The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Richard Nixon
Remarks on Presenting the Congressional Medal of Honor to Nine Members of the Armed Forces.
October 15, 1973

Ladies and gentlemen:

As all of you know, this is a Medal of Honor presentation. As I was looking over the record of the last 4 years, I found that 143 Medals of Honor have been presented during those 4 years. There will be nine presented today, and the difference is that this is the first time that a Medal of Honor presentation will be made in peacetime, when the United States is at peace not only in Vietnam but is at peace with every nation throughout the world.

Now, when we speak of the Medal of Honor, I would say first that those who receive that medal in this room honor this great house and this historic room. When we speak of the Medal of Honor in relationship to the war, the long and difficult war in which so many Americans participated, we realize that how these men who receive this medal today and their colleagues, how what they did has made it possible for the United States to end this war and finally to have peace with honor.

As one of our prisoners of war said when he returned from Vietnam, you, you and your colleagues in the Armed Forces of the United States, made it possible for our prisoners of war to return to the United States on their feet rather than on their knees.

And so you receive a Medal of Honor today because what you have done is to help the United States maintain its honor.

Now, I suppose that talking about honor, as far as a great nation is concerned, would sound somewhat jingoistic. But I would remind everybody in this audience, particularly at a time when there is another war in the Mideast, that a strong United States, a United States that is respected, is essential if we are to have a chance to have a lasting peace in the world. Because with all of our strength and with all of the sacrifices that Americans have made in four wars in this century, the United States policy is not one of aggression, it is not one to dominate any other country, it is one that seeks peace for ourselves and for other nations and, of course, seeks, in addition to that, a world in which all nations will have the right to be independent of foreign domination.

One word, finally, with regard to the current war which is going on in the Mideast. If I were to describe our policy, I would say that it is like the policy that we followed in 1958 when Lebanon was involved, it is like the policy we followed in 1970 when Jordan was involved. The policy of the United States in the Mideast, very simply stated, is this: We stand for the right of every nation in the Mideast to maintain its independence and security. We want this fighting to end. We want the fighting to end on a basis where we can build a lasting peace.

But the policy of the United States is that of peacemaker in the area, and I would conclude by saying that the men honored today and the thousands of other Americans who also should be honored, who served their country in Vietnam, make it possible for the United States to play the honored role of peacemaker in the world.

And now we will go forward with the citations.

[At this point, Secretary of the Army Howard H. Callaway, Secretary of the Navy John W. Warner, and Secretary of the Air Force John L. McLucas introduced the Medal of Honor winners from their respective services. The texts of the citations follow:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to

FIRST LIEUTENANT BRIAN M. THACKER
UNITED STATES ARMY

for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

First Lieutenant Brian M. Thacker, Field Artillery, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 92d Artillery, distinguished himself on March 31, 1971 while serving as the team leader of an Integrated Observation System collocated with elements of two Army of the Republic of Vietnam units at Fire Base 6 in Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam. On that date, a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force launched a well-planned, dawn attack on the small, isolated, hilltop fire base. Employing rockets, grenades, flame throwers, and automatic weapons, the enemy forces penetrated the perimeter defenses and engaged the defenders in hand-to-hand combat. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Lieutenant Thacker rallied and encouraged the United States and Republic of Vietnam soldiers in heroic efforts to repulse the enemy. He occupied a dangerously exposed observation position for a period of four .hours while directing friendly air strikes and artillery fire against the assaulting enemy forces. His personal bravery and inspired leadership enabled the outnumbered friendly forces to inflict a maximum of casualties on the attacking enemy forces and prevented the base from being overrun. By late afternoon, the situation had become untenable. Lieutenant Thacker organized and directed the withdrawal of the remaining friendly forces. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he remained inside the perimeter alone to provide covering fire with his M-16 rifle until all other friendly forces had escaped from the besieged fire base. Then, in an act of supreme courage, he called for friendly artillery fire on his own position to allow his comrades more time to withdraw safely from the area and, at the same time, inflict even greater casualties on the enemy forces. Although wounded and unable to escape from the area himself, he successfully eluded the enemy forces for eight days until friendly forces regained control of the fire base. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by Lieutenant Thacker were an inspiration to his comrades and are in the highest traditions of the military service.

