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Robert Lewis Howard

Date of birth: July 11, 1939
Date of death: December 23, 2009
Place of Birth: Alabama, Opelika
Home of record: Montgomery Alabama

Robert Howard was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor, his first nomination being downgraded to the DSC. His second and third nominations wee simultaneous for two separate actions and the Medal of Honor was awarded for the first of them, the other was downgraded to the Silver Star. Wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam, Howard was awarded 8 Purple Hearts and is believed to be the most decorated living American. He is one of only TWO men to earn BOTH the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross in the Vietnam War, and his 8 Purple Hearts is a record he shares with four other American soldiers.

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

Medal of Honor

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant (Infantry), [then Sergeant First Class] Robert Lewis Howard (ASN: RA-14628152), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Republic of Vietnam, on 30 December 1968. First Lieutenant Howard, distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated two-company force. During the initial engagement, First Lieutenant Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. First Lieutenant Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, First Lieutenant Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As First Lieutenant Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer's equipment, an enemy bullet struck one of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant's belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. First Lieutenant Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area. Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, First Lieutenant Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, First Lieutenant Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3 1/2 hours First Lieutenant Howard's small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. First Lieutenant Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. First Lieutenant Howard's gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

General Orders: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 16 (March 24, 1971)

Action Date: 30-Dec-68

Service: Army

Rank: First Lieutenant

Regiment: 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

Division: 1st Special Forces

Distinguished Service Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant First Class Robert Lewis Howard (ASN: RA-14628152), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Command and Control (Central), 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Sergeant First Class Howard distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 21 November 1967, as Special Forces Advisor to a joint American and Vietnamese reconnaissance patrol conducting a search mission near the Laotian border. His patrol discovered a huge rice and ammunition cache surrounded by an enemy bunker complex. Sergeant Howard led a small team to provide security while the remainder of the unit began to destroy the stored supplies. His team encountered four North Vietnamese Army soldiers, and Sergeant Howard killed them with a fierce burst of rifle fire. He and his men were immediately pinned down by a murderous curtain of fire which erupted from a nearby enemy machine gun position. With complete disregard for his safety, Sergeant Howard crawled toward the emplacement and killed a North Vietnamese sniper who was firing at him as he maneuvered. He then charged the bunker, eliminating its occupants with rifle fire. A second machine gun position unleashed a savage barrage. Sergeant Howard moved his troops to a covered location and directed an air strike against the fortified bunker. While assessing the bomb damage, Sergeant Howard was fired upon by North Vietnamese soldiers in the bunker who had survived the blasts. Pinned down directly outside the strongpoint with a blazing machine gun barrel only six inches above his head, he threw a hand grenade into the aperture of the emplacement, killing the gunners and temporarily silencing the weapon. He then dashed to his team's location and secured a light anti-tank weapon. As the enemy machine gun resumed firing, Sergeant Howard stood up amid a withering hail of bullets, fired his weapon, and completely demolished the position. His fearless and determined actions in close combat enabled the remainder of the patrol to destroy the enemy cache. Sergeant First Class Howard's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 2018 (May 2, 1968)

Action Date: 21-Nov-67

Service: Army

Rank: Sergeant First Class

Company: Command and Control (Central)

Regiment: 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

Division: 1st Special Forces

Silver Star

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Sergeant First Class Robert Lewis Howard (ASN: RA-14628152), United States Army, for gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Sergeant First Class Howard distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions from 12 to 20 November 1968, during an operation deep within enemy-held territory. As his platoon was being inserted into the area, it came under heavy fie from all directions. Sergeant Howard leaped from his helicopter before it touched down and began to return fire, providing protection for his men while they dismounted and moved safely off the landing zone. Seeing two enemy soldiers in a wood line, he charged their position and killed them both. When the unit was attacked by a company-size force on the night of 16 November, he went to each platoon member, encouraging them and directing their fire while completely exposing himself to the communist barrage. Two days later while Sergeant Howard was leading the point element, the platoon was ambushed by an estimated two North Vietnamese Army companies. He skillfully maneuvered his men so that the enemy was caught in a deadly crossfire and the ambush was broken. The following day, Sergeant Howard had again taken the point element when he observed an estimated battalion-size ambush. Although wounded in the initial exchange of fire, he exposed himself to the aggressors to place effective fire on them and enable his platoon to take cover. Moving from position to position, he administered first aid to the wounded and set up a landing zone so that they could be evacuated. As the first ambulance helicopter came in, it was struck by hostile machine gun fire and burst into flames. Sergeant Howard, although wounded a second time, ran one hundred and fifty meters to where the ship had crashed and rescued a trapped pilot from the blazing wreckage. Once the entire crew was free from the aircraft, he led them back to the platoon while providing covering fire. Three hours later another helicopter succeeded in landing and the casualties were evacuated, but Sergeant Howard refused to leave. The next morning, he saw three North Vietnamese soldiers maneuvering towards his element and immediately opened fire, killing them.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 371 (February 3, 1969)

Action Date: November 12 - 20, 1968

Service: Army

Rank: Sergeant First Class

Company: Headquarters and Headquarters Company

Regiment: 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

Division: 1st Special Forces