tv President Biden Awards Medals of Honor to Vietnam Veterans CSPAN August 13, 2022 9:10pm-9:56pm EDT
>> ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states. ♪ >> mr. president, distinguished guests, the writer and sacred scripture says be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. for i will be with you wherever you go. ladies and gentlemen, please join me as we mark this special occasion.
gracious and merciful lord, you are the giver of life, the igniter of faith, provider of hope and author of love. you have commanded us to be strong and courageous in life or in death because you are always with us. receive your servants most humble prayer as we gather to honor and celebrate four selfless exemplars of unquestioned strong and courageous valor. staff sergeant kenishiro, agent birdwell, special agent fujii and major john duffy. you provided our nation and army the courage to believe we can we will. the commitment of a calvary
reader who is prepared and loyal. and the character of the special forces warrior to free the oppressed. when our nation asked who will go, each of these men declared here m.r.i., send me. we look at these men of valor who look not only to their own needs but the needs of others in extreme crisis, be present with us as we recognize the service of these heroes. plus they recipients we honor today along with the family members, comrades in arms and friends who support them. maybe actions of these men inspire others to acts of personal courage and selfless service. guide our nation and leaders, preserve us under the canopy of your everlasting love and care. it is in your majestic and mighty name i pray, amen. pres. biden: thanks.
please be seated. please be seated. welcome to the white house. you know, this is a day that i quite frankly think being president is inadequate. because there are so many brave women and men in here. so many people we are honoring today. mr. secretary, the joint chiefs, senior military officers, thank you all for being here. yesterday marked the 246th anniversary of this nation's independence. 246 years of struggle and sacrifice to uphold the pellets of bowls -- uphold the principles so dear to our nation, the, democracy, the god-given rights of every individual. it is a journey that is never finished and it never will be fully finished.
it is work that requires us to look ahead to the future, the future we want to build, and to look carefully at our past. to understand fully where we have come from, in those 246 years, american patriots have answered the nation's call for military service. they stood in the way of danger, risked everything to defend our nation and our values. however, not every service member as we have seen -- has received the full recognition they deserve. today we are setting the record straight. we are upgrading the awards of four soldiers who performed acts of incredible heroism during the vietnam conflict to respect the conspicuous gallantry and intrepid service. it is just astounding you hear what each of them have done. they went above and beyond the call of duty.
it is always used but it takes on life when you see these men. the late staff sergeant kaneshiro, specialist dwight w birdwell, specialist dennis fujii, and major john duffy, i'm honored to give our highest military recognition teach a view, one posthumously. it has been a long journey for those heroes and their families and more than 50 years have passed. 50 years since the jungles of vietnam, where as young men, these soldiers proved their mettle. but time has not diminished their bravery, their selflessness in putting the lives of others ahead of their own and the gratitude we as a nation of them. december 1, 1966, staff sergeant in his euro -- kaneshiro was a
squad leader, his platoon navigating what seems to be a peaceful village. it was an ambush. superior troops were concealed in a building, protected by underground tunnels and a trench that ran through the village. as staff sergeant kaneshiro led his squad through the village, two others came in, killing the platoon leader, the point man and pinning down two squads. hearing about this, the staff sergeant moved his squad toward the sound of firing where he jumped into action. the machine gun fire suppressing his platoon mates was coming from a big trench. it had to be stopped. he ordered his men to take cover and advanced alone toward the enemy position. armed with six grenades and an m-16. he waited flat on the ground,
hurling his first grenade. it sailed through the aperture of the bunker, taking out the machine gun in the first row. he then jumped into the trench alone, moving along the trench for 35 meters, clearing the enemy as he went. as his head would emerge above the trench as he yelled grenade. his platoon would lose sight of him and hear it explode. by the time he was done, the two other squads were able to stand up, collect their dead and injured and reorganized the fight. and successfully withdraw from the village. according to the eyewitness accounts of the ballot -- battle, his bravery in single-handedly clearing the trench averted what might have been quote a disaster for the whole platoon. born and raised in hawaii, the son of japanese immigrants, the
proud husband and father of four, he continues to service them in vietnam until he was killed in action in 1967. his memory lives on in the lives he saved and the legend of his fearlessness and the hearts of the family he left behind. john, naomi, tom, thank you for being here today. and thank you for your sister, doris as well who could not be with us. john, thank you for your military service. your family sacrificed so much for our country. i know that no award can ever make up for the loss of your father and not having him there as you grew up. but i hope today you take some pride and comfort in knowing his valor is finally receiving the full recognition and has always deserved. january 31, 1968, it was an open assault of a company -- that
would come to be known as the tet offensive. a bloodied period of the vietnam war. the north vietnamese forests -- foresters launched an attack on an air saigon. the first american unit to respond was that of specialist five dwight birdwell. unknown to the men, they were moving to be taking on a full -- they arrived, and their unit took the brunt of the attack with many vehicles disabled. when his tank commander was hit and wounded, birdwell got to a place of safety and took command. he knew his vehicle was on the first line of defense so birdwell stood in his commanders hatch sometimes, expose, at
times fully exposed out of the tank, laying down a fire on the enemy. he used machine guns, his personal rifle. his sustained fire, drove back the attackers and created a place of relative safety for his injured men so they could take cover. he provided this until the enemy shot the communication system off his helmet. when he ran out of ammunition, he ran to retrieve an m-16 machine gun and ammo off the helicopter that had been downed during the flight. he kept firing on the enemy. and even when that m 60 was hit by enemy fire, causing it to explode and sending shrapnel into his face, chest, hands, he remained on the battlefield. when he was loaded onto the helicopter, he complied. i find this amazing.