RICHARD NIXON

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS GARY L. LITTRELL
UNITED STATES ARMY

for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Sergeant First Class Gary L. Littrell, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Advisory Team 21, distinguished ,himself during the period April 4 to 8, 1970 while serving as a Light Weapons Infantry Advisor with the 23rd Battalion, 2nd Ranger Group, Republic of Vietnam Army, near Dak Seang in Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam. After establishing a defensive perimeter on a hill on April 4, the battalion was subjected to an intense enemy mortar attack which killed the Vietnamese commander, one advisor, and seriously wounded all the advisors except Sergeant Littrell. During the ensuing four days, Sergeant Littrell exhibited near superhuman endurance and conspicuous gallantry as he single-handedly bolstered the besieged battalion. Repeatedly abandoning positions of relative safety, he directed artillery and air support by day and marked the unit's location by night, despite the heavy, concentrated enemy fire. His dauntless will instilled in the men of the 23rd Battalion a deep desire to resist. Assault after assault was repulsed as the battalion responded to the extraordinary leadership and personal example exhibited by Sergeant Littrell as he continuously moved to those points most seriously threatened by the enemy, redistributed ammunition, strengthened faltering defenses, cared for the wounded and shouted encouragement to the Vietnamese in their own language. When the beleaguered battalion was finally ordered to withdraw, numerous ambushes were encountered. Sergeant Littrell repeatedly prevented widespread disorder by directing air strikes to within 50 meters of their position. Through his indomitable courage and complete disregard for his safety, he averted excessive loss of life and injury to the members of the battalion. The sustained extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by Sergeant Littrell over an extended period of time were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him and the United States Army.

RICHARD NIXON

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to

STAFF SERGEANT JAMES L. BONDSTEEL
UNITED STATES ARMY

for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Staff Sergeant James L. Bondsteel, United States Army, distinguished himself on 24 May 1969 while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 2d Battalion, 2d Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, near the village of Lang Sau, An Loc Province, Republic of Vietnam. Company A was directed to assist a friendly unit which was endangered by intense fire from a North Vietnamese Battalion located in a heavily fortified base camp. Sergeant Bondsteel quickly organized the men of his platoon into effective combat teams and spearheaded the attack by destroying four enemy occupied bunkers. He then raced some 200 meters under heavy enemy fire to reach an adjoining platoon which had begun to falter. After rallying this unit and assisting their wounded, Sergeant Bondsteel returned to his own sector with critically needed munitions. Without pausing he moved to the forefront and destroyed four enemy occupied bunkers and a machine gun which had threatened his advancing platoon. Although painfully wounded by an enemy grenade, Sergeant Bondsteel refused medical attention and continued his assault by neutralizing two more enemy bunkers nearby. While searching one of these emplacements Sergeant Bondsteel narrowly escaped death when an enemy soldier detonated a grenade at close range. Shortly thereafter, he ran to the aid of a severely wounded officer and struck down an enemy soldier who was threatening the officer's life. Sergeant Bondsteel then continued to rally his men and to lead them through the entrenched enemy until his company was relieved. His exemplary leadership and great personal courage throughout the four hour battle ensured the success of his own and nearby units, and resulted in the saving of numerous lives of his fellow soldiers. By individual acts of bravery he destroyed ten enemy bunkers and accounted for a large toll of the enemy, including two key enemy commanders. Staff Sergeant Bondsteel's conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary heroism at the risk of his life are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit and the United States Army.

