Valor Finally Rewarded

It’s been almost 60 years since US Army Special Forces colonel (then captain) Paris Davis was nominated for America’s highest military honor. Last Friday, he finally got what he had earned so many years ago in the jungles of Vietnam. President Biden awarded Davis the Medal of Honor Friday in a traditional White House ceremony. Mr. Biden commented that the act might mark the “most consequential day” of his presidency as he remarked to Davis that he was a “true hero” for his actions in Vietnam.

Col. Davis redies his uniform for the Medal of Honor ceremony. Screenshot from YouTube and CBS News.

The White House contacted the retired Special Forces officer earlier in February of this year to inform him that his bravery would finally be recognized. Davis, one of the first Black Special Forces officers, was initially submitted for the award in 1965, but the Army somehow kept “misplacing” the application repeatedly. As years passed, frustrated teammates kept lobbying the Army for Davis’s medal, but no real action was ever taken.

Green Berets never quit, and after 55 years of trying, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller ordered an expedited review of the long overdue nomination. The Army, as a matter of policy, declined to comment on the matter, citing their policy not to comment on any awards until final decisions are rendered.

Davis, who retired from the service in 1985, downplayed the ongoing situation in typical SF fashion. He said regarding the delay, “… all this stuff, medals, and all that…people need to keep on keepin’ on. We’ve got to make this a better world. That’s how I feel.” Roger that, sir.

Captain Paris Davis, center, rocking the shades, is shown here giving a tour of his camp to General William Westmorland, left, commander of US forces in Vietnam. Screenshot from YouTube and WFAA.

Meritorious Actions

Captain Davis was 26 years old on 18 June 1965 when he twice disobeyed orders to withdraw and abandon his men during an intense firefight following a pre-dawn raid on a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) camp in Bong Son. According to the Army Times, the raid was initially a success, but eventually, a strong enemy counterattack wounded every American in the fight. Leaving his injured men behind was not an option.

Despite being wounded, the former All-American running back repeatedly sprinted across a rice paddy to retrieve each of his soldiers. During each of his trips, he fired his weapon using his little finger…an NVA grenade had shattered the rest of his hand.

Davis’s commanding officer immediately wrote him up for the Medal of Honor, but, as mentioned earlier, the paperwork disappeared. He eventually received a Silver Star for his actions against the enemy. For decades, many could not help but wonder if race played a role in providing Davis with a lesser award.

The Citation

The citation reads as follows:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Captain Paris D. Davis, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty.

Captain Paris D. Davis, Commander, Detachment A-321, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an advisor to the 883rd Regional Force Company, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Bồng Sơn, Republic of Vietnam on June 17th through 18th, 1965.

Captain Davis and three other U.S. Special Forces advisors accompanied the Vietnamese 883rd Regional Force Company on its first combat mission, a daring nighttime raid against a Viet Cong regional headquarters housing a superior enemy force.

Captain Davis’s advice and leadership allowed the company to gain the tactical advantage, allowing it to surprise the unsuspecting enemy force and kill approximately 100 enemy soldiers.  While returning from the successful raid, the regional force company was ambushed and sustained several casualties.

Captain Davis consistently exposed himself to the hostile armed — small arms fire to rally the inexperienced and disorganized company.  He expertly directed both artillery and small arms fire, enabling other elements of the company to reach his position.

Although wounded in the leg, he aided in the evacuation of other wounded men in his unit, but refused medical evacuation himself.  Following the arrival of air support, Captain Davis directed artillery fire within 30 meters of his own position in an attempt to halt the enemy’s advance. 

Then, with complete disregard for his own life, he braved intense enemy fire to cross an open field to rescue his seriously wounded and immobilized team sergeant.  While carrying the sergeant up the hill to a position of relative safety, Captain Davis was again wounded by enemy fire.

Despite two painful wounds, Captain Davis again refused medical evacuation, remained with the troops, fought bravely, and provided pivotal leadership and inspiration to the regional force company as they repelled several Viet Cong assaults on their position over a period of several hours.

When friendly reinforcements finally arrived, Captain Davis again refused medical evacuation until he had recovered an air — a U.S. advisor under his command who had been wounded during the initial ambush and presumed dead.

While personally recovering the wounded soldier, he found him severely wounded but still clinging to life.  Captain Davis directed the helicopter extraction of his wounded colleague not leaving the battlefield himself until after all friend- –friendly forces were recovered or medically evacuated.

Captain Davis’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty, at the risk of his own life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

We at SOFREP salute Colonel Davis and offer our sincere thanks for his service to our beloved nation.