to the closest emplacement, killed the crew with his submachine gun and destroyed the gun. During this act he fired from a kneeling position which drew fire from other positions, enabling him to estimate correctly the strength and location of the enemy. Still under concentrated fire, he returned to his patrol and led his men to safety. As a result of the information he gained, a patrol in strength sent out that afternoon, 1 group under the leadership of Cpl. Huff, succeeded in routing an enemy company of 125 men, killing 27 Germans and capturing 21 others, with a loss of only 3 patrol members. Cpl. Huff's intrepid leadership and daring combat skill reflect the finest traditions of the American infantryman.

Medal of Honor Citation - Donald Rudolph

2d Lt. Rudolph (then T/Sgt.) was acting as platoon leader at Munoz, Luzon, Philippine Islands. While administering first aid on the battlefield, he observed enemy fire issuing from a nearby culvert. Crawling to the culvert with rifle and grenades, he killed 3 of the enemy concealed there. He then worked his way across open terrain toward a line of enemy pillboxes which had immobilized his company. Nearing the first pillbox, he hurled a grenade through its embrasure and charged the position. With his bare hands he tore away the wood and tin covering, then dropped a grenade through the opening, killing the enemy gunners and destroying their machinegun. Ordering several riflemen to cover his further advance, 2d Lt. Rudolph seized a pick mattock and made his way to the second pillbox. Piercing its top with the mattock, he dropped a grenade through the hole, fired several rounds from his rifle into it and smothered any surviving enemy by sealing the hole and the embrasure with earth. In quick succession he attacked and neutralized 6 more pillboxes. Later, when his platoon was attacked by an enemy tank, he advanced under covering fire, climbed to the top of the tank and dropped a white phosphorus grenade through the turret, destroying the crew. Through his outstanding heroism, superb courage, and leadership, and complete disregard for his own safety, 2d Lt. Rudolph cleared a path for an advance which culminated in one of the most decisive victories of the Philippine campaign.

Medal of Honor Citation - Ronald E. Rosser

Cpl. Rosser, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. While assaulting heavily fortified enemy hill positions, Company L, 38th Infantry Regiment, was stopped by fierce automatic-weapons, small-arms, artillery, and mortar fire. Cpl. Rosser, a forward observer was with the lead platoon of Company L, when it came under fire from 2 directions. Cpl. Rosser turned his radio over to his assistant and, disregarding the enemy fire, charged the enemy positions armed with only carbine and a grenade. At the first bunker, he silenced its occupants with a burst from his weapon. Gaining the top of the hill, he killed 2 enemy soldiers, and then went down the trench, killing 5 more as he advanced. He then hurled his grenade into a bunker and shot 2 other soldiers as they emerged. Having exhausted his ammunition, he returned through the enemy fire to obtain more ammunition and grenades and charged the hill once more. Calling on others to follow him, he assaulted 2 more enemy bunkers. Although those who attempted to join him became casualties, Cpl. Rosser once again exhausted his ammunition obtained a new supply, and returning to the hilltop a third time hurled grenades into the enemy positions. During this heroic action Cpl. Rosser single-handedly killed at least 13 of the enemy. After exhausting his ammunition he accompanied the withdrawing platoon, and though himself wounded, made several trips across open terrain still under enemy fire to help remove other men injured more seriously than himself. This outstanding soldier's courageous and selfless devotion to duty is worthy of emulation by all men. He has contributed magnificently to the high traditions of the military service.

