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Four Army soldiers who fought in Vietnam receive Medal of Honor

“Not every service member has received the full recognition they deserve,” President Joe Biden said. “Today, we're setting the record straight."

WASHINGTON — Four U.S. Army soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War were awarded the Medal of Honor by President Joe Biden on Tuesday at the White House.

Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro, Specialist Five Dwight W. Birdwell, Specialist Five Dennis M. Fujii, and retired Major John J. Duffy are the latest round of medal recipients. Kaneshiro received his medal posthumously.

“Not every service member has received the full recognition they deserve,” Biden said. “Today, we're setting the record straight."

Recounting their battlefield service, Biden said they “went far and above the call of duty."

“More than 50 years have passed since the jungles of Vietnam,” Biden added. “But time has not diminished their bravery.”

While serving as a squad leader near Phu Huu 2 in the Kim Son Valley of Vietnam on December 1, 1966, Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro and his team entered the village of Phu Huu 2 while on a search and destroy mission and were attacked by North Vietnamese. Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro destroyed one enemy group with rifle fire and two others with grenades, which enabled the orderly extrication and reorganization of the platoon and ultimately led to a successful withdrawal from the village. He served in Vietnam between July 18, 1966, until his death on March 6, 1967, as a result of a hostile gunshot wound.

Credit: AP
President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro for his actions on Dec. 1, 1966, during the Vietnam War, as his son John Kaneshiro accepts the posthumous recognition during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Specialist Five Dwight W. Birdwell received his medal for his acts above and beyond the call of duty on Jan. 31, 1968. 

That day, a large enemy element initiated an assault on the Tan Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon. They disabled or destroyed many of the unit’s vehicles and incapacitated Specialist Five Birdwell's tank commander. Under heavy enemy small-arms fire, Specialist Five Birdwell moved the tank commander to safety and fired the tank's weapons at the enemy force. Afterward, he dismounted and continued fighting until receiving enemy fire to his face and torso. He refused evacuation and led a small group of defenders to disrupt the enemy assault until reinforcements arrived. He then aided in evacuating the wounded until he was ordered to seek attention for his own wounds. He was honorably discharged on Dec. 29, 1968, and today practices law in Oklahoma City, the White House press office said in a release.

Specialist Five Dennis M. Fujii received his medal for his actions while serving as a crew chief aboard a helicopter ambulance during a rescue operation in Laos from Feb. 18-22, 1971.

During a mission to evacuate seriously wounded Vietnamese military personnel, Specialist Five Fujii's medevac helicopter took on enemy fire and was forced to crash land. Although injured, he waved off a rescue from another helicopter and remained behind as the only American on the battlefield. During that night and the next day, although wounded, he administered first aid to allied casualties. On the night of February 19, he called in American helicopter gunships to assist in repelling an enemy attack. For more than 17 hours, he repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire as he left the security of his entrenchment to better observe enemy troop positions and to direct air strikes against them until an American helicopter could attempt to airlift him from the area. Upon completion of his tour, he joined the Army Reserve and today resides in Hawaii.

Credit: WUSA9
Specialist Five Dennis M. Fujii received his medal for his actions while serving as a crew chief aboard a helicopter ambulance in Laos.

Finally, Major John J. Duffy received his medal for actions performed on April 14-15, 1972.

Two days earlier, the commander of the 11th Airborne Battalion had been killed, the battalion command post destroyed, and Major Duffy was twice wounded. He refused to be evacuated. In the morning hours of April 14, after a failed effort to establish a landing zone for resupply aircraft, he moved close to enemy anti-aircraft positions to call in airstrikes and was wounded again, but still refused evacuation. In the late afternoon, the enemy began a ground assault from all sides, and Major Duffy moved from position to position to adjust fire, spot targets for artillery and direct gunship fire. In the early morning of April 15, after an enemy ambush, he led evacuees, many of whom were seriously wounded, to an evacuation area, where he directed gunship fire on enemy positions and marked a landing zone for the helicopters. Only after ensuring all evacuees were aboard, did he board as well, assisting a wounded friendly foreign soldier and administering aid to a wounded helicopter door gunner. Major Duffy's service included three tours in Vietnam in a myriad of Special Forces assignments. He retired from the Army on May 31, 1977, and currently lives in Santa Cruz, California.

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