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Medal of Honor Awarded to 4 Soldiers for Vietnam Heroism

When a seemingly peaceable Vietnamese village erupted in an ambush, Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro jumped into motion. With simply six grenades and his M16, he cleared a trench of enemy fighters who had pinned down two squads of his fellow American troopers.

Kaneshiro was an infantry squad chief within the ninth Cavalry Regiment of the first Cavalry Division on Dec. 1, 1966, when his unit approached a village referred to as Phu Huu 2. Hiding within the village was a mass of North Vietnamese troops inside a community of closely fortified bunkers and tunnels related by a central trench that minimize by the village.

Fooled by the silence, two US squads beelined to the center of the village and have been instantly pinned down by North Vietnamese gunfire.

It was a lure.

medal of honor vietnam
Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro and Mitsuko Kaneshiro. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of the Kaneshiro household by way of the US Army.

Kaneshiro, scouting close by, rerouted his squad towards the gunfire.

He ordered his squad to take cowl, then crawled alone towards a machine-gunner firing from the central trench.

Kaneshiro tossed his first grenade immediately by the small port of a bunker, taking out the gunner. He then hopped into the ditch himself. For 35 meters, he superior up the ditch, participating North Vietnamese fighters together with his rifle and grenades. Because of Kaneshiro’s actions, the 2 trapped squads have been in a position to break contact, reorganize, and accumulate their lifeless earlier than navigating out of the village.

Kaneshiro survived the Phu Huu 2 ambush however was killed in motion on March 6, 1967.

On Tuesday, July 5, Kaneshiro was one of 4 troopers awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam. President Joe Biden introduced all 4 medals in a White House ceremony, awarding Kaneshiro’s posthumous medal for his actions through the Phu Huu 2 ambush to his household.

medal of honor vietnam
Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro poses for a photograph in 1947. Photo courtesy of Naomi Kaneshiro by way of the US Army.

All 4 troopers — Kaneshiro, Spc. fifth Class Dennis M. Fujii, Spc. fifth Class Dwight Birdwell, and Maj. John J. Duffy — had earlier valor awards for placing themselves in hurt’s manner to defend injured comrades that have been upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Biden credited the upgrades to a congressionally ordered overview of the heroic actions of Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders who served through the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Kaneshiro was the son of Japanese immigrants and was born and raised in Hawaii, as was Fujii. Birdwell is a member of the Cherokee Nation.

“Today, we’re setting the record straight,” Biden mentioned. “We’re upgrading the awards of four soldiers who performed acts of incredible heroism during the Vietnam conflict, to respect the conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity of their service. I’m proud to finally award our highest military recognition, the Medal of Honor, to each of you, one posthumously.”

Then-Specialist Dwight Birdwell, left, with Spc. Larry Melvin and Spc. Rollins Cunnigham, whereas assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea, 1967. Photo courtesy of Dwight Birdwell by way of US Army

Kaneshiro’s son, John, obtained the Medal of Honor on his father’s behalf. “Your family sacrificed so much for our country,” Biden mentioned to him. “I know that no award could ever make up for the loss of your father, for not having him there as you grew up, but I hope today you take some pride and comfort in knowing his valor is finally receiving the full recognition it has always deserved.” 

Fujii served because the crew chief of a medevac helicopter within the Vietnam War. His award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor for his actions throughout a rescue mission in Vietnam and neighboring Laos from Feb. 18 to 22, 1971. After Fujii’s helicopter crash-landed, he supplied assist to allied casualties and referred to as in air strikes as the one American on the bottom. He completed his tour in Vietnam, then served within the Army Reserve. He is a Native Hawaiian and nonetheless resides within the state.

Birdwell served within the 4th Cavalry of the twenty fifth Infantry Division. Biden upgraded his award to the Medal of Honor for his actions through the opening assault of the Tet Offensive on Jan. 31, 1968. When his tank commander was wounded, Birdwell obtained him to security and took his place. After exhausting all of the ammunition in his tank and private rifle, Birdwell retrieved an M60 machine gun from a downed helicopter, firing it till the gun exploded in his fingers, riddling his physique with shrapnel.

Maj. John Duffy earlier than the “Battle for Charlie Hill” in 1972. Photo courtesy of John Duffy by way of the US Army.

Biden famous that, when ordered to evacuate, Birdwell boarded the helicopter, then crawled out the opposite aspect to rejoin the battle.

“That’s what you call taking orders and causing trouble,” Biden mentioned.

Birdwell survived the assault and have become a lawyer, finally serving on the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court.

Duffy was a Special Forces officer tasked with defending Tan Son Nhut Airbase in 1972. Injured twice, he refused to go away his battalion command publish, as a substitute persevering with to name in air strikes. Wounded a 3rd time, he nonetheless refused to evacuate. Eventually, he led different evacuees to rescue helicopters and boarded solely when all others have been on board. Duffy retired from the Army in 1977 and lives in California.

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