Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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H-028-1: Medal of Honor Citations—U.S. Navy, Vietnam, 1969

H-Gram 028, Attachment 1

Samuel J. Cox, Director NHHC

March 2019

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Joseph R. Kerrey, United States Naval Reserve

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 14 March 1969 while serving as a SEAL Team Leader during action against enemy aggressor (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam. Acting in response to reliable intelligence Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey led his SEAL Team on a mission to capture important members of the enemy’s area political cadre known to be located an island in the bay of Nha Trang. In order to surprise the enemy, he and his team scaled a 350-foot sheer cliff to place themselves above the ledge on which the enemy was located. Splitting his team in two elements, Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey led his men in a treacherous downward descent to the enemy’s camp. Just as they neared the end of their descent, intense enemy fire was directed at them, and Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey received massive injuries from a grenade which exploded at his feet and threw him backward onto the jagged rocks. Although bleeding profusely and suffering great pain, he displayed outstanding courage and presence of mind in immediately directing his element’s fire into the heart of the enemy camp. Utilizing his radioman, Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey called in the second element’s fire support which caught the Viet Cong in a devastating cross fire. After successfully suppressing the enemy’s fire, and although immobilized by his multiple wounds, he continued to maintain calm, superlative control as he ordered his team to secure and defend an extraction site. Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey resolutely directed his men, despite his near unconscious state, until he was eventually evacuated by helicopter. The havoc brought to the enemy by this very successful mission cannot be overestimated. The enemy who were captured provided critical intelligence to the allied effort. Lieutenant (jg) Kerry’s courageous and inspiring leadership, valiant fighting spirit, and tenacious devotion to duty in the face of almost overwhelming opposition, sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Hospital Corpsman Second Class David R. Ray, United States Navy

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call f duty while serving as a corpsman with Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, at Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa, Quang Nam Province, in the Republic of Vietnam, on 19 March 1969. During the early morning hours, an estimated battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the batteries position, and succeeded in effecting a penetration of the barbed-wire perimeter. The initial burst of enemy fire caused numerous casualties among the Marines who had immediately manned their howitzers during the rocket and mortar attack. Undaunted by the intense hostile fire, Petty Officer Ray moved from parapet to parapet, rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded. Although seriously wounded himself wile rendering first aide to a Marine casualty, he refused medical treatment and continued his life saving efforts. While he was bandaging and attempting to comfort another wounded Marine, Petty Officer Ray was forced to battle two enemy soldiers who attacked his position, personally killing one and wounding another. Rapidly losing his strength as a result of his own severe wounds, he nonetheless managed to move through the hail of enemy fire to other casualties. Once again, he was faced with the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops, and despite the grave danger and insurmountable odds, succeeded in treating the wounded and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which time he sustained fatal wounds. Petty Officer Ray’s final act of heroism was to protect the patient he was treating. He threw himself upon the wounded Marine, thus saving the man’s life when an enemy grenade exploded nearby. By his determined and persevering actions, courageous spirit, and selfless devotion to his Marine comrades, Petty Officer Ray served to inspire the men of Battery D to heroic efforts in defeating the enemy. His conduct throughout was in keeping of the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

(The Spruance-class destroyer USS David R. Ray [DD-971] was named in HM2 Ray’s honor, commissioned on 19 November 1977 and decommissioned on 28 February 2002, until it was sunk as a target in July 2008. The ship still remains protected under the Sunken Military Craft Act.)

Lieutenant Thomas G. Kelley, United States Navy

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on the afternoon of 15 June 1969 while serving as Commander River Assault Division 152 during combat operations against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Vietnam. Lieutenant Kelley was in charge of a column of eight river assault craft which were evacuating one company of United States Army infantry troops on the east bank of the Ong Muang Canal in Kien Hoa Province, when one of the armored troop carriers reported a mechanical failure of a loading ramp. At approximately the same time, Viet Cong forced opened fire from the opposite bank of the canal. After issuing orders for the crippled troop carrier to raise its ramp manually, and for the remaining boats to form a protective cordon around the disabled craft, Lieutenant Kelly, realizing the extreme danger to his column and its inability to clear the ambush site until the crippled unit was repaired, boldly maneuvered the monitor in which he was embarked to the exposed side of the protective cordon in direct line with the enemy’s fire and ordered the monitor to commence firing. Suddenly an enemy rocket scored a direct hit on the coxswain’s flat, the shell penetrating the thick armor plate, and the explosion spraying shrapnel in all directions. Sustaining serious head wounds from the blast, which hurled him to the deck of the monitor, Lieutenant Kelley disregarded his own severe injuries and attempted to continue directing the other boats. Although unable to move from the deck or speak clearly into the radio, he succeeded in relaying his commands through one of his men until the enemy attack was silenced and the boats were able to move to an area of safety. Lieutenant Kelley’s brilliant leadership, bold initiative, and resolute determination served to inspire his men and provided the impetus needed to carry out the mission after he was medically evacuated by helicopter. His extraordinary courage under fire, and his selfless devotion to duty sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

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Published: Wed May 08 10:10:32 EDT 2019