Melvin Morris was a Green Beret in the 5th Special Forces Group who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions against Communist forces in Vietnam on September 17, 1969. 

Originally awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, the Defense Authorization Act mandated that the military look at the actions of African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and other minority veterans from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War to ensure that no prejudice was shown to those deserving the Medal of Honor. Morris’s award was therefore upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Morris was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, on January 7, 1942. In an interview with American Battlefield Trust, Morris described the limited opportunities available to him back in those days. 

“I come from Oklahoma, a place called Okmulgee, capital of the Creek Nation. There wasn’t much going on there in the ’50s, no work to speak of. My first was job was working at the bowling alley; I think I made 65 cents an hour. I said, ‘No, this isn’t going to cut it.’ And my brother and I both went into the military because the National Guard was recruiting minorities.”

After a year in the National Guard, Morris switched to the active-duty Army in 1960, volunteered for Airborne duty, and then joined Special Forces in 1961. 


The Mike Forces

In September 1969, Morris, then a staff sergeant, was the commander of the Third Company, Third Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force near Chi Lang.

The Mobile Strike Force, known as the “Mike Force,” was created and advised by Special Forces troops as well as Australian SAS. The Mike Forces were staffed with indigenous peoples, pulled from the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG), and Nungs, people of Chinese descent. At its height, Mike Forces consisted of Bahnar, Hmong, Nung, Jarai, Khmer Krom minorities, and other members of the Degar peoples, also known as Montagnards.