The son of a Texas sharecropper and was part Yaqui Native American and part Mexican, young Benavidez grew up an orphan, poor, and dropped out of school in the 7th grade. He was labeled a ‘dumb Mexican’ through his early years.
He enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1952 and 3 years later moved to the Regular Army. He married, joined the 82nd Airborne Division and was jump qualified. He later went into Special Forces training and was accepted into the 5th Special Forces Group and Studies and Observation Group SOG.
In '65 he was sent to South Vietnam serving as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army and stepped on a land mine during a patrol and medical evacuated to the States. The doctors there determined that he would never walk again, but Benavidez showed them by conducting his own physical therapy at night to regain his ability to walk by crawling on his elbows and chin to a wall beside his bed, he would prop himself up against the wall and try to lift himself without physical assistance, but was cheered on by his fellow patients. It took a year of painful exercise, but in July '66 Benavidez walked out of the hospital, yes-walked, with his wife beside him and requested to be sent back to Vietnam.
It was granted in January '68.
On 2 May of that year, a 12-man Special Forces patrol comprised of 9 loyal Montagnards and 3 American leaders were engaged and quickly surrounded by an estimated 1,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers. Hearing their frantic calls on the radio for help Benavidez ran for the helicopter and climbed on board armed only with a knife.
The landing zone was hot, but he’ realized that all the patrol members were either dead or wounded and unable to make it to the helicopter and ordered his helicopter to a nearby opening and jumped into it with a medical bag to take care of the wounded. So began a six-hour firefight. In his run to make it to the casualties Benavidez was wounded in the leg, face and head by enemy fire, but he doggedly continued, found the team members and rallied them to keep fighting to hold the enemy at bay to allow a medevac to occur.
He took smoke grenades and hurled them at the enemy in the tree line to direct close air support. When a helicopter came in, Benavidez picked up and carried off 6 of the patrol one by one to the helicopter. When they were on board he took a rifle and ran with the helicopter as it flew along towards where the other members were giving protecting fire from the NVA. When the patrol leader was killed, Benavidez managed to reach his body and recover classified materials, but was wounded again by enemy fire in the abdomen and shrapnel in his back. At that moment, the helicopter that was about to save them all was hit, the pilot killed, and it crashed into the LZ.
Benavidez ran back to the wreckage and pulled the dead and wounded and the others from it and set up a perimeter giving them hope with encouraging words and distributing ammo and water. The enemy fire was intense with automatic weapons and grenades coming from all sides. Using a radio, Benavidez began calling in close air support with gunship runs to allow another rescue attempt. He was hit again by a bullet through his thigh while dressing a wounded man.
A second helicopter came in to take them and the sergeant began taking them onboard, after taking one man and was carrying another, an NVA popped out and clubbed the sergeant in the head. Benavidez grappled with the enemy soldier and stabbed him in the head with his knife with enough force that it became stuck in the soldier’s head and couldn’t be removed.
When the last of the wounded were on board the sergeant saw two NVA rushing the helicopter, but the door gunners couldn’t engage them. Taking a rifle he gunned them both down. He made one last run around to gather and destroy the last of the classified material before boarding the helicopter. It was here when his adrenaline stopped and the serious nature of his wounds became known.
He received 37 puncture wounds, his intestines were out of his body, blinded by blood, a broken jaw, and shrapnel in his back he was thought to be dead with the helicopter touched down at base. He was pronounced dead by a doctor when he couldn’t feel a heartbeat, but the sergeant showed him by spitting in the doctor’s face. He recovered from his many injuries, but he wasn’t awarded the Medal of Honor. Instead, he was given the Distinguished Service Cross.
His friends clambered for this to be addressed, but Congress declared that too much time had passed and they needed eye witnesses to his actions. In 1980, Benavidez’s radioman, Brian O'Conner, provided a 10 page testimony about the firefight and was severely wounded in the same fight and thought to have died from his wounds, but he was alive and saw the news report on the news while vacationing in Australia. With his testimony the Review Board upgraded the Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor. On 24 February 1981 President Ronald Reagan bestowed the Medal of Honor to Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez to go with his other medals including;
5 Purple Hearts Defense Meritorious Service Medal Meritorious Service Medal Army Commendation Medal Good Conduct Medal with one silver and one bronze service loop Army of Occupation Medal National Defense Service Medal Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal with four campaign stars Vietnam Campaign Medal Presidential Unit Citation Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Combat Infantry Badge Master Parachutist Badge Army Special Forces Tab.