RICHARD NIXON

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to

SERGEANT GARY B. BEIKIRCH
UNITED STATES ARMY

for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Sergeant Gary B. Beikirch, Medical Aidman, Detachment B--24, Company B, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, while serving in Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, distinguished himself during the defense of Camp Dak Seang on April 1, 1970. On that date, the allied defenders suffered a number of casualties as a result of an intense, devastating attack launched by the enemy from well-concealed positions surrounding the camp. Sergeant Beikirch, with complete disregard for his personal safety, moved unhesitatingly through the withering enemy fire to his fallen comrades, applied first aid to their wounds and assisted them to the medical aid station. When informed that a seriously injured American officer was lying in an exposed position, Sergeant Beikirch ran immediately through the hail of fire. Although he was wounded seriously by fragments from an exploding enemy mortar shell, Sergeant Beikirch carried the officer to a medical aid station. Ignoring his own serious injuries, Sergeant Beikirch left the relative safety of the medical bunker to search for and evacuate other men who had been injured. He was again wounded as he dragged a critically injured Vietnamese soldier to the medical bunker while simultaneously applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to sustain his life. Sergeant Beikirch again refused treatment and continued his search for other casualties until he collapsed. Only then did he permit himself to be treated. Sergeant Beikirch's conspicuous gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his comrades, and his intrepidity at the risk of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

RICHARD NIXON

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to

SPECIALIST FOUR MICHAEL J. FITZMAURICE
UNITED STATES ARMY

for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Specialist Four Michael J. Fitzmaurice, 3rd Platoon, Troop D, 2d Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division, distinguished himself on 23 March 1971 at Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam. Specialist Fitzmaurice and three fellow-soldiers were occupying a bunker when a company of North Vietnamese sappers infiltrated the area. At the onset of the attack Specialist Fitzmaurice observed three explosive charges which had been thrown into the bunker by the enemy. Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he hurled two of the charges out of the bunker. He then threw his flak vest and himself over the remaining charge. By this courageous act he absorbed the blast and shielded his fellow-soldiers. Although suffering from serious multiple wounds and partial loss of sight, he charged out of the bunker and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by the blast of an enemy hand grenade. While in search of another weapon, Specialist Fitzmaurice encountered and overcame an enemy sapper in hand-to-hand combat. Having obtained another weapon, he returned to his original fighting position and inflicted additional casualties on the attacking enemy. Although seriously wounded, Specialist Fitzmaurice refused to be medically evacuated, preferring to remain at his post. Specialist Fitzmaurice's conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life contributed significantly to the successful defense of the position and resulted in saving the lives of a number of his fellow-soldiers. These acts of heroism go above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit on Specialist Four Fitzmaurice and the United States Army.

RICHARD NIXON

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to

PRIVATE FIRST GLASS KENNETH M. KAYS
UNITED STATES ARMY

for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Private First Class (then Private) Kenneth M. Kays, United States Army, distinguished himself on May 7, 1970 while serving as a medical aidman with Company D, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division near Fire Support Base Maureen, Thua Thien Province, Republic of Vietnam. On that date a heavily armed force of enemy sappers and infantrymen assaulted Company D's night defensive position, wounding and killing a number of its members. Disregarding the intense enemy fire and ground assault, Private Kays began moving toward the perimeter to assist his fallen comrades. In doing so he became the target of concentrated enemy fire and explosive charges, one of which severed the lower portion of his left leg. After applying a tourniquet to his own leg, Private Keys moved to the fire-swept perimeter, administered medical aid to one of the wounded, and helped him to an area of relative safety. Despite his own severe wound and excruciating pain, Private Kays returned to the perimeter in search of other wounded men. He treated another wounded comrade, and, using his own body as a shield against enemy bullets and fragments, moved him to safety. Although weakened from a great loss of blood, Private Keys resumed his heroic lifesaving efforts by moving beyond the Company's perimeter into enemy held territory to treat a wounded American lying there. Only after his fellow wounded soldiers had been treated and evacuated did Private Kays allow his own wounds to be treated..These courageous acts by Private Keys resulted in-the saving of numerous lives and inspired others in his Company to repel the enemy. Private Kays' conspicuous gallantry and heroism at the risk of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

