Washington — President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to four U.S. Army soldiers who withstood tenacious fighting in the Vietnam War, recognizing them for their valor during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.
The recipients were Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro, Spc. Dwight Birdwell, Spc. Dennis Fujii and Maj. John J. Duffy. Kaneshiro’s medal was awarded posthumously, with his son accepting it on his behalf.
“They stood in the way of danger,” the president said. “Risked everything, literally everything to defend our nation and our values. However, not every service member has received the full recognition they deserve. Today, we’re setting the record straight. We’re upgrading the awards of four soldiers who performed acts of incredible heroism during the Vietnam conflict.”
The men had previously received other medals, but the president upgraded those to the Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest decoration for military service. Mr. Biden recounted the stories of each soldier who valiantly served.
Fujii was in a medevac helicopter that crashed in 1971. Though wounded, he rejected medical aid from another helicopter and worked to treat allied soldiers through the next day. He put himself in danger to call in U.S. helicopter gunships to repel attacks over the following 17 hours until he could be safely airlifted.
“Rather than risk the lives of his crew mates, Specialist Fujii waved off the helicopter, told them to depart, remaining behind as the only American on the battlefield,” the president said of one of the attempts to save Fujii’s live.
Kaneshiro was leading an infantry squad in 1966 when his unit was attacked by North Vietnamese fighters. He managed to repel the attack with rifle fire and grenades, allowing the rest of his unit to pull back safely. He was shot and killed during fighting four months later.
Birdwell was serving in a tank unit when his airbase came under attack in 1968. He managed to rescue his wounded tank commander and fired the tank’s guns at the enemy forces. Birdwell was eventually wounded in his face and torso but refused treatment until he could evacuate other wounded soldiers.
Duffy was wounded in battle in 1972 but refused to be evacuated, instead moving closer to enemy positions to call in air strikes. He was wounded again but still refused treatment. As his position came under attack over the next two days, Duffy helped move the wounded to an evacuation site and direct fire on more enemy positions. He only boarded the helicopter once all other evacuees were on board.
“When he was wounded again, he again refused evacuation,” the president said of Duffy. “He worked side by side to organize the defense of the base with the Vietnamese commander.”
Mr. Biden recognized that same commander in the White House audience Tuesday.
The president has awarded the Medal of Honor to eight service members since taking office, including the four recognized Tuesday. The ceremony came days after the death of, who was the last surviving recipient honored for service in World War II. Williams will lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol this week.