At 67, the uniform still fits on his lean frame and he still carries himself like a soldier.
Nearly 32 years after a war in the jungles of Southeast Asia, Walter Schramm, a retired U.S. Army helicopter pilot, received America’s highest aviation award - the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Maj. Gen. Larry Ellis, the commander of the 1st Armored Division, pinned the medal on Schramm’s chest during ceremonies Friday in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, 50 miles west of Frankfurt.
He called Schramm “a warrior who distinguished himself … more than 30 years ago.”
It was Nov. 14, 1965, in the central highlands of Vietnam, when the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry was ambushed by two North Vietnamese regiments in the first real battle of the Vietnam War, officials said. The Americans were outnumbered 10-1.
As the fighting raged, Schramm flew his helicopter seven times into the battle area to resupply the Americans and fly the wounded out.
American casualties were 234 dead and 260 wounded. Two thousand Vietnamese were killed.
Scramm’s heroism was recounted in “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young,” by Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and Galloway.
Moore commanded the 7th Cavalry when it was attacked.
Before the ceremony, Schramm explained to reporters why he thought the award was so late in coming.
“I think that maybe General Moore got to thinking about this battle after they reconstructed it all. … There was, in his opinion, so many heroic acts being performed that nobody ever got an award for,” Schramm said.
“They just decided, ‘Better late than never, we’ll give them some recognition.”’
The German-born Schramm retired from the Army in 1974 and now lives near Frankfurt. He emigrated to Kenosha, Wis., in 1953 and served in the military where he obtained U.S. citizenship.