Medal of  Honor Citation - Ernest Kouma

M/Sgt. Kouma, a tank commander in Company A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His unit was engaged in supporting infantry elements on the Naktong River front. Near midnight on 31 August, a hostile force estimated at 500 crossed the river and launched a fierce attack against the infantry positions, inflicting heavy casualties. A withdrawal was ordered and his armored unit was given the mission of covering the movement until a secondary position could be established. The enemy assault overran 2 tanks, destroyed 1 and forced another to withdraw. Suddenly M/Sgt. Kouma discovered that his tank was the only obstacle in the path of the hostile onslaught. Holding his ground, he gave fire orders to his crew and remained in position throughout the night, fighting off repeated enemy attacks. During 1 fierce assault, the enemy surrounded his tank and he leaped from the armored turret, exposing himself to a hail of hostile fire, manned the .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the rear deck, and delivered pointblank fire into the fanatical foe. His machine gun emptied, he fired his pistol and threw grenades to keep the enemy from his tank. After more than 9 hours of constant combat and close-in fighting, he withdrew his vehicle to friendly lines. During the withdrawal through 8 miles of hostile territory, M/Sgt. Kouma continued to inflict casualties upon the enemy and exhausted his ammunition in destroying 3 hostile machine gun positions. During this action, M/Sgt. Kouma killed an estimated 250 enemy soldiers. His magnificent stand allowed the infantry sufficient time to reestablish defensive positions. Rejoining his company, although suffering intensely from his wounds, he attempted to resupply his tank and return to the battle area. While being evacuated for medical treatment, his courage was again displayed when he requested to return to the front. M/Sgt. Kouma's superb leadership, heroism, and intense devotion to duty reflect the highest credit on himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.


Medal of Honor Citations of the Medal of Honor Society

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hero Of Okinawa and Medal of Honor Recipient Desmond Doss Featured in new Movie



Medal of Honor  recipient  Desmond Doss is featured in a new movie.

Doss, who saved 75 men during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II without firing or carrying a gun. As a conscientious objector, Doss believed killing was wrong and refused to carry a weapon. He served as a medic, saving countless lives singlehandedly.


Medal of Honor Citation


He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them 1 by 1 to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On 2 May, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards of enemy forces in a cave's mouth, where he dressed his comrades' wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On 5 May, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On 21 May, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Vietnam War Hero and Medal of Honor recipient Master Gunnery Sergeant Richard A. Pittman has died.





Pittman received the Medal of Honor for his heroism on July 24, 1966.  

He was 71 years old.




Richard A. Pittman
Vietnam War Hero
(Photo Medal of Honor Society?)



Medal of Honor Citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While Company 1 was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force. Hearing the engaged marines' calls for more firepower, Sgt. Pittman quickly exchanged his rifle for a machinegun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades. Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy position. As Sgt. Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from 2 automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed. Learning that there were additional wounded marines 50 yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy. Totally disregarding his safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machinegun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up an enemy submachinegun and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn. Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his platoon. Sgt. Pittman's daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Naval Service.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A flash back ... A memorable day in the history of Stamford,Connecticut


STAMFORD ADVOCATE SEPTEMBER 30, 2012

Angela Carella: City should herald 'a courage unfathomable'

By Angela Carella

One of the most decorated American heroes of World War II was a Stamford man. Homer Lee Wise received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, for what he did during the Battle of Magliano in Italy in June 1944. The Army's report of the action that day, now in the National Archives, reads, "The unhesitancy with which Sergeant Wise repeatedly put himself into positions where any escape seemed miraculous demonstrated a courage unfathomable."

The report concluded that the memory of Wise's bravery "will perpetually inspire fighting men."

There's no doubt that Wise's deeds are inspiring, but nearly 70 years later, who remembers?

Stamford, where Wise lived for much of his life, should. But residents so far have barely responded to calls to honor him.

For four years, James Vlasto has worked to raise $65,000 for a statue of Wise for Stamford, but nearly all the money has come from places other than Stamford.

Now there is a 6-foot, 7-inch bronze statue of tall, handsome, blue-eyed Wise in a warehouse in Stamford, but Vlasto's nonprofit group needs $12,000 more for a base, plaque and maybe some installation costs.

"Fundraising has been difficult in Stamford," Vlasto said. "About 85 percent of the money we raised came from elsewhere -- 19 different states, at last count. Most of the contributions have been very small, with a couple of major ones, including one from Las Vegas."

Vlasto said he began with Texas. Wise left his home in Louisiana and went there when he was 14 to find a job during the Great Depression. In 1941 Wise joined the Army. His regiment, the 142nd in the 36th Infantry Division, was formed in Texas.

"People there helped me contact people in other states whose family members served in the regiment," Vlasto said. "There's a great fondness for the regiment in Texas."

