Vietnam veterans waited a long time before their bravery during the war was recognized. Some still wait. But, four men’s Medals of Honor were 50 years in the making.
Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell. Maj. John Duffy, Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro, and Spc. 5 Dennis Fujii were honored in a ceremony at the White House.
President Joe Biden said in his speech, “There’s been a long journey to this day for those heroes and their families, and more than 50 years have passed — 50 years — since the jungles of Vietnam, whereas young men, these soldiers first proved their mettle.”
“But time has not diminished their astonishing bravery, their selflessness in putting the lives of others ahead of their own, and the gratitude that we as a nation owe them.”President Joe Biden
Kaneshiro and his team went into a village by Phu Huu 2 on December 1, 1966, and were ambushed. The North Vietnamese embedded themselves in the village in a trench and bunker system. Gunfire rained down on the men killing the platoon leader and many other soldiers.
Kaneshiro had his men cover him so that he could clear the trench. The grenade he threw took out the gunner.
He cleared all 35-meters with a rifle and grenades, making the mission successful. Unfortunately, however, he was killed in 1967 by enemy gunfire.
Taking On The Enemy
Birdwell was at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base by Saigon on Jan. 31, 1968, when the North Vietnamese attacked. Birdwell manned the tank cannon. When he ran out of ammo, he moved on to the machine guns.
He was injured when enemy fire hit the gun, but he kept fighting. He collected and passed out ammunition to other soldiers and helped evacuate the other wounded. Finally, he was ordered to have his injuries looked at.
Duffy was in a battle on April 14-15. He was injured, and his commander died, but he kept pushing on. Similarly, Fujii was the helicopter crew chief on a February 18-22, 1971 mission.
The helicopter crashed, and though he was injured, he refused to be rescued because he was taking on enemy fire. He was out there for 17 hours before finding a radio and calling for help.
Another helicopter tried to retrieve him, but it crashed. Fujii waited for two more days at an allied camp before he was rescued.