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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks Upon Awarding the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Robert E. O'Malley, USMC
Lyndon B. Johnson
641 - Remarks Upon Awarding the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Robert E. O'Malley, USMC
December 6, 1966
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1966: Book II
Lyndon B. Johnson
1966: Book II

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Secretary McNamara, Governor Connally, Senator Yarborough, General Greene, distinguished members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. and Mrs. O'Malley, distinguished guests, my fellow citizens:

Some of the oldest words never seem to grow older--and among them are these: "Gallantry . . . above and beyond the call of duty."

Fifteen months ago Sergeant Robert Emmett O'Malley did more than fight with honor. In a place of great danger, he ignored danger. Wounded, he refused to consider his own safety. At the risk of his own life, he shielded other men's lives.

Today I will give him the highest medal his Nation can offer.

Every time I have awarded the Medal of Honor, I wonder what it is that makes men of this quality and I wonder what a man can say in the face of such bravery.

As of today, I still do not have the answer. For the highest courage is always a mystery, and not even the best words about duty and devotion to country are enough to honor it.

I can think of only one gift sufficient to honor men like this: We can assure this man and we can assure every man who wears our uniform that their cause is a good cause, that the principles they stand for are sound principles, that the battle they are fighting deserves their bravery.

To back a commitment honorably given: that is a good cause. To shield a young nation from aggression: that is a good cause.

To defend men against coercion and intimidation: that is a good cause.

To prove that terror and aggression simply will not work: that is a good cause.

It is a cause which deserves not only the bravery of our soldiers, but the patience and fortitude of all of our citizens.
And all of these we have in good supply

It far outweighs the reluctance of men who exercise so well the right of dissent, but let others fight to protect them from those whose very philosophy is to do away with the right of dissent.

A little over a month ago, I reviewed our troops with General Westmoreland at Cam Ranh Bay. He told me then, "Mr. President, no Commander in Chief ever commanded a finer fighting force."

If any man needs proof of that, let him consider these men:
--John O'Malley and Daniel O'Malley, ex-Marines;
--Brian O'Malley, now serving with the Marines;
--And finally, their brother: Sergeant Robert Emmett O'Malley, Marine Corps Reserve, first Marine in Vietnam to receive the Medal of Honor.

Because we love peace, we will never glorify war.

But because men like this exist--we can always honor courage.

The Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Paul H. Nitze, will now read the citation.

[Text of citation read by Secretary Nitze]

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to


for service as set forth in the following


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the communist (Viet Cong) forces at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Squad Leader in Company "I", Third Battalion, Third Marines, Third Marine Division (Reinforced), near An Cu'ong 2, South Vietnam, on 18 August 1965.

While leading his squad in the assault against a strongly entrenched enemy force, his unit came under intense small arms fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Corporal O'Malley raced across an open rice paddy to a trench line where the enemy forces were located. Jumping into the trench, he attacked the Viet Cong with his rifle and grenades, and singly killed eight of the enemy. He then led his squad to the assistance of an adjacent Marine unit which was suffering heavy casualties. Continuing to press forward, he reloaded his weapon and fired with telling effect into the enemy emplacement.

He personally assisted in the evacuation of several wounded Marines, and again regrouping the remnants of his squad, he returned to the point of the heaviest fighting. Ordered to an evacuation point by an officer, Corporal O'Malley gathered his besieged and badly wounded squad and boldly led them under fire to a helicopter for withdrawal. Although three times wounded in this encounter, and facing imminent death from a fanatic and determined enemy, he steadfastly refused evacuation and continued to cover his squad's boarding of the helicopters while, from an exposed position, he delivered fire against the enemy until his wounded men were evacuated. Only then, with his last mission accomplished, did he permit himself to be removed from the battlefield.

By his valor, leadership, and courageous efforts in behalf of his comrades, he served as an inspiration to all who observed him, and reflected the highest credit upon the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Note: The President spoke at 11:13 a.m. at the Federal Office Building Plaza in Austin, Texas, where the award was given to Sergeant O'Malley. In his opening words he referred to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Governor John Connally and Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas, General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant O'Malley's parents, Mr. and Mrs. John O'Malley of Woodside, Long Island, N.Y.
Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks Upon Awarding the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Robert E. O'Malley, USMC," December 6, 1966. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28062.
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