Part of the reason is what happened in Italy in the spring of 1944, when the regiment was up against some of Germany's best-trained troops in especially vicious fighting. It would end with the Americans and their allies pushing the Germans out of Italy.

As the 142nd Regiment was being pummeled by German troops in the Battle of Magliano on June 14, 1944, Sgt. Homer Lee Wise ran through gunfire to carry a wounded soldier to safety. In an effort to protect the rest of his men, Wise single-handedly held off German gunners with a grenade launcher. When the gunners fled, Wise followed, firing at them with a submachine gun.

Other German troops began to fire from a more distant range, so Wise, a good shot, walked through flying bullets, picking them off with an automatic rifle. An American tank emerged from the trees to help, but German fire was so intense that the tank had to button up. A machine gun mounted on the turret was known to be jammed, but Wise leapt up on the tank, unjammed it and fired 750 rounds, clearing the way for his regiment to take their objective, Hill 163.

For acts of bravery in other battles Wise also was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and other medals.

His deeds were so brave that in 1958, when President Eisenhower presided over a ceremony to bury unidentified soldiers in the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, D.C., Wise was one of six Medal of Honor recipients chosen as pallbearers.

Three years ago, the World War II Museum in Wise's home state of Louisiana inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

But in Stamford, there is only a patch of grass and a small plaque at Bedford and Chester streets. Wise adopted the city as his hometown after marrying Madolyn DiSesa, of Stamford, whom he met while he was stationed at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts and she was vacationing with her family on Cape Cod. They had one child, Jeff.

"After Homer died, I would go there and sit on the benches," said Vlasto, whose family knew the DiSesa family. "Within a few years the benches were rotting and I would think, `This is not significant enough. We have to do something that recognizes what Homer Wise did for his country. He never looked for recognition when he was alive.' "

Wise was a quiet, unassuming man who held humble jobs and carefully tended the yard of his home on Tree Lane in Springdale. Jeff Wise did not know about his father's Medal of Honor until a teacher told him when he was 12.

Later, to earn money for Jeff's college tuition, Wise worked as a waiter. People sometimes recognized him and refused to be served by him, inviting him to sit with them instead. Wise was embarrassed by it, Vlasto said.

In 1974, when Wise was 57, he collapsed at his job as a mail supervisor at a bank. An artificial artery implanted years earlier to repair a war wound had collapsed. Wise died the next day at Stamford Hospital. His son died in 1990 at age 40, and his wife died in 2002. Wise's niece, Jean Rinaldi, still lives in Stamford.

No one knows what happened to Wise's war medals, Vlasto said.

"We had to replicate everything," Vlasto said.

Some 16 million Americans served in World War II, but only 2 million saw combat, Vlasto said. Of the 2 million, just 464 were awarded the Medal of Honor, and nearly half of them received it posthumously.

Most, like Homer Lee Wise, returned home to live quiet lives as good neighbors and citizens, Vlasto said. To help students and others learn more about the nation's military heroes, he started a website, medalofhonornews.com.

"One thing I hope the Homer Wise project will do is bring more attention to all those who served," Vlasto said.

To make a donation, visit www.sgthomerlwisememorial.org or send a check to the Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, c/o Jean Rinaldi, 21 Fairmont Ave., Stamford CT 06906.

*************************

The statue of Medal of Honor recipient Homer L.Wise was dedicated in Veterans Park, Stamford CT before a huge crowd on May 26, 2013.  The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, Inc. raised $100,000  during a five year fundraising drive.  

The ceremony included the keynote speech by Paul W. Bucha, of Ridgefield, CT recipient of the Medal of Honor Vietnam 1968 and Morton Dean, a long time resident of Stamford and  former CBS and ABC News anchor and correspondent, who served as master of ceremonies. Attending  were former Mayor Michael Pavia who spoke,  and current Mayor David Martin of Stamford.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Report says Medal of Honor to be awarded to Vietnam Medic

Sgt. Gary Rose, an Army medic who was involved in secret operations in Laos during the Vietnam War.
After years of lobbying from members of his unit, he will be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Credit Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times

