Vietnam War Commemoration Commission

Week of July 14

Week of July 14

On July 11, 1969, Specialist Fourth Class Gordon R. Roberts—a rifleman in Company B, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division—was with his platoon moving to attack a complex of Việt Cộng bunkers in Thừa Thiên Province, in northern I Corps. Việt Cộng troops had just pinned down another nearby company with heavy machine guns and grenades, and Roberts’s platoon was moving to assist. As they approached, however, Roberts’s platoon also came under intense fire from the cluster of bunkers and machine gun nests, which was camouflaged and situated atop a hill.

As Roberts’s platoon hit the deck, Roberts himself sprung into action, leading a one-man assault on the nearest bunker. Running and firing simultaneously, Roberts killed the two Việt Cộng soldiers in the bunker, silencing the machine gun. Three other bunkers nearby continued to fire on Roberts’s platoon, however, and incredibly, Roberts headed for them as well. Still attacking alone, Roberts had his rifle shot from his hand. He quickly picked up the rifle of a fallen comrade and eliminated two more bunkers.

At this juncture, Roberts realized he was wholly cut off and isolated from his unit, but a fourth Viet Cong position continued to fire furiously, just above his position. As Roberts crawled toward it, he made contact with the neighboring company his platoon had originally tried to assist, which remained in their defensive position. While the company returned fire and worked to eliminate the last enemy position, Roberts began to help carry wounded men to the rear, all while still exposed to machine gun fire. After moving several men to the evacuation area, he finally rejoined his platoon.

Gordon Roberts was born in June 1950 in Lebanon, Ohio. He enlisted in the U.S. Army just days after graduating from high school, and trained initially at Fort Benning, Georgia. In Vietnam, Roberts served primarily in the rugged region of I Corps near the Laotian border, an area of heavy fighting throughout much of the war. His fellow soldiers took to calling him “Bird Dog” because he often served as his unit’s point man while on maneuvers. His courageous actions on July 11, 1969 undoubtedly saved numerous lives, and in 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented him with the Medal of Honor.

Roberts also earned two Silver Star Medals during his service, the nation’s third highest award for valor. He left the Army in 1971 and went on to earn bachelors and masters degrees before joining the Ohio National Guard. He received a direct commission as a Major in 1989 and returned to active duty in 1991. During his career he served in the Middle East, Korea, Germany, Vietnam, and Haiti, and he was commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center Brigade before retiring in 2012.1

1U.S. Army Center of Military History, “Medal of Honor Recipients: Vietnam War,” http://www.history.army.mil/moh/vietnam-m-z.html (accessed July 13, 2016); Henry Cunningham, “Vietnam War MOH Recipient Roberts Retires from the Army,” Fayetteville Observer, May 19, 2012; Ferdinand Detres Jr., “Medal of Honor Recipient Retires after 44 Years of Service,” 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) Public Affairs, May 22, 2012.

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