Biden awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam hero after nearly 60-year wait
President Biden on Friday hailed “a true hero of our nation” by presenting the Medal of Honor to retired Green Beret Col. Paris Davis, one of the first Black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat.
Davis, who received the highest military reward for valor for his heroics during the Vietnam War, “helped write the history of our nation,” Biden said.
“This year, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of our first fully integrated armed forces and the name Paris Davis will still stand alongside the nation’s pioneering heroes,” Biden said at the White House.
“Paris, you are everything this medal means. I mean everything this medal means,” he added. “And look, you’re everything our generation aspired to be. You’re everything our nation is at our best. Brave and big-hearted, determined and devoted. Selfless and steadfast. American.”
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Humble as ever, Davis told Fox News of his successes on the battlefield all those years ago. “You make the right choices. You want to get the right result,” Davis said.
It certainly was the right result. One fateful night on June 18th 1965, Davis saved three men from enemy capture: American soldiers Robert Brown, John Reinberg and Billy Waugh.
Along with his small team of special force soldiers, the then Captain Paris Davis had been tasked with training a force of local volunteers B?nh ??nh province. He commanded a team of inexperienced South Vietnamese volunteers to fight the enemy.
Over the course of a 19-hour battle, Davis refused to leave the battlefield until all his men were out of harm’s way.
“Davis selflessly led a charge to neutralize enemy emplacements, called for precision artillery fire, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the North Vietnamese,” his Medal of Honor citation read.
During the course of the battle, Davis sustained multiple gunshot and grenade-fragment wounds.
The Army explained his acts of bravery. Davis made it to the first soldier under a hail of enemy fire and was shot once again. Despite his grievous wounds and with no regard for his own safety, Davis saved the soldier and returned him to the company’s perimeter. Davis again broke cover, braving enemy fire, to retrieve the second soldier.
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Crawling nearly 150 yards and wounded by enemy grenade fragments, he rescued the soldier and returned him to the company perimeter. Davis then directed the helicopter extraction of his wounded troops while refusing medical evacuation for himself. Instead, he directed tactical air and artillery fire, “ensuring the destruction of the enemy force.”
Davis said he was not afraid that night; he knew that his soldiers trusted him, and he would not let them down. “They knew that I wasn’t going to do anything that would put them in harm’s way.”
Shortly after the mission was complete, Davis’s commander said he was going to recommend Davis for the Medal of Honor.
“That was not just a flippant remark. That was profound for someone with his combat experience to say something like that to me that evening,” his friend and fellow soldier Ron Deis, who was with him that night of June 18th, told Fox News.
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Davis was awarded the nation’s third-highest military decoration, the Silver Star. He was also recommended for the Medal of Honor in 1965, but his paperwork disappeared. A few years later, it was resubmitted, and then lost again.
Deis said he did not think the paperwork was lost by accident. “I think that because he was a Black leader of our team, I think those recommendations were thrown away.”
Despite the delay, Davis said he’s just happy to share this experience with his family; his two grandsons will be attending the White House ceremony with him.
Davis first deployed to Vietnam in 1962 and again in 1965, where he was promoted to captain as a detachment commander with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He attributed his success in Vietnam to choosing to fight at night.
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He called it a game of cat and mouse. Very aware he was fighting on someone else’s territory, he used that to his advantage. “Remember, the enemy can be everywhere, because that’s his property, so it worked a little bit different at night. You got to be a lot more careful and a lot more cunning if you’re going to survive.”
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The 83-year-old Davis has received the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, Purple Heart with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster and Air Medal with “V” device. He received a Master of Science degree from Southern Illinois University in 1973 and a Master of Public Administration and Doctorate from Northern Virginia University in 1977.
He served with the Army staff, the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Headquarters, U.S. Army European Command. Colonel Davis was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 2019. He resides in Virginia with his daughter and her family.