he wanted to crawl back off and keep fighting. he should of taken orders, causing trouble. god love you. he helped evacuate the fellow wounded and then agreed to evacuate himself. he received a silver star for his heroism on the battlefield. it took decades for his commanding officer, then general, to receive -- to realize he had not received the full honor here deserved. but in retirement, the general make sure to document his actions to make the state possible. a member of the cherokee nation, he credited the veterans who served before him from the cherokee.
native americans serve in the armed forces more than any other cohort in america. he continued to build a legacy of service in oklahoma. he started his own law firm, served for 12 years on the cherokee nation supreme court and the that legacy of service down to his daughter stephanie who was with him today and will serve as the director in the office of travel relations and the department of veterans affairs. specialist birdwell, thank you. and to your wife virginia who i know wishes she could be with you today, we are sending her our love as well. and grateful to all of you who have given to our country and that at long last your story is being honored as it should have been always. february 18, 1971, specialist five dennis fujii was conducting
a rescue operation in laos. they were evacuating wounded vietnamese military personnel. but they became targets, sustaining heavy damage and causing them to crash land in the middle of the conflict. when a second american helicopter managed to arrive later, he was able to evacuate except for specialist fujii. he waved off the helicopter and he said remaining behind as the only american on the battlefield. they were made to rescue before he could find off -- find a radio and call off further attempts. it was too dangerous, he said. he stayed behind, ignoring his wounds while helping tend allies on the field. the next night, the enemy force
renew the assault with have very artillery. for more than 17 consecutive hours, specialist fujii -- directed airstrikes against them. his fellow americans knew him as popout whiskey, a clear eyed, -- poppa whiskey, a clear eyed soldier. when american helicopters were able to retrieve him, wounded and severely fatigued two days after his air ambulance had crashed, he made it only about four kilometers before it crash landed. specialist fujii had to wait two days before he was able to leave the area and receive medical assistance for his wound. speaking to the press shortly after his experience, he
downplayed his own contributions and honored that skills of the allied vietnamese troops he fought with, saying quote, i like my job, i like to help other people who need help out there. it is amazing. today, we remember and celebrate just how many people you helped. i want to thank you and your wife who could not be here with you today and your brother edwin for all your family has done for this nation. we will forever honor your commitment to your crew, your allies and your country. april 14, 1972 the battle of fire support base charlie. the lone american on the basis serving as the advisor to the army of the republic of vietnam, major john duffy, his call name dusty cyanide.
those days, they command post had been destroyed. major duffy had been twice wounded and refused evacuation. efforts to resupply the base have failed and charlie was surrounded by the battalion. for hours, those that surrounded dusty cyanide took enemy positions. major duffy directed fire to keep the battalion from being overrun. he even called in one strike, extreme danger close to his own position, to drive back the advancing attack. when he was wounded again, he again refused evacuation. he worked side-by-side to organize with the commander, who is here today. major,, where are you? major, thank you for being here. thank you for your service.
[applause] pres. biden: it is an honor to have you here. when they finally had to abandon the base, major duffy volunteered to lead the rear squad and cover the retreat. when they were ambushed april 15 and many of the troops scattered, major duffy remained with those who were wounded, rallying them despite being constantly pursued by the viet cong. upon reaching the site, he made sure he was the last to board the helicopter until finally the airship was ready to depart. one of his vietnamese allies was shot in the foot, causing him to fall backwards out of the helicopter. major duffy caught him and dragged him back in on board, saving one more life along the
way. major duffy served in the army until 1977, completing three tours in vietnam. numerous special forces and 20 years of faithful service our country, after which he went on to have a successful career as an author and had a nomination for pulitzer prize for poetry. he is the definition of a warrior poet. thank you for all you have inspired and others and as commander-in-chief, i know it is not only for those who wear the uniform, it is your families as well. so thank you for all you sacrifices well, to marcus and judd, i want to emphasize what you already know. your grandpa is a hero, flat out, unadulterated hero. we are able to take these actions to upgrade the awards
and properly honor the duty and devotion of those soldiers. thanks to the dedication of those who served with them. and because of the review of the heroic actions of asian americans, native americans and pacific islanders, across the korean and vietnam wars, to make sure we properly honor the contributions of asian americans, native hawaiians and pacific islanders and their service over the years. we did similar world war ii awards, resulting in 22 honors being awarded to asian americans, pacific islanders and servicemembers who'd been unrecognized, including one of my closest friends, benefactors of the united states senate, a senator. i want to also thank members of congress who made this possible to ensure the united states lives up to our promises.
