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President Joe Biden Awards Medal of Honor to 4 Vietnam War Veterans

Joe Biden
Image: White House Facebook.

Medal of Honor Winners Selected: Earlier this week, President Joe Biden awarded the nation’s highest military award for valor under fire to four soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War.

On Tuesday, Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro (posthumous), Specialist Five Dwight W. Birdwell, Specialist Five Dennis M. Fujii, and retired Major John J. Duffy.

Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro

On December 1, 1966, as a squad leader, Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro destroyed one North Vietnamese group with rifle fire and two others with grenades, allowing his platoon to orderly withdraw from an enemy village.

“One day in December, he and his squad were out scouting for open terrain. Now they didn’t know it, but North Vietnamese forces were planning to ambush their teammates through a concealed trench system. And when machine-gun fire erupted, his squad moved toward the sound,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in a ceremony.

“And Sergeant Kaneshiro threw a grenade right through the aperture of the enemy bunker, stopping the ambush where it started. Then he jumped into the trenches and single-handedly destroyed one enemy group after another. Because of his bravery, his platoon was able to withdraw from the village,” Austin added.

Specialist Five Dwight W. Birdwell

On January 31, 1968, Specialist Five Birdwell fought on after his tank commander had been hit and moved him to safety under enemy fire. He then fired the tank’s weapons at the North Vietnamese who were attacking his base. Despite being wounded in the face and torso, he refused evacuation and led a small group of defenders until reinforcements arrived.

“Specialist Birdwell fired anything that he could get his hands on: the tank’s main 90-millimeter gun, and then its machine gun. At several points, he hopped out of the commander’s hatch with his M16 to get a better shot. Even when he ran out of ammo, he kept on fighting. He made his way to a downed American helicopter and found two machine guns. His comrade took one, and Specialist Birdwell took the other. Now, that gun was shot out of his hands, and Specialist Birdwell was wounded by the shrapnel. But he still refused to leave the battle,” Austin said.

“And Specialist Birdwell ran through a storm of enemy fire and found a defensive position to collect and redistribute ammunition to the remaining defenders. Then he led a group of his comrades past enemy lines and threw hand grenades to prevent the enemy from advancing. Through it all, Specialist Birdwell continued to fight,” the secretary of defense added.

Specialist Five Dennis M. Fujii

Between February 18 and 22, Specialist Five Fujii, a crew chief aboard a helicopter ambulance, was left the only American on the ground when his helicopter crashed during a medical evacuation operation of South Vietnamese troops. He remained on the ground and administered life-saving aid to the American allies, and directed gunship fire around his position.

“And once the helicopter flew away, he was the only American left on the battlefield. He managed to find a radio—and told aviators not to try to come rescue him. There was too much anti-aircraft fire, he told them. And the battlefield was too hot. He was hurt and stranded. But he spent the night and the next day administering first aid to wounded South Vietnamese allies,” Austin stated.

“Meanwhile, the enemy brought reinforcements. And soon, the encampment was under renewed assault. And Specialist Fujii found yet another radio. But he didn’t use it to request a rescue. Instead, he called in enemy positions and directed air strikes against them. For the next 17 hours,” Austin added.

Major John J. Duffy

Between April 14 and 15, Major Duffy led from the front despite his serious wounds, directing airstrikes against North Vietnamese positions, taking care of the wounded, and setting up and organizing a landing zone after his unit was pinned down.

“On April 14, their job was simple, but gravely dangerous. They had to hold off North Vietnamese forces at Fire Support Base Charlie for as long as possible. So in the early morning hours, Major Duffy snuck up as close as he could to the enemy’s anti-aircraft positions. From there, he called in airstrikes. Major Duffy was wounded by shrapnel, but he refused evacuation,” Austin said.

“And when the enemy began bombarding the base with artillery, he put himself in an exposed position so that he could call in more airstrikes. And finally, the enemy fire went silent. Without a moment to lose, Major Duffy moved allied soldiers to safer positions. And because it was too dangerous for resupply aircraft to land, he redistributed what remained of the ammo. By the next morning, the North Vietnamese forces resumed their attacks, inflicting even more casualties. Major Duffy organized an evacuation of those who survived. And when they reached the exfiltration site, Major Duffy would not leave until all of his brothers in arms were aboard,” Austin added.

In ceremony inducting six Medal of Honor recipients (the four Vietnam veterans plus Segreant Major Patrick Payne, a Delta Force operator who earned the Medal of Honor during a daring hostage rescue against an ISIS prison, and Colonel Ralph Puckett, a legendary Ranger) to the Hall of Heroes, Austin focused on the example such troops set for the rest.

“President Kennedy once said that ‘a nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors.’ So today, we etch these soldiers’ names into the Hall of Heroes—to honor their deeds and to remember why American warriors fight. We honor these heroes because they represent the very best of us. And we honor these heroes to inspire future generations,” Austin said.

“May we all find the courage to live up to the example that they have set. May we all find the commitment to serve and defend our republic. And may we all find the dedication and duty to our democracy that these heroes have shown. May God bless our Medal of Honor recipients, and those who served alongside them, and all who love them,” the secretary of defense added.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.