Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Presentation of the Medal of Honor to Capt. Roger H. C. Donlon, USA.

December 05, 1964

Mrs. Donlon, Senator Hayden, Senator Keating, Senator-elect Kennedy, Secretary McNamara, ladies and gentlemen:

This is a proud moment for all Americans. We are here today to present this Nation's highest honor to Captain Roger H. C. Donlon, United States Army.

On July 6th of this year, Captain Donlon was the Commanding Officer of the United States Army Special Forces Team A-726, at Camp Nam Dong in the Republic of Viet-Nam.

Under cover of night, a reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a full-scale attack on the camp. A violent battle took place lasting 5 hours. The Viet Cong enemy used mortars, grenades, and very heavy gunfire.

Captain Donlon was wounded four times--in the stomach, in the leg, in the shoulder, and in the face. Wounded though he was, Captain Donlon directed a successful defense of the camp. He moved from post to post and man to man within the camp perimeter. Despite his multiple wounds, Captain Donlon, with great courage and coolness, inspired the American personnel and the friendly Vietnamese troops to a successful defense of their camp.

No one who has seen military service will fail to appreciate and understand the magnitude of Captain Donlon's heroic performance under enemy fire in the darkness.

This Medal of Honor awarded in the name of the Congress is the first such honor to be bestowed upon an American military man for conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in our present efforts in the Republic of Viet-Nam.

Individual bravery among the members of our forces there is much more the rule than the exception. I think it detracts nothing from the honor that a grateful Nation pays today to Captain Donlon to say, as I am sure he would say, that we proudly salute all the men of all the services who are participating so valiantly in that effort.

I had a full and complete report from General Taylor which gave me great pride in all the men in that area. And it is not given to all of us here at home to be called upon to make the choice of sacrifice and risk that Captain Donlon made at Nam Dong this summer. But it is given to us to draw new strength and inspiration from the gallantry and the unhesitating bravery of this man's action under hostile fire.

The Vietnamese are seeking to triumph over communism manifested by insurgency, terrorism, and aggression. Because we recognize the justice of their cause and its importance to all free men, we are there to provide them with support and assistance.

Now let any who suggest that we cannot honor our commitment in Viet-Nam find new strength and new resolution in the actions of this brave man and his comrades in arms far away from us today.

To you, Captain Donlon, may I personally express the gratitude and the respect of all your fellow countrymen. The example that you have set shall not be lost. As we pray for peace in the world, as we maintain the strength that supports our resolve to uphold freedom and the cause of justice around the world, we shall always be grateful for the inspiration that you have given to us in these times.

This ceremony should remind us all of the times in which we live and the values that make living really worthwhile. In this age, the whole of our society, the whole of our Government, is committed in the struggles between peace and war, between freedom and tyranny, between justice and cynicism. For each of us, whatever our station in life, this means that we as individuals must give of ourselves as dedicated, committed Americans.

We have much, we have vastly more than any other peoples in history. We greatly value what we have. We want other peoples to enjoy the same for themselves. But we cannot keep what we have and we cannot preserve the brightening flame of hope for others unless we are all--repeat all-committed; all--repeat all--willing to sacrifice and to serve wherever we can, whether it be in Viet-Nam, whether it be at home, whether it be far away.

In the early hours of this morning, I awoke and I read again the account by my bedside of Captain Donlon's heroic feat. I wondered how many of us could stand in his presence today and say confidently that we, too, have done all that we could to support and to serve the cause of our country and mankind.

There are some men in Washington and some men throughout the Nation, and women, too, who resist the glamor of gold and come here at great sacrifice to do for freedom in the capital of the free world what Captain Donlon did for freedom in Viet-Nam. So very often 9 to 5 hours, Saturday at the country club, profit sharing and pension trusts all mean so much that the call of country is sometimes answered with a "no."

But I was thinking this morning about that old World War I recruiting poster, with Uncle Sam pointing his finger and saying, "Your country needs you."