The Vietnam War is traditionally viewed as an American War, and while US forces made up the bulk of foreign personnel in Vietnam, the Vietnam War was actually a coalition effort, with troops from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and The Philippines. Interestingly, few people know that South Korea not only participated in the war, but provided the most troops of any other nation next to the US. From 1964 to 1973, South Korean continually maintained a force of 50,000 soldiers, marines, and sailors in South Vietnam. During the war, South Korean soldiers gained a reputation as being the best of the war, feared by both the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army alike. Only volunteers were used for service in Vietnam, and only the best troops the South Vietnamese military had to offer were accepted for service. Throughout the war the South Korean military claimed 41,000 kills.
An example of the South Korean’s balls of steel is best exemplified by the action of Feb 14th - 15th, 1967
near the village of Trah Bin Dong in Quang Ngai province. Their a company of the 2nd South Korean Marine Division prepared a trap for the Vietcong using themselves as bait. After setting up an oval shaped camp, the South Koreans came under attack by two Vietcong regiments. The South Korean’s fought fiercely, then fell back, tricking the Vietcong into believing they were in retreat. In reality the retreat was a faint as the Korean marines reformed their lines and platoons hidden in reserve attacked from the rear, completely encircling the Vietcong. The marines then fixed bayonets and finished the Vietcong in close quarter combat, killing 100 and forcing the rest to surrender.
The South Koreans were also noted as generally being better insurgency fighters than the Americans or other western forces, mostly because Korean culture had more in common with Vietnamese culture than say western culture. Thus South Korean soldiers tended to work better with South Vietnamese and native forces. However, South Korean conduct during the war was far from perfect, and the South Koreans gained a reputation for committing some of the cruelest atrocities during the war. Some of that reputation is hype created by the South Koreans themselves, but some of it is true, and South Korean records show that the military was responsible for at least 8,000 civilian deaths.
During the Vietnam War around 320,000 South Koreans would serve, with 5,099 being killed and around 11,000 wounded.
A Vietnamese militia woman displaying Chinese men she captured as prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs, from the Chinese 41st and 42nd Army corps, Sino-Vietnamese War, 25 February 1979, Cao Bằng Province, Vietnam
VIETNAM. 1967. US Navy Lieutenant Commander John McCain being examined by a Vietnamese doctor. John McCain was captured in 1967 in a lake in Hanoi after his Navy warplane was downed by the Northern Vietnamese army. McCain said that upon capture he was beaten by an angry mob and bayoneted in the groin.
Da Nang, Vietnam….Troops hustle through tall grass and bushes toward the objective, a group of scrub trees. At 10:30 a.m. in late November, the first Vietnamese Army troops scrambled from US Marine helicopters to launch a complex, two landing zone, vertical assault against Communist Viet Cong southwest of Da Nang. [11/28/1963]
Lam Thi Dep was a Viet Cong soldier who fought in the Vietnam War. The above photo of her was taken in 1972 in Soc Trang Province
when she was 18 years old. Large numbers of North Vietnamese women like
Lam Thi Dep fought for the Viet Cong and photos like this were often
taken for propaganda purposes.
She is seen carrying an American M16 rifle.
US-supplied South Vietnamese garrisons often gave these weapons to the
Viet Cong as a gift, in exchange for being spared from their attacks.
Retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. “Hal” Moore, the American hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, has died. He was 94. “There’s something missing on this earth now. We’ve lost a great warrior, a great soldier, a great human being and my best friend. They don’t make them like him anymore,” Galloway said. Galloway, a former war correspondent for United Press International, said Moore was “without question, one of the finest commanders I ever saw in action.” Beginning on November 14, 1965, Lt. Col. Moore led the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in the week-long Battle of Ia Drang. Encircled by enemy soldiers with no clear landing zone that would allow them to leave, Moore managed to persevere despite being significantly outnumbered by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces that would go on to defeat the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry only two-and-a-half miles away the next day. Moore’s dictum that “there is always one more thing you can do to increase your odds of success” and the courage of his entire command are credited with this outcome. Moore was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism at Ia Drang. Moore died on February 10, 2017, three days before his 95th birthday. RIP Sir… RIP!
During Operation “Bushmaster”, a member of Company “L” (Ranger), 75th
Infantry, wearing camouflage makeup sits alone with his thoughts while
waiting to participate in an assault mission against North Vietnamese
Army forces in Vietnam in August of 1971. Photo by SP4 John L. Hennesey, 221st Sig Co.