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November 24, 2017

11/10/2017 11:43:00 AM
50 years ago, Flat Rock's Davis made history
Sammy Davis received his Medal of Honor from then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. (LBJ Presidential Library photo)
Sammy Davis received his Medal of Honor from then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. (LBJ Presidential Library photo)
Daily News

Veteran's Day is about honoring those men and women who heard the musket fire and bugle call, and were fortunate enough to return home. This year marks the 50th anniversary of heroism a 21-year-old soldier demonstrated while serving in Vietnam which earned him America's most prestigious medal.

It was Nov. 18, 1967, that then Private First Class Sam Davis U.S. Army, Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division, was serving his tour of duty in West of Cai Lay, Republic of Vietnam. Just 17 days past his 21st birthday his base came under attack. The events of that day and Davis' heroism earned him the Medal of Honor.

The Medal of Honor is the United States of America's highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who distinguished themselves by acts of valor.

The tale of that fateful night is told in the words of the official citation.

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Davis (then Pfc.) distinguished himself during the early morning hours while serving as a cannoneer with Battery C, at a remote fire support base.

At about 2 a.m., the fire support base was under heavy enemy mortar attack. Simultaneously, an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a fierce ground assault upon the fire support base. The attacking enemy drove to within 25 meters of the friendly positions. Only a river separated the Viet Cong from the fire support base.

Detecting a nearby enemy position, Davis seized a machine gun and provided covering fire for his guncrew, as they tried to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy.

Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit on the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the gun crew from their weapon and blew Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously.

Ignoring repeated warnings to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun. Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer which rolled backward, knocking Davis violently to the ground.

Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injuring him painfully. Nevertheless, Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed and fired. Again he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired three more shells into the enemy.

Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue three wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the three wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing.

While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the two remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base.

Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew which fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled.

"Sgt. Davis' extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army," the citation said.

"No matter what you are faced with, truly, you don't lose until you quit trying," Davis said.

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