The New York Times reported on July 31, 2016, that Sgt. Gary Rose, an Army Medic who served in Laos during the Vietnam War will receive the Medal of Honor. (Left-Click to Link to Article)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Colonel Charles Kettles, Recipient of the Medal of Honor Honored at Pentagon Hall of Heroes Ceremony


Colonel Charles Kettles
Pentagon Hall of Heroes Ceremony


Monday, July 18, 2016

Remarks by the President at Presentation to Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Charles Kettles, U.S. Army


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                                                                       July 18, 2016

                                                Watch Replay of Presentation Ceremony

East Room

11:14 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.  Of all the privileges of this office, none is greater than serving as the Commander-in-Chief of the finest military that the world has ever known.  And of all the military decorations that our nation can bestow, we have none higher than the Medal of Honor.

As many who know him have said, nobody deserves it more than Charles Kettles of Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Many believe that –- except for Chuck.  (Laughter.)  As he says, this “seems like a hell of a fuss over something that happened 50 years ago.”  (Laughter.)

Even now, all these years later, Chuck is still defined by the humility that shaped him as a soldier.  At 86 years old, he still looks sharp as a tack in that uniform.  I pointed out he obviously has not gained any weight.  (Laughter.)  And his life is as American as they come.  He’s the son of an immigrant.  His father signed up to fly for the United States the day after Pearl Harbor and filled his five boys with a deep sense of duty to their country.  For a time, he even served in the Army Reserve -- for a time, even as he served in the Army Reserve, Chuck ran a Ford dealership with his brother.  And to families who drove a new car off that lot, he’s the salesman who helped put an American icon in their driveway.

To the aviation students at Eastern Michigan University, Chuck is the professor who taught them about the wonder of flight in the country that invented it.  To the constituents he served as a rare Republican in his hometown’s mostly Democratic city council, Chuck is the public servant who made sure that their voices were heard.  And to Ann, his beautiful bride, who grew up literally as the girl next door, Chuck is a devoted husband.  Next March they will celebrate their 40th anniversary.  So happy early anniversary.  (Applause.)  

So in a lot of ways, Chuck Kettles is America.  And to the dozens of American soldiers that he saved in Vietnam half a century ago, Chuck is the reason they lived and came home and had children and grandchildren –- entire family trees made possible by the actions of this one man.

We are honored to be joined not only by Ann, but also eight of Chuck and Ann’s 10 children, and three of their grandchildren.  It’s the Kettles family reunion here in the White House.  (Laughter.)  We’re also honored to be joined by Chuck’s brothers-in-arms from Vietnam and some of Chuck’s newest comrades, members of the Medal of Honor Society.

May 15, 1967, started as a hot Monday morning.  Soldiers from the 101st Airborne were battling hundreds of heavily armed North Vietnamese in a rural riverbed.  Our men were outnumbered.  They needed support fast –- helicopters to get the wounded out and bring more soldiers into the fight.  Chuck Kettles was a helo pilot.  And just as he’d volunteered for active duty, on this morning he volunteered his Hueys –- even though he knew the danger.  They called this place “Chump Valley” for a reason:  Above the riverbed rose a 1,500-foot-tall hill, and the enemy was dug into an extensive series of tunnels and bunkers -- the ideal spot for an ambush.

But Chuck jumped into the cockpit and took off.  Around 9 a.m., his company of Hueys approached the landing zone and looked down.  They should have seen a stand of green trees; instead, they saw a solid wall of green enemy tracers coming right at them.  None of them had ever seen fire that intense.  Soldiers in the helos were hit and killed before they could even leap off.  But under withering fire, Chuck landed his chopper and kept it there, exposed, so the wounded could get on and so that he could fly them back to base.

A second time, Chuck went back into the valley.  He dropped off more soldiers and supplies, picked up more wounded.  Once more, machine-gun bullets and mortar rounds came screaming after them.  As he took off a second time, rounds pierced the arm and leg of Chuck’s door gunner, Roland Scheck.  Chuck’s Huey was hit.  Fuel was pouring out as he flew away.  But Chuck had wounded men aboard and decided to take his chances.  He landed, found another helicopter, and flew Roland to the field hospital.

