Today in military history: Army captain receives first Vietnam War Medal of Honor


On December 5, 1964, Captain Roger Donlon received the first Medal of Honor for his action in the Vietnam War.

Five months earlier, on July 6, 1964, U.S. Army Captain Donlon was occupying Camp Nam Dong near Laos and northern Vietnam when he and his special forces team were attacked by the Viet Cong.

Faced with massive force, Donlon coordinated countermeasures with his men as the enemy announced via a public address system ordering South Vietnamese troops to lay down their arms as they only wanted to kill the Americans. At this point, many VC supporters have done as the voice of the Palestinian Authority commanded them.

Moments later, Donlon spotted a zapper – or infiltrator enemy – attempting to break through the front door. He rushed towards them for a closer shot, but as he engaged his rifle, he realized he was out of ammo. He quickly shouted at a nearby mortar pit for a resupply. They threw new cartridges at him, still in their cardboard boxes.

Without hesitation, Donlon loaded three rounds into his magazine and successfully engaged the enemy. Faced with a force of hundreds against the United States and dozens of the ARVN, Donlon and his men all agreed not to give up, and they would fight to the end.

This engagement led Donlon to continue to coordinate defenses while running from position to position, supplying his men. After five long hours and heavy losses, the Allied forces manage to achieve victory and maintain their base camp.

He was shot in the stomach, but he stopped the bleeding with his belt and a piece of tissue and continued to fight.

He was wounded several times, but continued to fight, hurling mortar shells and grenades at the hordes of attackers. When the battle was won, 154 Viet Cong were dead, along with at least 50 South Vietnamese soldiers and Nung mercenaries and two Americans.

Donlon was evacuated to a Saigon hospital where he spent a month recovering before completing his six-month tour with his men.

To date, 261 Americans have received the Medal of Honor for their service during the Vietnam War, at least 150 of them posthumously.


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