Medal of Honor To Be Awarded To Retired Col. Paris Davis
It took almost 60 years, 58 to be exact, for this Medal of Honor to finally be awarded. The events in which the recipient, then Capt. Paris Davis, who was one of the first Black officers to lead troops in the Army’s elite Green Berets, took place in 1965 in the Battle of Bong Son, in Vietnam.
One can legitmately ask why it took so long for something as monumental a matter as the awarding of a Medal of Honor to take place. The reasons are not complex – indeed they are quite simply a combination of all too common human frailties, one of which is simple bureaucratic inefficiency or indifference. The other is racism.
The facts are that Paris Davis, was a young, 26-year-old Green Beret officer with the 5th Special Forces Group and was leading A-team A-321 at Camp Bong Son in Vietnam in 1965, when he and his men found themselves in a bloody and extremely violent battle for their lives against a force of 200-300 enemy Viet Cong soldiers who hit their position from three sides.
Davis’s small Green Beret team were helping to train a force of 90 South Vietnamese volunteers in a village called Bong Son. On June 18, 1965, their village camp was hit by the much larger Viet Cong force. Early in the battle, the other three Americans on Davis’s team were pinned down in the open. One of them was their medic, Spc. Robert Brown. He had been hit in the head but was still alive. Davis and his men were outnumbered and in grave danger.
Davis’s commander, who was flying over the battlefield in a helicopter, ordered Davis to withdraw his men. Davis knew that the other American teammembers were still out there. In recounting those moments in an interview later, Davis said, “He told me to move out. I just disobeyed the order.” He told the Colonel in the helicopter, “Sir, I’m not gonna leave. I still got Americans out there.”
Davis used every weapon that was at hand during this bloody encounter with the VC. He fired his M-16, his pistol, a heavy machine gun, heavy mortars, and grenades, dropping some in foxholes. An Association of the United States Army article said of Davis, “Certain that he was a good as dead, [Davis] began fighting without fear of consequence, pulling his M-16 trigger with his pinkie, sprinting repeatedly into open ground to aid and to rescue teammates, and refusing to leave the fight, even after being [wounded] several times.” According to an article on the Coffee or Die website, Davis was hit by either bullets or shrapnel eight times as he kept up his efforts to get his men out of harm’s way.
While he was doing this, he was also using the team’s radio, pinpointing targets and calling in air strikes on enemy positions. Witnesses said he also killed at least one VC in hand-to-hand combat. He personally took out as many as 20 of the VC during this time.
Davis’s commanding officer nominated the young captain for the Medal of Honor immediately after the battle was over, “but the Army,” according to a Times article, “somehow lost the nomination.” Frustrated, the commander submitted the nomination again, and, inexplicably, the nomination “disappeared” again. Fellow Green Beret soldiers tried over several years to get Davis’s heroism recognized but came to believe that he was being overlooked because of his race. It is a fact that only 8% of the Medals of Honor awarded during Vietnam were awarded to Black people.
Recently, in 2021, then Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, himself a former Special Forces veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, expedited the process to finally get the Medal of Honor awarded to now retired Colonel Davis. This past February 13, 2023, Davis received a phone call from President Biden telling him that he would be awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony sometime this spring.
As you will see in this CBS interview, Davis was thrilled and honored that this was finally coming through. He says in the end, “America can heal you – if you give it time to do so, it will do it in spades.”
This humble man who gave so much of his life to the service of this country and who, in a time of great danger, acted with distinctive and remarkable heroism in service to his fellow Green Beret and South Vietnamese allies in that battle in a remote village in the hinterland of Vietnam in 1965, will finally have that heroism and dedication to duty and his fellow man recognized and honored.
The Veterans Site adds its respect, honor, and thanks to this brave and good man, retired Colonel Paris Davis. You lived the motto of the U.S Army Special Forces: “De Oppresso Liber,” or “To Free The Oppressed!” Hooah!Whizzco