By now it was near evening.  Back in the riverbed, 44 American soldiers were still pinned down.  The air was thick with gunpowder; it smelled of burning metal.  And then they heard a faint sound, and as the sun started to set, they saw something rise over the horizon:  six American helicopters -- as one of them said, “as beautiful as could be.”  For a third time, Chuck and his unit headed into that hell on Earth.  Death or injury was all but certain, a fellow pilot said later, and “a lesser person would not return.”  Once again, the enemy unloaded everything they had on Chuck as he landed –- small arms, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades.

Soldiers ran to the helicopters.  When Chuck was told all were accounted for, he took off.  And then, midair, his radio told him something else:  eight men had not made it aboard.  They had been providing cover for the others.  Those eight soldiers had run for the choppers, but could only watch as they floated away.  “We all figured we were done for,” they said.  Chuck came to the same conclusion.  “If we left them for 10 minutes,” he said, “they’d be POWs or dead.”

A soldier who was there said “that day, Major Kettles became our John Wayne.”  With all due respect to John Wayne, he couldn’t do what Chuck Kettles did.  He broke off from formation, took a steep, sharp, descending turn back toward the valley -– this time with no aerial or artillery support -- a lone helicopter heading back in.  Chuck’s Huey was the only target for the enemy to attack –- and they did.  Tracers lit up the sky once more.  Chuck became -- Chuck came in so hot that his chopper bounced for several hundred feet before coming to a stop.  As soon as he landed, a mortar round shattered his windshield.  Another hit the main rotor blade.  Shrapnel tore through the cockpit and Chuck’s chair.  And still, those eight soldiers started to sprint to the Huey, running through the firestorm, chased by bullets.

Chuck’s helo, now badly damaged, was carrying 13 souls and was 600 pounds over limit.  It felt, he said, like flying a two-and-a-half-ton truck.  (Laughter.)  He couldn’t hover long enough to take off.  But cool customer that he is, he says he saw his shattered windshield and thought, “that’s pretty good air conditioning.”  (Laughter.)  The cabin filled with black smoke as Chuck hopped and skipped the helo across the ground to pick up enough speed for takeoff –- like a jackrabbit, he said, bouncing across the riverbed.

The instant he got airborne, another mortar ripped into the tail, the Huey fishtailed violently, and a soldier was thrown out of the helicopter, hanging onto a skid as Chuck flew them to safety.  I couldn't make this up.  (Laughter.)  This is like a bad "Rambo" movie.  (Laughter.)  Right?  You're listening to this, you can't believe it.

So the Army’s warrior ethos is based on a simple principle: A soldier never leaves his comrades behind.  Chuck Kettles honored that creed –- not with a single act of heroism, but over and over and over.  And because of that heroism, 44 American soldiers made it out that day -- 44.  We are honored today to be joined by some of them:  Chuck’s door gunner who was hit, Roland Scheck; the last soldier Chuck rescued that day, the one who figured he was done for, Dewey Smith; and a number of soldiers, our Vietnam veterans, who fought in that battle.  Gentlemen, I would ask you to either stand if you can, or wave, so that we can thank you for your service.  (Applause.)

Now, Chuck’s heroism was recognized at the time by the Army’s second-highest award for gallantry -– the Distinguished Service Cross.  But Bill Vollano decided Chuck deserved an upgrade.  Bill is a retired social worker who went to Chuck’s house to interview him for a veterans history project sponsored by the local Rotary Club.  Ann overheard the interview from the other room and reminded Chuck to tell Bill the story I’ve just told all of you.  This is something Chuck and I have in common -– we do what our wives tell us to do.  (Laughter.)  Chuck told the story, and with his trademark humility, finished it by saying it was “a piece of cake.”  (Laughter.)

Bill, hearing the story, knew it was something more, and he started a five-year mission, along with Chuck’s son Mike, a retired Navy pilot, to award Chuck the Medal of Honor.  Bill and Mike are here, as is Congresswoman Debbie Dingell who, along with her legendary husband, John Dingell, went above and beyond to pass a law to make sure that even all these years later, we could fully recognize Chuck Kettles’ heroism, as we do today.  So we thank them for their outstanding efforts.

