Robert D. Law was a member of I Company, Rangers, 75th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division in the Republic of Vietnam. On February 22, 1969, the LRRP Team ( Long-range reconnaissance patrol) that he was a part of, got into a firefight with elements of the Viet Cong and Law’s selfless, heroic actions on that day would be the cause for him to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Law was born on September 15, 1944, in Ft. Worth, Texas. He joined the Army in October 1967 via Dallas. By early 1969, during the Vietnamese “Tet” holiday, he was a member of the I Company Ranger LRRP Teams near Song Be in South Vietnam. A heavy enemy movement had been reported in the area and the Ranger LRRP teams were assigned to perform reconnaissance and gather as much intelligence as possible.
The Rangers had been making contact with Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas in the area. One patrol had two Rangers get seriously wounded, causing them to be medevaced on February 20.
I Company’s commander asked for volunteers to replace the team that had to be extracted along with the two men who were seriously wounded. The Team Leader (TL) was SGT Danny Wiggins and they put together a composite team consisting of Wiggins, Mike Cannon, Bob Law, Bill Powell, Bob Roossiene and Ray Cervantes. While all of the men had worked with one another on different missions throughout their tour in Vietnam, this was the first time, they’d ever functioned as a complete unit together. But their experience and Ranger SOPs would serve them well on this mission.
After an overflight of the area, the team selected their primary and secondary landing zones and infiltrated back into the area on the afternoon of February 20. After landing in an LZ unopposed, the team moved out with Law on point, Cannon was the next in the formation, followed by the Wiggins and Powell, his RTO, Roossiene was the M-79 gunner and Cervantes was the team’s rear security. After moving about 1000 meters, Law on the point came face-to-face with a VC in the dense jungle.
He immediately fired and the team, conducting an immediate action drill broke contact and moved off 100 meters, receiving only sporadic and light return fire. Wiggins, as was SOP, and having the area, pre-plotted for artillery fire, called in a fire mission and walked the rounds back into the area where they had made contact.
After considering the mission compromised, Wiggins asked for extraction. However, due to the time of day, extraction couldn’t be done until after dark, permission was denied and the team was ordered to find a suitable overnight position (RON) and continue the mission the next day.
After an uneasy night where the team didn’t have any further contact with the Viet Cong, they decided to continue on with their mission.
The next morning the team moved back out to continue their recon of the area. After about two clicks, they came upon a large stream and adjacent trail that showed a lot of recent activity. The team moved adjacent to the stream where they found a log footbridge over the stream. Moving to positions where they could monitor the area and remain undetected.
The team set up a kill zone with Claymore mines and two Rangers Cervantes and Cannon were placed up on the stream banks, hidden in the dense underbrush around the trees while the rest of the team positioned themselves in the stream bed, hidden.
After a short time, the team saw three VC moving to their front. As the VC were moving toward the bridge, one of them stopped and turned to peer down the stream bed. Apparently seeing one of the team, he tried to get his AK-47 into firing position. Both Law and Powell, emptied their magazines into the VC before he could fire.
The Claymores were detonated directly in front of the third VC who was carrying a machine gun across his shoulders. He was killed instantly. Then the other team members fired on the second Viet Cong with M-16s and M-79 grenades. The two remaining VC, badly wounded, tried to lob grenades at the American patrol, but they didn’t reach their position.
Wiggins called for artillery strikes which dropped down extremely close to their positions. Suddenly, another VC grenade came over the stream bed bank and rolled down directly between Wiggins, Powell, and Law. Law was closest and could have leaped out of the stream bed and over the edge to safety. Instead, he leaped on the grenade shielding his teammates from the blast but at the cost of his own life.
Wiggins called for a medevac, but for Law, it was too late. As the team awaited extraction, Cobra gunships raked the area, but no further contact was had with the enemy. The remainder of the team was safely exfiltrated to Lai Khe. It was only then that Wiggins and Powell learned that although Law had saved their lives, both received minor wounds from the shrapnel of the grenade that he had protected them from.
For a great detailed look at the mission, read Danny Wiggins account here:
Medal of Honor Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. SP4 Law distinguished himself while serving with Company I. While on a long-range reconnaissance patrol in Tinh Phuoc Thanh province, SP4 Law and 5 comrades made contact with a small enemy patrol. As the opposing elements exchanged intense fire, he maneuvered to a perilously exposed position flanking his comrades and began placing suppressive fire on the hostile troops.
Although his team was hindered by a low supply of ammunition and suffered from an unidentified irritating gas in the air, SP4 Law’s spirited defense and challenging counterassault rallied his fellow soldiers against the well-equipped hostile troops.
When an enemy grenade landed in his team’s position, SP4 Law, instead of diving into the safety of a stream behind him, threw himself on the grenade to save the lives of his comrades. SP4 Law’s extraordinary courage and profound concern for his fellow soldiers were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.