Real-Life Rambo: Medal of Honor Winner Fought Off Countless Enemies Using His Pinkie Finger During 20-Hour Fight
The time: June 20, 1965. The place: Bình Định province in the meatgrinder known as South Vietnam. The stakes: Life or death.
For what took place that day, retired Army Col. Paris Davis, 83, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on Friday during a White House ceremony.
“Just to be able to be considered for the Medal of Honor is one thing,” Davis said, according to CNN. “To receive it is all the things I’ve never dreamed.”
The Army’s website summarizes what took place as Davis, a Special Forces captain at the time, led his patrol.
After nearly 60 years of overdue honor, retired U.S. Army Col. #ParisDavis received recognition his fellow soldiers have long said he deserved for his “gallantry and intrepidity” while serving in the Vietnam War. Today, Col. Davis was awarded the #MedalofHonor by President Biden. pic.twitter.com/W8ATvtdDL1
— National Medal Of Honor Museum (@MohMuseum) March 3, 2023
“Over the course of two days, Davis selflessly led a charge to neutralize enemy emplacements, called for precision artillery fire, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, and prevented the capture of three American soldiers (Robert Brown, John Reinberg, and Billy Waugh) while saving their lives with a medical extraction. Davis sustained multiple gunshot and grenade fragment wounds during the 19-hour battle and refused to leave the battlefield until his men were safely removed.”
The website Military.com. filled in some of the blanks of what happened when his patrol ran into hundreds of Viet Cong.
“I ran down to where the firing was and found five Viet Cong coming over the trench line. I killed all five, and then I heard firing from the left flank,” Davis wrote in his report.
“I ran down there and saw about six Viet Cong moving toward our position. I threw a grenade and killed four of them. My M16 jammed, so I shot one with my pistol and hit the other with my M16 again and again until he was dead,” the report said.
Among the wounds he suffered that day was the loss of part of his trigger finger to an enemy grenade. Davis fired his M16 with his pinky.
Colonel Paris Davis was denied the Medal of Honor for decades after he risked his own life to save others in Vietnam. This week, we made that right. Proud to play a small part in getting the paperwork sped up so he could finally be commended for his tremendous bravery. pic.twitter.com/IpA5CNaU2W
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) March 4, 2023
As the standoff continued, two of three wounded men had been brought back to within American lines, but the third — Brown — was in a rice paddy with no one knowing if he was alive or dead.
“A colonel came by and, since we had two of the Americans and I wasn’t really sure of the disposition of the third, he gave me a direct order to … move out of the area, right now,” Davis said in a 1969 interview.
“I just disobeyed the order,” Davis said, according to CNN. “I said some words over the telephone I don’t really care to repeat right here, I did do a little swearing.”
During the ceremony Friday, President Joe Biden repeated a conversation between Davis and a medic he rescued.
“When he got there, the medic, still alive, asked him, ‘Am I going to die?’ ‘Am I going to die?’ Captain Davis responded, ‘Not before me.’ Still fending off the Viet Cong assailants, Captain Davis hauled his medic up the hill,” Biden said.
Almost 20 hours later, the soldiers — all of them — were rescued. Davis suffered eight wounds.
CPT Paris Davis (later COL) received his Medal of Honor today for actions in Vietnam in 1965. This is the baddest CPT I’ve ever seen, just beast-mode walking w authority and confidence next to a visiting GEN Westmoreland. pic.twitter.com/2xRU5PPJQi
— Major Reno, US Cavalry (@RenoCavalry) March 4, 2023
He said at one point he “thought that the battle was over because there was a place on that battlefield where there were so many bodies you couldn’t see the grass.”
“Davis’ selfless actions and personal courage were decisive in changing the tide of the battle, ensuring that American Soldiers were not killed or taken prisoner, preventing the South Vietnamese company from being overrun, and ensuring the defeat of a numerically superior enemy force,” the battle report said.
Asked what kept him going, Davis answered simply: “Others.”
Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson, the deputy commander of US Army Special Operations Command, said the day summed up what the Special Forces are all about.
“Will you quit? Obviously, Col. Davis showed, ‘I’m never going to quit. No matter what the odds, no matter how badly I’m hurt, I am not going to quit,’” Roberson said. “The grit, determination, competence under extreme duress — I can’t say enough about what he did,” he said.
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