Vietnam War Heroes Receive Medal Of Honor
by Joe Lacdan, Army News Service
Four Vietnam War Soldiers, who repeatedly
put themselves in harm’s way to defend injured comrades, received
the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on July 5,
Two of the recipients, Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell and Maj.
John Duffy, rebuffed multiple enemy attacks while leading fellow
Soldiers and allies to safety. Both Birdwell and Duffy sustained
wounds but continued to engage the enemy.
Spc. 5 Dennis Fujii,
a combat medic, refused rescue attempts after facing a wave of enemy
fire, remaining on the ground to treat the wounded.
Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro, an infantryman, received the medal
posthumously, helped rescue trapped survivors of two U.S. squads who
had been ambushed by enemy forces in a Kim Son Valley village. Kaneshiro later died while continuing his service in Vietnam.
President Joe Biden awarded four U.S. Army Soldiers the Medal of
Honor on July 5, 2022 at the White House. The new MOH
recipients are ... clockwise from left, Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell; Spc. 5 Dennis Fujii; Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro; and Maj. John Duffy. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from courtesy photos provided by
the U.S. Army.)
Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro
In a village near Phu Huu 2, a large North
Vietnamese contingent ambushed two squads from Kaneshiro’s platoon
on Dec. 1, 1966. Kaneshiro, a squad leader with Troop C, First
Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, was scouting
land east of the village at the time of the attack.
directed his squad toward the sound of the fire, where enemy forces
had killed his platoon leader and several other Soldiers, and had
his two sister squads pinned down. Kaneshiro swiftly read the
situation and realized that the fire from a machine-gun bunker and
large concealed trench had to be stopped if anyone were to survive.
Kaneshiro deployed his men to cover, then crawled forward, alone, to
attack the enemy force.
While flattened to the ground he was
somehow able to throw a grenade through the aperture of the bunker,
eliminating it as a threat. Next he leapt into the trench and
single-handedly worked his way down its entire 35-meter length,
destroying one group of enemies with his rifle and two more enemy
groups with grenades.
Kaneshiro’s assault allowed the
pinned-down squads to survive and prepare their casualties for
evacuation. His actions enabled the orderly extrication and
reorganization of the platoon.
Kaneshiro would continue his
tour in Vietnam until his passing on March 6, 1967, when he died by
enemy gunshot wound at the age of 38.
Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell
On Jan. 31,
1968, a large North Vietnamese element attacked Birdwell’s unit --
Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division -- at Tan
Son Nhut Air Base, just outside of Saigon on the first day of what
would later become known as the Tet Offensive. Birdwell’s unit bore
the brunt of the initial attack, which destroyed many of the unit’s
vehicles and incapacitating Birdwell’s tank commander. Under heavy
small-arms fire, Birdwell moved his commander to a place of safety
and slid into the commander’s hatch.
Armed with the tank’s
machine gun and cannon and his M16 rifle, Birdwell fired upon the
North Vietnamese. When he exhausted all of his ammunition, Birdwell
dismounted and maneuvered to his squadron commander’s helicopter,
which had been downed by enemy fire, and retrieved two machine guns
and ammunition, with which he and a comrade suppressed the enemy.
His machine gun was struck by enemy rounds and exploded, injuring
his face and torso.
Birdwell refused evacuation and moved
amongst the disabled vehicles and defensive positions, collecting
ammunition to distribute to the remaining defenders. While under
harassing fire, Birdwell led a small group of defenders past the
enemy force and engaged the enemy with hand grenades, disrupting
their assault until reinforcements arrived. Birdwell continued to
treat wounded until he was ordered to seek medical attention.
Spc. 5 Dennis Fujii
As a crew chief serving with the 237th Medical
Detachment, 61st Medical Battalion, 67th Medical Group, Fujii
engaged in rescue operations that transported injured South
Vietnamese personnel over Laos and the Republic of Vietnam on Feb.
18, 1971. During a second approach to a hot landing zone, the enemy
concentrated a barrage of flak at Fujii’s helicopter, causing it to
crash in the conflict area, injuring Fujii.
helicopter was able to land and load all of his fellow downed
airmen. However, Fujii was not able to board because the enemy
directed fire on him. Rather than endanger the lives aboard the
second helicopter, Fujii waved it off to leave the combat area.
Subsequent attempts to rescue him were aborted due to the violent
anti-aircraft fire. Fujii secured a radio and informed the aviators
in the area that the landing zone was too hot for further evacuation
attempts. Fujii remained as the lone American on the ground,
treating the injuries of South Vietnam troops throughout the night
and the next day.
On the night of Feb. 19, their perimeter
came under assault by an enemy regiment and artillery fire. He
called U.S. gunships to aid their small force in the battle. For
more than 17 hours, Fujii repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire
as he left his entrenchment to observe enemy troop positions and
direct air strikes against them. At times the group’s survival was
so tentative that Fujii was forced to interrupt radio transmittal in
order to place suppressive rifle fire on the enemy while at close
Though wounded and severely fatigued, Fujii’s
actions led to the successful defense of the South Vietnamese troops
and their encampment.
Then, after a helicopter was finally
able to airlift him from the battle, enemy rounds pierced its hull
forcing it to crash-land at a friendly camp, where Fujii would spend
another two days before being evacuated.
Maj. John Duffy
April 14-15, 1972, Duffy, part of Team 162 Military Assistance
Command-Vietnam, was senior advisor to the South Vietnamese 11th
Airborne Battalion at Fire Support Base Charlie in South Vietnam. In
the days before, the enemy had destroyed the battalion command post,
and the 11th’s commander had been killed; Duffy himself was twice
But instead of being evacuated, Duffy led a two-day
defense of the surrounded FSB against a battalion-sized enemy force.
During the attack Duffy moved himself close to the enemy, to an
exposed position, in order to call in air strikes. Despite being
injured again after being struck by fragments from a recoilless
rifle round, Duffy stayed and directed U.S. helicopter gunships onto
enemy anti-aircraft and artillery positions.
After a severe,
300-artillery-round attack on the base, Duffy personally ensured the
wounded troops were moved to safer positions and distributed
ammunition to the remaining defenders.
That afternoon, the
enemy began a ground assault on the firebase from all sides. Duffy
moved from position to position to spot targets for artillery and to
adjust fires. The next morning, after the 11th survived an ambush,
Duffy led wounded to an evacuation area while in continual pursuit
by the enemy.
Minor editing without impacting stories
of the four Medal of Honor recipients.
Medal of Honor Ceremony
Medal of Honor
Duffy | Edward
Kaneshiro | Dwight
Birdwell | Dennis Fujii
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