and to those who give to our country, we will always -- and people who are with us today. walter. where are you? there you are. [applause] pres. biden: [indiscernible] [applause] pres. biden: brian thacker. [applause] pres. biden: thank you for being here to help us recognize these newest honorees. i would like to also note last week we lost a giant in his community. herschel williams passed away, the last medal of honor
recipient of world war ii. honored by president truman for the battle of iwo jima, he will be laid to rest of the capital. his passing is a reminder of what so many have sacrificed to support liberty and democracy for our nation and the world. it is my great honor to ask for the citations be read as we awarded the medal of honors to kaneshiro, specialist five dennis well, specialist five dennis and fuji -- dennis fujii and john duffy. thank you all and may god protect our troops. [applause] >> john kaneshiro, accepting on behalf of his father staff sergeant edward kaneshiro.
attention to orders. the president of the united states of america authorized by act of congress march 3, 1863 has posthumously awarded in the name of congress the medal of honor to staff sergeant edward and kaneshiro -- edward n. kaneshiro of the united states army for gallantry and risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. he just a wish itself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an infantry squad leader with troop c, first squadron, ninth cavalry, first cavalry division and kim song valley, republic of vietnam in 1966. not knowing the village was
heavily fortified with a fully brokered and concealed trench system and garrisoned by the north vietnamese troops and vastly superior forces, two squads of the put soon had deployed to its center -- platoon had to put to its center, while staff sergeant kaneshiro and his squadron were in the village. the entrenched enemy force erupted with machine guns and small arms fire against the center of the village, killing the platoon leader and point man, wounding two others and suppressing these arriving soldiers. he moved with his men to the sounds of the fire, swiftly reading the situation, seeing the fire had to be stopped if anyone were to survive. he crawled forward to attack the enemy force alone. he began well throwing grenades from the parapet, successfully throwing the first grenade through the bunker, illuminating
the machine gunner who opens the action. with his rifle to sustain the assault, staff sergeant kaneshiro -- confronted the squads. over the distance of 25 meters, he worked to destroy one group of -- with fire and grenades. by the end of the sweep, the able-bodied -- he enabled the organization of the platoon which led to the evacuation of the village. his gallantry and heroism under fire are in keeping with highest traditions of military service and reflect credit to himself and the united states army, signed joseph r biden, president
attention to orders. the president of the united states of america, authorized by act of congress march 3, 1863 has awarded in the name of congress the medal of honor to specialist five dwight w birdwell of the united states army for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of its own life above and beyond the call of duty. specialist five dwight w birdwell distinguishing self with acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty with his division in the republic of vietnam on 31, january 1968. the trip was ordered to move south to repel an enemy attack on an airbase. as the personnel approached the
airy base a became under intense enemy fire from a building on its right. unbeknown to the troop, it had driven directly into an enemy force of three battalions. they tried to push through the attack but the explosions were blocking the way forward. see troop came under heavy enemy fire from both sides of the road. specialist birdwell upon seeing this went to his aid. under intense enemy fire, he lowered the injured commander to the ground and moved him to safety. then come up disregard for his own safety, he mounted the tank and assumed the position, standing in the hatch with the upper half of his body exposed to heavy enemy fire. specialist birdwell used the guns to suppress the enemy attack. with ammunition from the 90 millimeter gun exhausted, he continued to fire the 50 caliber
machine gun until it overheated. at this point, rather than embedding his position, he engaged the desk abandoning his position, he continued to engage the enemy sometimes with his entire body exposed. specialist birdwell under withering fire dismounted and received two enemy machine guns. after giving one to a soldier, he remounted -- until the m-16 he was firing was hit by enemy fire. specialist birdwell wounded in the face, neck, chest and arms dismounted the tank but refused to be medically evacuated. instead, under enemy fire he
rallied soldiers to advance toward the front where they set up a position by a large tree. from this position, he and other soldiers engaged the enemy with fire and grenades. as the enemy fire lessons, he gathered from disabled vehicles and helped wounded soldiers moved to safer positions. his leadership and tenacity inspired other soldiers to continue fighting against the superior enemy force and can attributed -- contributed to this. he exhibited heroism above and beyond the call of duty, in keeping with highest traditions of military service, reflecting upon himself, his unit and the army.
