Vietnam War Recipients
Terry "Teruo" Kawamura
The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest medal for valor in combat that can be awarded to members of the armed forces. It sometimes is referred to as the "Congressional Medal of Honor" because the President awards it on behalf of the Congress.
The medal was first authorized in 1861 for Sailors and Marines, and the following year for Soldiers as well. Since then, more than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been awarded to members of all DoD services and the Coast Guard, as well as to a few civilians who distinguished themselves with valor. Those deserving of the medal sometimes are not recognized for years after their heroic actions. So it was for 22 Asian-American World War II Soldiers, who finally received the Medal of Honor nearly six decades after the war, when former President Clinton bestowed the belated medals.
Platoon Sergeant (then S/Sgt.) Elmelindo R. Smith served in the 1st Platoon, Company C, 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on February 16, 1967.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. During a reconnaissance patrol. his platoon was suddenly engaged by intense machine-gun fire hemming in the platoon on three sides. A defensive perimeter was hastily established, but the enemy added mortar and rocket fire to the deadly fusillade and assaulted the position from several directions. With complete disregard for his safety, P/Sgt. Smith moved through the deadly fire along the defensive line, positioning soldiers, distributing ammunition and encouraging his men to repeal the enemy attack. Struck to the ground by enemy fire which caused a severe shoulder wound, he regained his feet, killed the enemy soldier and continued to move about the perimeter. He was again wounded in the shoulder and stomach but continued moving on his knees to assist in the defense. Noting the enemy massing at a weakened point on the perimeter, he crawled into the open and poured deadly fire into the enemy ranks. As he crawled on, he was struck by a rocket. Moments later, he regained consciousness, and drawing on his fast dwindling strength, continued to crawl from man to man. When he could move no farther, he chose to remain in the open where he could alert the perimeter to the approaching enemy. P/Sgt. Smith perished, never relenting in his determined effort against the enemy. The valorous acts and heroic leadership of this outstanding soldier inspired those remaining members of his platoon to beat back the enemy assaults. P/Sgt. Smith's gallant actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and they reflect great credit upon him and the Armed Forces of his country.
Rodney J.T. Yano
Sergeant First Class Rodney J.T. Yano served in the Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions near Bien Hao, Republic of Vietnam on January 1, 1969.
SFC Yano distinguished himself while serving with the Air Cavalry Troop. Sfc. Yano was performing the duties of crew chief aboard the troop's command-and-control helicopter during action against enemy forces entrenched in dense jungle. From an exposed position in the face of intense small arms and antiaircraft fire he delivered suppressive fire upon the enemy forces and marked their positions with smoke and white phosphorous grenades, thus enabling his troop commander to direct accurate and effective artillery fire against the hostile emplacements. A grenade, exploding prematurely, covered him with burning phosphorous, and left him severely wounded. Flaming fragments within the helicopter caused supplies and ammunition to detonate. Dense white smoke filled the aircraft, obscuring the pilot's vision and causing him to lose control. Although having the use of only 1 arm and being partially blinded by the initial explosion, SFC Yano completely disregarded his welfare and began hurling blazing ammunition from the helicopter. In so doing he inflicted additional wounds upon himself, yet he persisted until the danger was past. SFC Yano's indomitable courage and profound concern for his comrades averted loss of life and additional injury to the rest of the crew. By his conspicuous gallantry at the cost of his life, in the highest traditions of the military service, SFC Yano has reflected great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.