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Friday, March 1, 2024

Roger Donlon, 1st Medal of Honor Winner in Vietnam, Dies at 89


Roger H.C. Donlon, an Military Inexperienced Beret who in 1964 was the primary Medal of Honor recipient within the Vietnam Battle, for main the protection of a jungle outpost in a ferocious nighttime assault regardless of being wounded by shrapnel from mortars and a grenade, died on Jan. 25 in Leavenworth, Kan., the place he lived. He was 89.

The trigger was Parkinson’s illness, which his family said resulted from publicity to Agent Orange, the poisonous chemical sprayed by American plane as a defoliant in Vietnam.

Mr. Donlon was a profession soldier who spent 33 years within the Military, rising to colonel. Earlier than that he attended the U.S. Navy Academy at West Level, although he dropped out after two years, and have become a Inexperienced Beret in 1963 after coaching at Fort Bragg, N.C., now Fort Liberty.

The battle by which he earned the Medal of Honor loosely impressed the climactic scene in “The Inexperienced Berets,” a 1968 film starring John Wayne.

Mr. Donlon was a 30-year-old Particular Forces captain when he arrived in South Vietnam to command an outpost at Nam Dong, north of Da Nang not removed from the Laotian border. The mountainous area within the Central Highlands was populated by Montagnard villagers, whom Military advisers — and before them, C.I.A. officers — tried to form right into a bulwark in opposition to the Vietcong, the Communist insurgency aligned with North Vietnam.

Ringed in barbed wire, Camp Nam Dong was defended by a dozen U.S. Particular Forces and about 300 Vietnamese. Within the early hours of July 6, 1964, a drive of 800 to 900 Vietcong and North Vietnamese regulars launched a shock assault, looking for to overrun the camp.

Years later, Capt. Donlon mentioned that among the many fighters the Inexperienced Berets have been coaching have been many Vietcong sympathizers. When the capturing started, he told the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the attackers made an announcement over a public deal with system in English and Vietnamese telling the sympathizers: “Lay down your weapons. We simply need the People.” He estimated there have been solely about 75 reliable fighters to defend the camp.

Working via “a hail of small arms and exploding hand grenades,” in accordance with the Medal of Honor citation, Capt. Donlon “annihilated” enemy fighters who have been trying to breach the principle gate.

Throughout 5 hours of combating, he was continuously in movement: laying down masking fireplace as his troopers retreated, crawling with a 60-millimeter mortar to a brand new location and dragging a wounded soldier out of a gun pit. On separate events, he was wounded within the abdomen, left shoulder, leg and face.

Capt. Donlon radioed for reinforcements, however when helicopters arrived from Da Nang Air Base, they have been unable to land due to the extraordinary firefight and returned to base.

“With out hesitation,” Capt. Donlon’s quotation reads, “he left this sheltered place, and moved from place to place across the beleaguered perimeter whereas hurling hand grenades on the enemy and galvanizing his males to superhuman effort.”

At daybreak when the enemy retreated, two Inexperienced Berets, one Australian soldier and 55 South Vietnamese defenders have been useless, whereas the Vietcong misplaced 64 males, in accordance with an official military history.

Capt. Donlon was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson on the White Home on Dec. 5, 1964.

That 12 months, with 23,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, the administration was nonetheless dissembling in regards to the American position within the conflict. “That is the primary Medal of Honor awarded to a person who distinguished himself whereas serving with a pleasant drive engaged in an armed battle by which the USA is just not a belligerent social gathering,” a White Home assertion learn.

Mr. Donlon’s navy profession started when he enlisted within the Air Drive in 1953. He was admitted to West Level in 1955 however dropped out after two years, taking a job with IBM. After 10 months, he determined {that a} company job was not for him, and in 1958 he joined the Military he joined the Military, graduating from Officer Candidate Faculty as a second lieutenant at Fort Benning, Ga., now Fort Moore.

After Vietnam, he earned a Bachelor of Common Research from the College of Nebraska at Omaha and a Grasp of Science in authorities from Campbell College, according to Stars and Stripes. He turned an teacher on the Command and Common Workers Faculty at Fort Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kan., the place, after retiring in 1988, he continued dwelling together with his household.

He wrote two books, “Outpost of Freedom” (1965), in regards to the battle for Nam Dong, and “Past Nam Dong” (1998), an autobiography that features an account of returning to Nam Dong lengthy after the conflict to advertise reconciliation.

In retirement, he raised cash for a scholarship fund for Vietnamese American and Vietnamese college students, and to construct a youngsters’s library and studying heart within the village of Nam Dong. He led a delegation to Vietnam in 1993 for the nonprofit group Individuals to Individuals Worldwide, the place he served on the board.

Roger Hugh Charles Donlon was born on Jan. 30, 1934, in Saugerties, N.Y. He was the eighth of 10 youngsters of Paul A. Donlon, who ran a lumber firm, and Marion (Howard) Donlon. His father died when he was 13, in 1947. When Mr. Donlon returned to Saugerties in 2016 after its city corridor was named in his honor, a former classmate of Mr. Donlon’s advised an area newspaper that he “all the time needed to be a soldier.”

“He got here from a navy household,” mentioned Jack Bartells, the classmate, “and he and 4 brothers served within the navy.”

In 1968, he married Norma Shinno Irving, whose first husband was killed in Vietnam, after sitting subsequent to her on a flight. She survives him, as do two of his brothers, Paul A. Donlon Jr. and Jack Donlon; a daughter, Linda Danniger; and three sons, Damian, Jason and Derek; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

In a 1995 return journey to Nam Dong, Mr. Donlon visited the overgrown graves of the South Vietnamese troopers beneath his command who died within the battle. Beside him was Nguyen Can Thu, a former Vietcong political officer who had helped plan the assault. It was Mr. Thu, Mr. Donlon later mentioned, who advised him that 100 of the 300 Vietnamese he was coaching within the camp have been Vietcong infiltrators.

Collectively, the 2 males cleared brush and righted a few of the unmarked headstones. They have been helped by Vietcong veterans of the battle.

“There I used to be, kneeling to chop the grass over the graves of my males, and throughout me my former enemies have been serving to me do it,” Mr. Donlon advised The Kansas Metropolis Star in 1999. “That basically solidified my emotions of reconciliation.”



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