medal of honor stars graphic
Colonel Paris D. Davis
Colonel Paris D. Davis


Vietnam War

Colonel Paris D. Davis


Cleveland, Ohio

Enlistment date

June 1959

Military Occupation (MOS)

Armor Officer (12A)


5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces


Vietnam War (1962, 1965), Thailand (1967)

Paris Davis was born in 1939, in Cleveland, Ohio. As a young man, he became interested in the military and sports, and he pursued both at Southern University, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he studied political science on an ROTC scholarship.

Davis was commissioned as an Army reserve armor officer in 1959, graduated from Airborne and Ranger schools in 1960, and was selected for the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, serving first in Korea and then Vietnam.

Davis first deployed to Vietnam in 1962 and again in 1965, where he was promoted to captain as a detachment commander with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces making him one of the first African American Special Forces officers as the civil rights movement gained momentum at home.

In Bình Định province, Davis and his men were tasked with training a force of local volunteers. On June 18, 1965, he commanded a team of inexperienced South Vietnamese, along with Special Forces Soldiers, against a superior enemy force. Over the course of two days, Davis selflessly led a charge to neutralize enemy emplacements, called for precision artillery fire, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, and prevented the capture of three American soldiers (Robert Brown, John Reinberg, and Billy Waugh) while saving their lives with a medical extraction. Davis sustained multiple gunshot and grenade fragment wounds during the 19-hour battle and refused to leave the battlefield until his men were safely removed.

Paris Davis poses for a photo with his three children, 1968. (Photo courtesy of the Davis Family)

Paris Davis with his son “Junior” in 1969. (Photo courtesy of the Davis Family)

Paris Davis plays with his daughter at their home, circa early 1970s. (Photo courtesy of the Davis Family)

For these heroic acts during his second tour in Vietnam, Davis received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, a Purple Heart with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Air Medal with “V” device. He was also awarded the Soldier's Medal for heroism, when he saved the life of a Soldier, a driver who was stuck in an overturned and burning fuel truck. Davis pulled the Soldier from the truck just before it exploded. Davis is one of only four service members in U.S. military history to receive both the Soldier's Medal and the Medal of Honor.

Davis attended Command and General Staff College in 1971 and the Naval War College in 1980. He served with the Army staff, the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Headquarters, U.S. Army European Command.

Davis assumed command of the 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and was promoted to colonel in 1981. Davis retired from the Army on July 30, 1985. He holds a master's degree in public affairs from Southern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. in public administration from Northern Virginia University. In 2019, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame.

Davis is a proud father of three children. Following his military career, Davis published the Metro Herald newspaper for 30 years in Alexandria, Virginia, where he now lives.

Paris Davis poses for a photo with his son-in-law, daughter and grandchildren in 2009. (Photo courtesy of the Davis Family)

Graphic Battle Narrative or Sketch

Selflessness Beyond the Call of Duty

Explore a visual depiction of then-Capt. Paris Davis's heroic actions that went above and beyond the call of duty.

Senator Ted Kennedy holds a discussion with then-Maj. Paris Davis during a visit to Vietnam, circa late 1960s. (Photo courtesy of the Davis Family)

Senator Ted Kennedy holds a discussion with then-Maj. Paris Davis during a visit to Vietnam, circa late 1960s. (Photo courtesy of the Davis Family)

The Battle

June 17-18, 1965 | Vicinity of Bong Son, Republic of Vietnam

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5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

Read Unit History

Then-Capt. Paris D. Davis distinguished himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as commander of an Alpha Detachment, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in the vicinity of Bong Son, Republic of Vietnam, June 17-18, 1965.

Davis, along with three American Special Forces personnel, led an inexperienced company of the 883rd South Vietnamese Regional Force during an attack against an enemy base.

On the evening of June 17, 1965, Davis personally captured two enemy personnel for questioning. From them, he learned that a vastly larger enemy force was operating in the area. That night, Davis guided his Soldiers into attack positions and at dawn he led his company into battle.

Davis was wounded leading the initial assault, but continued moving forward, personally engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat and killing several enemy soldiers. The enemy counterattacked and separated Davis from his troops. Davis then led four others forward and, while braving intense fire, managed to destroy gun emplacements and capture several enemy soldiers.

Capt. Paris Davis, Vietnam, 1965. (Photo by Ron Deis)

Davis moved to regroup his forces and break contact with the enemy. As he called for air and artillery fire, the enemy again counterattacked and Davis was struck by automatic weapons fire. He was wounded once again after an enemy soldier engaged him at close range with his rifle, but Davis tackled the enemy and defeated him in hand-to-hand combat. Davis then saw two American Soldiers were seriously wounded and in need of rescue from hostile fire.

Davis made it to the first Soldier under a hail of enemy fire and was shot once again. Despite his grievous wounds and with no regard for his own safety, Davis saved the Soldier and returned him to the company's perimeter.

Davis again broke cover, braving enemy fire, to retrieve the second Soldier. Crawling nearly 150 yards and wounded by enemy grenade fragments, he rescued the Soldier and returned him to the company perimeter.

Davis then directed the helicopter extraction of his wounded troops while refusing medical evacuation for himself. Instead, he directed tactical air and artillery fire, ensuring the destruction of the enemy force.

Davis' selfless actions and personal courage were decisive in changing the tide of the battle, ensuring that American Soldiers were not killed or taken prisoner, preventing the South Vietnamese company from being overrun, and ensuring the defeat of a numerically superior enemy force.

His extraordinary heroism and selflessness beyond the call of duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.


The Quiet Professionals

Special Forces are elite teams consisting of mature, intense, highly-trained operators. SF Operators receive specialized training in advanced weapons, language, demolitions, combat medicine, military free-fall, and advanced combat tactics. Today’s quiet professional operates in autonomous environments as the most trusted force in America’s Army.

No One Left Behind

The following battle sketch depicts then-Capt. Paris Davis's heroic actions during an assault on a vastly larger enemy force.

In May 1965, Davis sees overturned fuel truck on road. Davis is awarded a Soldier's Medal for heroism for saving the life of the driver by forcefully pulling him out of the truck just before it explodes.

Davis' raiding party halts, and he captures a sleeping enemy soldier, allowing discovery of enemy location and disposition.

Davis leads assault in the early morning at Bong Song, clearing an enemy headquarters hut. He is wounded in the forearm.

Reconstructed battle map of the battle of Bong Song, Vietnam, June 18, 1965.

Master Sgt. Billy Waugh is pinned down by sniper fire. Davis and John Reinberg rescue Waugh Under enemy gunfire. While rescuing Waugh, Davis is wounded again, this time in the leg.

As Billy Cole, Davis' commanding officer, arrives on the battlefield, Cole spots Davis carrying Waugh fireman-style. Noting Davis' wounds, Cole tells Davis to leave with the wounded.

Davis refuses until he can rescue the other wounded Soldier, Robert Brown, and get all of his men out of the area.

Davis continues holds an area for artillery and airstrikes, killing approximately 20 enemy soldiers. Davis is again wounded by grenade fragments.

The wounded Davis crawls for about 150 yards under enemy fire and finds Brown. Davis orders a MEDEVAC.

Davis drags Brown through a muddy scape, away from enemy gunfire and explosions.

Davis carries Brown to the helicopter for evacuation and remains on the battlefield until all of his men were safe.