And that’s one more reason this story is quintessentially American:  Looking out for one another; the belief that nobody should be left behind.  This shouldn't just be a creed for our soldiers –- it should be a creed for all of us.  This is a country that's never finished in its mission to improve, to do better, to learn from our history, to work to form a more perfect union.  And at a time when, let's face it, we've had a couple of tough weeks, for us to remember the goodness and decency of the American people, and the way that we can all look out for each other, even when times are tough, even when the odds are against us -- what a wonderful inspiration.  What a great gift for us to be able to celebrate something like this.

It might take time, but having failed to give our veterans who fought in Vietnam the full measure of thanks and respect that they had earned, we acknowledged that our failure to do so was a shame.  We resolve that it will never happen again.  It can take time, but old adversaries can find peace.  Thanks to the leadership of so many Vietnam vets who had the courage to rebuild ties, I was able to go to Vietnam recently and see a people as enthusiastic about America as probably any place in the world -– crowds lining the streets.  And we were able to say that, on a whole lot of issues, Vietnam and the United States are now partners.  Here at home, it might take time, but we have to remember everyone on our team –- just like Chuck Kettles.  Sometimes we have to turn around, and head back, and help those who need a lift.

Chuck says the most gratifying part of this whole story is that Dewey’s name, and Roland’s name, and the names of the 42 other Americans he saved are not etched in the solemn, granite wall not far from here that memorializes the fallen in the Vietnam War.  Instead, it will be Chuck Kettles’ name forever etched on the walls that communities have built from Southern California to South Carolina in honor of those who have earned the Medal of Honor.

Of course, Chuck says all this attention is “a lot of hubbub, but I’ll survive.”  (Laughter.)  Chuck, you’ve survived much worse than this ceremony.  (Laughter.)  And on behalf of the American people, let me say that this hubbub is richly and roundly deserved.  As the military aide prepares to read the citation, please join me in saluting this proud American soldier and veteran who reminds us all of the true meaning of service –- Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Kettles.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded, in the name of Congress, the Medal of Honor to Major Charles S. Kettles, United States Army.  Major Charles S. Kettles distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving as flight commander, 176th Aviation Company, (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam.

On 15 May, 1967, Major Kettles, upon learning that an airborne infantry unit had suffered casualties during an intense firefight with the enemy, immediately volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1 Delta helicopters to carry reinforcements to the embattled force and to evacuate wounded personnel.  Enemy small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire raked the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters.  However, Major Kettles refused to depart until all helicopters were loaded to capacity.

He then returned to the battlefield with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival, to bring more reinforcements, landing in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft.  Upon departing, Major Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft.  Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.

Later that day, the Infantry Battalion Commander requested immediate emergency extraction of the remaining 40 troops, including four members of Major Kettles' unit who were stranded when their helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire.  With only one flyable UH-1 helicopter remaining, Major Kettles volunteered to return to the deadly landing zone for a third time, leading a flight of six evacuation helicopters, five of which were from the 161st Aviation Company.

During the extraction, Major Kettles was informed by the last helicopter that all personnel were onboard, and departed the landing zone accordingly.  Army gunships, supporting the evacuation, also departed the areas.  Once airborne, Major Kettles was advised that eight troops has been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire.  With complete disregard for his own safety, Major Kettles passed the lead to another helicopter and returned to the landing zone to rescue the remaining troops.  Without gunship, artillery, or tactical air support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft, which was immediately damaged by a mortar round that shattered both front windshields and the chin bubble, and was further raked by small arms and machine gun fire.

Despite the intense enemy fire, Major Kettles maintained control of the aircraft and situation, allowing for the remaining eight soldiers to board the aircraft.  In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Major Kettles once more skillfully guided his heavily damaged aircraft to safety.  Without his courageous actions and the superior flying skills, the last group of soldier and his crew would never have made it off the battle field.

Major Kettles' selfless act of repeated valor and determination are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

(The Medal of Honor is presented.)

(A prayer is given.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the ceremony.  But we have a reception.  I hear the food here is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  Let's give one more round of applause to Mr. Chuck Kettles.  (Applause.)

                                                                                 Watch Replay of Presentation Ceremony
END
11:31 A.M. EDT

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