The Story Behind Maj. John Duffy’s Medal of Honor

The Story Behind Maj. John Duffy’s Medal of Honor

On July 5, 2022, President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Military Maj. John J. Duffy for conspicuous gallantry whereas serving as the only American adviser with the eleventh Airborne Battalion, Vietnamese Airborne Division. The U.S. army’s highest ornament was offered 50 years after Duffy’s heroic conduct on April 14-15, 1972.

Duffy’s story and that of the performing South Vietnamese battalion commander, Maj. Le Van Me, throughout the North Vietnamese Military’s Easter Offensive are described with riveting element in retired Col. William “Invoice” Reeder’s e book, Extraordinary Valor: The Combat for Charlie Hill in Vietnam. On March 31, 1972, the 2nd Brigade, Vietnamese Airborne Division, was deployed to the Central Highlands and ordered to occupy previous U.S. firebases on terrain nicknamed “Rocket Ridge,” the important thing excessive floor northeast of the provincial capital, Kontum.

The eleventh Airborne Battalion, the brigade’s reserve, was inserted by helicopter at Firebase Charlie on Easter Sunday, April 2. Proven on topographic maps as Hill 1020 and Hill 960, the positions have been essential to the general protection of the ridge.  

The Easter Offensive, which started on March 30, 1972, was an all-out standard marketing campaign to defeat the South Vietnamese armed forces and humiliate the USA. In a three-pronged assault, the NVA struck throughout the Demilitarized Zone within the north, at An Loc, solely 60 miles from Saigon, and within the Central Highlands close to the tri-border space of Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam. The principal U.S. personnel immediately concerned within the combating have been aviators and a handful of advisers working with the Military of the Republic of Vietnam. The battles have been fought nearly completely with ARVN floor troops.

Within the Highlands, two bolstered NVA divisions have been poised to swarm throughout Rocket Ridge, seize Kontum and transfer south to assault Pleiku.  Their aim was to then flip east, advance to the coast and sever South Vietnam at its midsection. First, they needed to take the ridge. The NVA commander deliberate to unhinge the Airborne’s 2nd Brigade protection by overwhelming Firebase Charlie with massed infantry assaults supported by intensive, steady artillery fireplace.

The communist weapon of selection was the Russian 130 mm area gun, firing a 73-pound excessive explosive projectile. NVA ahead observers have been seeded all through the world and directed devastating fireplace on the defenders.


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One of many early casualties was Lt. Col. Nguyen Dinh Bao, the eleventh Battalion commander. When Bao was killed, Me, the battalion govt officer, took over.

Duffy, a Particular Forces officer, was on his third Vietnam tour. The American and Me, who managed Vietnamese air power A-1 Skyraider assault planes, orchestrated a number of airplane and helicopter gunship strikes to thwart enemy assaults and hit the 130 mm weapons pummeling Charlie.  Creator Reeder, flying an AH-1 Cobra assault helicopter, was one of many U.S. Military helicopter pilots who braved intense groundfire to maintain Charlie from being overrun.

5 days of fixed NVA onslaughts and heavy artillery fireplace lastly pressured remnants of the eleventh Airborne Battalion off Firebase Charlie. Duffy sustained a number of shrapnel wounds, and Me had a critical chest wound.  On April 14, the 2 officers led the small power off the hill. Carrying their wounded, they have been all that remained of 471 paratroopers who landed on the firebase on Easter Sunday.

Utilizing Duffy’s well-placed airstrikes, they fought by an NVA ambush and saved their pursuers at bay. The next day, 36 males have been capable of attain a touchdown zone and, below heavy fireplace, have been extracted by U.S. helicopters. With out Duffy and the courageous aviators, they’d not have survived.

For his actions over that two-day interval, Duffy was advisable for the Medal of Honor, however the 1972 suggestion was downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. A number of years in the past, a evaluate board reexamined the previous suggestion and after an in depth analysis forwarded the request for approval of the Medal of Honor to the White Home.

Reeder’s glorious e book, printed in June 2022, had no bearing on the evaluate board’s deliberations, however it definitely reinforces the knowledge of the result.  

Some readers might take difficulty with the reconstruction of dialogue that befell 5 a long time in the past. Nevertheless, the writer carried out a number of interviews and listened to hours of tapes between Duffy, ahead air controllers and pilots dropping ordnance close to Firebase Charlie to re-create what was stated throughout these attempting days. For American troopers who have been on the bottom in related circumstances, these conversations have a hoop of authenticity unmatched in lots of Vietnam Conflict books.

Within the struggle’s aftermath, army analysts praised the function of U.S. airpower in blunting the Easter Offensive. Certainly, it was decisive, however would have been for naught if the South Vietnamese troopers, notably the eleventh Airborne Battalion paratroopers, had not stood their floor and tenaciously fought the NVA.

This e book evaluate appeared within the Winter 2023 difficulty of Vietnam journal.

Extraordinary Valor: The Combat for Charlie Hill in Vietnam

By William Reeder Jr.

Lyon Press, 2022

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