attention to orders, the president of the united states of america authorized by act of congress march 3, 1863 has awarded in name of congress the medal of honor to specialist five dennis m fujii united states army for gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his own life and above and beyond the call of duty. specialist five fujii to sing was himself beyond the call of duty while serving as a crew chief aboard a helicopter in laos, vietnam in 1971. he was serving with the 237th medical detachment, 61st medical battalion, 6/7 medical group, it was to evacuate vietnamese military personnel from the midst of a raging battlefield. the primary approach, bullet
infested natives on was thwarted by heavy volumes of enemy fire directed at the specialist helicopter. as the pilot made an -- a second landing attempt, the craft was damaged and cause it to crash, injuring specialist five fujii. he then -- they then extracted all of them except for him who was unable due to intense enemy fire. rather than further endanger the lives, he waved to the craft out of the combat area and remained behind is the only american on the battlefield. subsequent attempts to rescue the specialist were aborted due to violent aircraft fire. specialist fuji security radio and informed them the landing zone was too hot for evacuation attempts. during the night and the next
day, specialist fujii administered first aid to the casualties. the allied perimeter came under ruthless -- this is all. they called in them for the attack. for 17 consecutive hours, expose himself to hostile fire as he left the security of his entrenchment to preserve enemy positions to direct air against him. at times, the fighting became so vicious he was forced to interrupt radio transmissions to place fire on the enemy while in close quarters. the wounded and severely fatigued, the specialist bore responsibility for the protection and defense at the
cap meant until an american helicopter could land and attempts to airlifted from the area. they received numerous hits and were forced to crash land at another south vietnamese ranger base. the exhausted specialist remained at the allied camp for two more days until yet another helicopter could return him to get medical assistance in february. his heroism and devotion to duty and in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect credit on himself and the military community, signed joseph r biden, president of the united states.
the medal of honor to major john j duffy, united states army, for conspicuous gallantry and trip 80 -- and intrepidity above and beyond the call duty. he just image himself while serving as the senior advisor to the 11th airborne italian, second person -- second brigade airborne division army of vietnam and the republic of vietnam during the period of 14 to 15 april 1962. proceeding the events of 14 to 15 april 1952, the commander of the battalion was killed and the command post was destroyed. major duffy was twice wounded but refused to be evacuated. 14 april, he directed the defense of fire support base charlie, which was surrounded by an enemy element, after an effort to -- he moved to call in
an airstrike. major duffy was again wounded by fragments from a record list rifle round and refused medical evaluation. the enemies began artillery performing on the base and he remained in an exposed position to direct gunships on the position to silence enemy fire. following the bombardment, he assessed conditions on the base and assured the wounded soldiers were moved to safety and the remaining element was the sherbet into the echelon he remained in an exposed position to direct gunships fire in the enemy position. major duffy moved from position to position to adjust fire. spot target for artillery observers into direct gunships
fire on a position which had been compromised. as the evening wore on, it became clear the defenders could not withstand the overwhelming enemy forces and began to evacuate under the cover of night. with the goal of a complete withdrawal, major duffy was the last man off base, remaining behind to adjust covering fire from gunships until the last moment. when the acting battalion commander was wounded, he continued to direct fire on the enemy. on 15 april, the enemy ambushed the battalion, inflicting additional casualties and scattering some of the made -- the able-bodied shoulders -- soldiers. major the enemy for an forces could successfully repost the enemy. he led the evacuees, many who were significantly wounded, to establish the evacuation area
despite being pursued by the enemy. he directed gunship fire on the enemy positions and marked the landing zone for the helicopters. only after ensuring evacuees were on board did he board while assisting a friendly foreign soldier with him. once on board he administered aid to the helicopter gunner who had been wounded. his heroism above and beyond the call of duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the united states army, signed joseph r biden, president of the united states. [applause]
[applause] >> please join me in receiving this blessing as we depart. most holy god, thank you for the lives of these men who inspire and challenge us to extraordinary acts of service. may each of us dare to follow the examples of these warriors in the face of seemingly -- specialist birdwell, specialist fujii, major duffy nc kaneshiro
family, -- may there legacies be the true north for us to seek and may we all strive to be strong and courageous in the face of a myriad of challenges that life may bring our way. keep the lamp of liberty turning bright and our nations strong. it is in your holy and mighty name i pray. amen. pres. biden: i think we are dismissed. it was a great honor, thank you all so very much. >> they sent gentlemen, please remain in your seats as the president and first lady depart. thank you. ♪