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.
In W. Thomas Smith, Jr.‘s latest article in his “This Week in American Military History” series at Human Events today, Smith writes about the late Colonel Robert Howard’s actions that earned the Medal of Honor in Dec. 30-31, 1968. Amazingly, Howard had been nominated for the nation’s highest decoration twice before within the last year.
U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) Sergeant First Class Robert L. Howard is operating deep in the South Vietnamese backcountry (some sources say Cambodia) when suddenly his 40-man hatchet platoon is attacked by a force of some 250 North Vietnamese soldiers.
As the attack unfolds, Howard and his lieutenant are struck by an exploding claymore. Howard is knocked unconscious. He comes to, but with blood in his eyes, he initially believes he has been blinded. Momentarily he can see, but he quickly realizes his body is riddled with shrapnel, his weapon is destroyed, and the enemy is all around him.
Howard manages to toss a grenade at an enemy soldier who is burning the bodies of Howard’s dead comrades with a flamethrower. Howard then crawls under heavy fire to his wounded lieutenant, and drags the officer toward a position of relative safety. Howard survives a second blast when his lieutenant’s ammunition pouch is struck and detonates. Despite his shredded hands, Howard manages to shoot several enemy soldiers with a pistol. He is then shot in the foot and no longer able to walk. Nevertheless, he organizes what’s left of the platoon into a defensive position, then crawls from one man to the next, tending to the wounded and dying, shouting encouragement to the living and fighting, and directing airstrikes on the attacking enemy. Though surrounded, Howard successfully repels attack-after-attack, saves his platoon, and ultimately receives the Medal of Honor.
Retired as a colonel in 1992, Howard is the only soldier to be nominated three times for the Medal of Honor for three separate actions over a period of just over a year.
Unfortunately, Col. Howard passed away last month. He was a great man – the 70 year-old found time to visit U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere this past year. I was looking forward to meeting him in the upcoming Medal of Honor convention in South Carolina this September.
Also Smith writes that SEAL Teams One (Coronado, Calif.) and Two (Little Creek, Va.) were established on Jan.1, 1962 to the horror of Communists and evil-doers worldwide.
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
ROBERT LEWIS HOWARD
for service as set forth in the following
For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant (Infantry), [then Sergeant First Class] Robert Lewis Howard (ASN: RA-14628152), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Republic of Vietnam, on 30 December 1968. First Lieutenant Howard, distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated two-company force. During the initial engagement, First Lieutenant Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. First Lieutenant Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, First Lieutenant Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As First Lieutenant Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer’s equipment, an enemy bullet struck one of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant’s belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. First Lieutenant Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area. Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, First Lieutenant Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, First Lieutenant Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3 1/2 hours First Lieutenant Howard’s small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. First Lieutenant Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. First Lieutenant Howard’s gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Born: 11 July 1939 in Opeleika, Ala…. Served five tours in Vietnam… Believed to be the most decorated soldier since World War II... Nominated for the Medal of Honor three times in 13 months, but due to the covert nature of his operations, the first was downgraded to Distinguished Service Cross, the second downgraded to Silver Star… One of only two Americans to earn the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross in the Vietnam War… Wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat… Awarded eight Purple Hearts, a record he shares with four other soldiers and four Marines… Also awarded four Bronze Stars in addition to many other decorations… Achieved the rank of Master Sergeant before being appointed to Second Lieutenant… The last Medal of Honor recipient on active duty, he retired as Colonel in 1992… Departed 23 December 2009… Interred: Arlington National Cemetery
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
ESTABLISHED BY AN ACT OF CONGRESS 9 JULY 1918 (AMENDED BY ACT OF 25 JULY 1963) AND AWARDED BY THE
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
SILVER STAR MEDAL
SERGEANT FIRST CLASS ROBERT LEWIS HOWARD
UNITED STATES ARMY
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Sergeant First Class Robert Lewis Howard (ASN: RA-14628152), United States Army, for gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Sergeant First Class Howard distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions from 12 to 20 November 1968, during an operation deep within enemy-held territory. As his platoon was being inserted into the area, it came under heavy fire from all directions. Continue reading “Robert L. Howard’s Silver Star citation”