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This Day in History - 12.5.2011

The First Medal of Honor

By Ahoud Alsharia

On December 5, 1964, the first Medal of Honor was given to a U.S serviceman, Capt. Roger Donlon, for his brave action in Vietnam earlier that year. 

Captain Donlon was operating in Camp Nam Dong with his Special Forces team. near the borders of Laos and North Vietnam. On July 6, 1964, at two o’clock in the morning, gangs of Viet Cong attacked the camp. Donlon was shot in his stomach, but he did not give up. Although he was wounded three times, he kept fighting, attacking the enemy with bombs and refusing medical care.

Two American soldiers died and seven were injured, but in a fight that lasted into the night, Donlon and his team were able to fend off hundreds of Viet Cong soldiers. After the fight ended, Donlon was taken to a hospital where he stayed for a month before returning back to join the survivors of his Special Forces team. Donlon and his team returned to the U.S. in November that year after completing their six-month tour in Vietnam. 

In a special ceremony at the white house, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Donlon with the Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty." Upon receiving the medal, Donlon remarked "The medal belongs to them, too," referring to his nine surviving team members.