An Alexandria veteran who was among the first Black officers in the Army’s Special Forces is finally being recognized for his heroism in Vietnam almost 60 years later.
Retired Col. Paris Davis will receive the Medal of Honor — America’s highest award for bravery — for his actions during a 19-hour raid on a North Vietnamese army camp on June 18, 1965, at Camp Bong Son.
Every member of Davis’ team was wounded in the battle. Davis was ordered to leave twice, he said in a 1969 interview with then-local TV host Phil Donahue, but told his commanding officer: “Sir, I’m just not going to leave. I still have an American out there.”
Despite being wounded himself, Davis rescued each of his team members. They all survived.
President Joe Biden called Davis on Monday to tell him he would be honored for his “remarkable heroism during the Vietnam War,” the White House tweeted. Biden “looks forward to hosting him at the White House for a medal presentation.”
Davis, who has been awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star, said in a statement that the call “prompted a wave of memories of the men and women I served with in Vietnam.”
“I am so very grateful for my family and friends within the military and elsewhere who kept alive the story of A-team, A-321 at Camp Bong Son. I think often of those fateful 19 hours on June 18, 1965, and what our team did to make sure we left no man behind on that battlefield,” Davis said.
Davis was a 26-year-old captain at the time of the Vietnam raid in 1965. He had reached the rank of colonel by the time he retired in 1985, according to The Associated Press.
Paperwork recommending him for the Medal of Honor was filed in 1965 — but somehow vanished. According to a New York Times report, a 1969 inquiry didn’t turn up the original nomination. The nomination was refiled but disappeared yet again.
Members of Davis’ team have blamed racism for the vanishing paperwork.
Former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who Davis thanked in his statement, ordered an expedited review of Davis’ lost nomination in January 2021. Miller later argued in a June 2021 opinion piece that military bureaucracy was “perpetuating injustice.” He urged Biden to award Davis the Medal of Honor.
Now, nearly 60 years after his heroism in Vietnam, Davis is getting the honor, though the White House has not yet announced a date for the award ceremony.
Feature image courtesy White House/Twitter
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