RICHARD NIXON

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

MICHAEL E. THORNTON
ENGINEMAN SECOND CLASS
UNITED STATES NAVY

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while participating in a daring operation against enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam on October 31, 1972. Petty Officer Thornton, as assistant U.S. Navy advisor, along with a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as senior advisor, accompanied a three-man Vietnamese Navy SEAL patrol on an intelligence gathering and prisoner capture operation against an enemy-occupied naval river base. Launched from a Vietnamese Navy junk in a rubber boat, the patrol reached land and was continuing on foot toward its objective when it suddenly came under heavy fire from a numerically superior force. The patrol called in naval gunfire support and then engaged the enemy in a fierce firefight, accounting for many enemy casualties before moving back to the waterline to prevent encirclement. Upon learning that the senior advisor had been hit by enemy fire and was believed to be dead, Petty Officer Thornton returned through a hail of fire to the lieutenant's last position, quickly disposed of two enemy soldiers about to overrun the position, and succeeded in removing the seriously wounded and unconscious senior naval advisor to the water's edge. He then inflated the lieutenant's life jacket and towed him seaward for approximately two hours until picked up by support craft. By his extraordinary courage and perseverance, Petty Officer Thornton was directly responsible for saving the life of his superior officer and enabling the safe extraction of all patrol members, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

RICHARD NIXON

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

GUNNERY SERGEANT ALLAN J. KELLOGG, JR.
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Platoon Sergeant with Company G, Second Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam on the night of March 11, 1970. Under the leadership of Gunnery Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Kellogg, a small unit from Company G was evacuating a fallen comrade when the unit came under a heavy volume of small arms and automatic weapons fire from a numerically superior enemy force occupying well-concealed emplacements in the surrounding jungle. During the ensuing fierce engagement, an enemy soldier managed to maneuver through the dense foliage to a position near the Marines, and hurled a hand grenade into their midst which glanced off the chest of Gunnery Sergeant Kellogg. Quick to act, he forced the grenade into the mud in which he was standing, threw himself over the lethal weapon, and absorbed the full effects of its detonation with his body, thereby preventing serious injury or possible death to several of his fellow Marines. Although suffering multiple injuries to his chest and his right shoulder and arm, Gunnery Sergeant Kellogg resolutely continued to direct the efforts of his men until all were able to maneuver to the relative safety of the company perimeter. By his heroic and decisive action in risking his own life to save the lives of his comrades, Gunnery Sergeant Kellogg reflected the highest credit upon himself and upheld the finest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

RICHARD NIXON

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress, the Medal of Honor, to

LIEUTENANT COLONEL LEO K. THORSNESS
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

On 19 April 1967, as pilot of an F-105 aircraft, Lieutenant Colonel (then Major) Thorsness was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission over North Vietnam. On that date, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness and his wingman attacked and silenced a surface-to-air missile site with air-to-ground missiles, and then destroyed a second surface-to-air missile site with bombs. In the attack on the second missile site, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness' wingman was shot down by intense antiaircraft fire, and the two crew members abandoned their aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness circled the descending parachutes to keep the crew members in sight and relay their position to the Search and Rescue Center. During this maneuver, a MIG-17 was sighted in the, area. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness immediately initiated an attack and destroyed the MIG. Because his aircraft was low on fuel, he was forced to depart the area in search of a tanker. Upon being advised that two helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew's position and that there were hostile MIGs in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft defenses to the downed crew's position. As he approached the area, he spotted four MIG-17 aircraft and immediately initiated an attack on the MIGs, damaging one and driving the others away from the rescue scene. When it became apparent that an aircraft in the area was critically low on fuel and the crew would have to abandon the aircraft unless they could reach a tanker, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness, although critically short on fuel himself, helped to avert further possible loss of life and a friendly aircraft by recovering at a forward operating base, thus allowing the aircraft in emergency fuel condition to refuel safely. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness' extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

RICHARD NIXON

[The President then resumed speaking.]

Ladies and gentlemen, that completes the ceremony, and we want all of you to enjoy this White House. It belongs to you, and today it is your home. You can spend your time on this first floor in the historic Red Room, in the Green Room, in the Blue Room, and in the dining room there are refreshments which will be there for you and your friends to enjoy.

We congratulate you all again, and we thank you from our hearts for your service to the Nation.

Citation: Richard Nixon: "Remarks on Presenting the Congressional Medal of Honor to Nine Members of the Armed Forces.", October 15, 1973. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=4003.
 
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