Saturday, December 26, 2009
Colonel (Retired) Robert L. Howard, 70, Medal of Honor (Republic of Vietnam) died Wednesday, 23 December 2009 in Waco Texas. At the time of his death Cl. Howard was believed to be the most-decorated living American soldier. Howard will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama, enlisted in the United States Army in 1956 at the age of 17, and retired as a full colonel in 1992.
In Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces and spent most of his five tours in the secretive Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG), an unconventional force that conducted high-risk deep-penetration reconnaissance and interdiction missions. He was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor; he was eventually awarded the Medal in 1971 for the rescue of a seriously wounded platoon leader while under enemy fire.
SFC Robert Howard (front left) in Vietnam with some of the guys MACV-SOG (CCC).
Standing behind Howard at far left is SGT Chuck Erikson - my Battalion CSM in Okinawa. Erikson participated in the Son Tay Raid, on the "BlueBoy Element" chopper with Dick Meadows. (Photo courtesy John Plaster)
Medal Of Honor Citation
HOWARD, ROBERT L.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 30 December 1968. Entered service at: Montgomery, Alabama. Born: 11 July 1939, Opelika, Alabama.
Citation: For Conspicuous Gallantry and Intrepidity in Action at the Risk of his
Life Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.
1st Lt. Howard (then Sergeant First Class), distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory in the Republic of Vietnam. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated 2-company force. During the initial engagement, 1st Lt. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. 1st Lt. Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, 1st Lt. Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As 1st Lt. Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer's equipment, an enemy bullet struck 1 of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant's belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. 1st Lt. Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area. Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, 1st Lt. Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3 1/2 hours 1st Lt. Howard's small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. 1st Lt. Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. 1st Lt. Howard's gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
(Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History
When I first reported to Fort Bragg in the early 80s, Colonel (then Major) Howard was serving at nearby Camp MacKall, where he conducted rigorous daily morning PT runs with the Special Forces candidates in training. Once asked by a journalist why he continued to do this, despite his significant wounds from Vietnam and his highly decorated status, Colonel Howard simply replied, "Because I'm a soldier - this is my job."
He is an American Hero.