Medal of Honor history: Howard and Yano

42 years ago, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Howard was on a joint patrol of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops when the unit was attacked by 250 North Vietnamese soldiers. After regaining consciousness from an explosion which riddled his body with shrapnel, Howard killed an enemy soldier who was wielding a flamethrower before dragging his commanding officer to safety. Howard then shoots several enemies with his pistol before being wounded once more in the foot, preventing him from walking. He then sets up a defensive position, repelling numerous attacks.

Howard, who retired in 1992 as a Colonel was believed to be the most decorated soldier since Vietnam. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor three times in just over a year. Due to the covert nature of his operations, the other actions were downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross (he was awarded two) and the Silver Star. He received eight Purple Hearts – tied with four other soldiers for the record – and was wounded 14 times in his 54 months of combat during the Vietnam War. He was one of only two soldiers to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross. He also was awarded four Bronze Stars, in addition to numerous other awards for valor. Read his citation here.

One year later, Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Yano was a crewmember aboard a command-and-control helicopter that was engaged with enemy forces near Bien Hoa. As Yano fired smoke and white phosphorous marking rounds to identify enemy positions for artillery strikes, a grenade detonated prematurely in the helicopter’s cabin, covering Yano with burning phosphorous and igniting the remaining ammunition. Despite his serious wounds, he began throwing the exploding ammunition overboard, causing further injuries – and ultimately his life – but sparing the helicopter and crew. Read his citation here.

Author: Chris Carter

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