Wall, your country does need you today in these times. And the finger points at every American, of every age and of every station. We need women and we need men for service in the cause of freedom, in the cause of this great Government, this noble cause--men and women from industry, from business, from labor, from banks, from campuses, and from farms. America needs from civilian life as we have, I am proud to say, in our military forces, the very best talents and minds of these times.

And standing to my right as a civilian is one of the great examples of which I speak, the Secretary of Defense, Mr. McNamara. He represents to me in our civilian life what Captain Donlon represents in military life, the very best of America. And this Government must have the very best.

So, I hope your example, Captain Donlon, will help to inspire others to step forward and to answer "yes" when their country calls.

Captain Donlon, as President of the United States, it is now my very high privilege to decorate you with the Medal of Honor, awarded to you in the name of the Congress of the United States.

The distinguished Secretary of Defense, Mr. McNamara, will now read the citation.

[Secretary McNamara read the citation, the text of which follows.]

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



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

Captain Roger H. C. Donlan, Infantry, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty while defending a United States military installation against a fierce attack by hostile forces on 6 July 1964, near Nam Dong, Republic of Vietnam. Captain Donlon was serving as the Commanding Officer of the United States Army Special Forces Detachment A726 at Camp Nam Dong when a reinforced Viet Cong Battalion suddenly launched a full-scale, predawn attack on the Camp. During the violent battle that ensued, lasting five hours and resulting in heavy casualties on both sides, Captain Donlon directed the defense operations in the midst of an enemy barrage of mortar shells, falling grenades, and extremely heavy gun fire. Upon the initial onslaught, he swiftly marshaled his forces and ordered the removal of the needed ammunition from a blazing building. He then dashed through a hail of small arms and exploding hand grenades to abort a breach of the main gate. En route to this position he detected an enemy demolition team of three in the proximity of the main gate and quickly annihilated them. Although exposed to the intense grenade attack, he then succeeded in reaching a 60mm mortar position despite sustaining a severe stomach wound as he was within five yards of the gun pit. When he discovered that most of the men in this gun pit were also wounded, he completely disregarded his own injury, directed their withdrawal to a location thirty meters away, and again risked his own life by remaining behind and covering the movement with the utmost effectiveness. Noticing that his team sergeant was unable to evacuate the gun pit, he crawled toward him and, while dragging the fallen soldier out of the gun pit, an enemy mortar exploded and inflicted a wound in Captain Donlon's left shoulder. Although suffering from multiple wounds, he carried the abandoned 60mm mortar weapon to a new location thirty meters away where he found three wounded defenders. After administering first aid and encouragement to these men, he left the weapon with them, headed toward another position, and retrieved a 57mm recoilless rifle. Then with great courage and coolness under fire, he returned to the abandoned gun 'pit, evacuated ammunition for the two weapons and, while crawling and dragging the urgently needed ammunition, received a third wound on his leg by an enemy hand grenade. Despite his critical physical condition, he again crawled one hundred and seventy five meters to an 81mm mortar position and directed firing operations which protected the seriously threatened east sector of the Camp. He then moved to an eastern 60mm mortar position and upon determining that the vicious enemy assault had weakened, crawled back to the gun pit with the 60mm mortar, set it up for defensive operations, and turned it over to two defenders with minor wounds. Without hesitation, he left this sheltered position and moved from position to position around the beleaguered perimeter while hurling hand grenades at the enemy and inspiring his men to superhuman effort. As he bravely continued to move around the perimeter, a mortar shell exploded, wounding him in the face and body. As the long awaited daylight brought defeat to the enemy forces and their retreat back to the jungle leaving behind fifty-four of their dead, many weapons, and grenades, Captain Donlon immediately reorganized his defenses and administered first aid to the wounded. His dynamic leadership, fortitude, and valiant efforts inspired not only the American personnel but the friendly Vietnamese defenders as well and resulted in the successful defense of the Camp. Captain Donlon's conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.


Note: The presentation ceremony was held at 12:10 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. The President's opening words referred to Mrs. Marion H. Donlon, mother of Captain Donlon, Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona, Senator Kenneth B. Keating and Senator-elect Robert F. Kennedy, both of New York, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Presentation of the Medal of Honor to Capt. Roger H. C. Donlon, USA. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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