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News >  Military

Biden awards Medal of Honor to four Vietnam War veterans

July 5, 2022 Updated Tue., July 5, 2022 at 6:50 p.m.

By Dan Lamothe Washington Post

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden awarded the nation’s highest recognition for valor in combat, the Medal of Honor, to four Vietnam War veterans on Monday, saying it was “finally” possible to do so after decades in which their actions were not properly recognized.

All four men served in the Army and previously had received lower-level decorations for their battlefield gallantry. But after years of deliberation, senior military officials decided to upgrade each of their awards, and Biden approved.

“It’s just astounding when you hear what each of them have done,” the president marveled during a White House ceremony. “They went far above and beyond the call of duty. It’s a phrase always used, but it takes on life when you see these men.”

The recipients include Specialist 5 Dwight Birdwell, who led an armored unit through a bloody ambush in 1968; Maj. John J. Duffy, a Special Forces officer who fought off an attack on his fire base in 1972; Specialist 5 Dennis M. Fujii, who, having survived a helicopter crash, directed airstrikes on advancing forces while under fire in Laos in 1971; and Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro, who cleared a trench of enemy fighters using grenades and a rifle in 1967 and died a few months later in another battle.

Biden said that the awards were possible in part because of a congressionally mandated review of actions in Vietnam by Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the Korean and Vietnam wars. A similar review of underrecognized valor cases during World War II resulted in 22 Medals of Honor, including one for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, Biden said.

Birdwell, Duffy and Fujii stood at attention as Biden draped the award around their necks in the East Room of the White House. Kaneshiro’s award was accepted posthumously by his son, John.

“It has been a long journey to this day 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 first proved their mettle,” Biden said. “Time has not diminished their astonishing bravery, their selflessness in putting the lives of others ahead of their own, and the gratitude that we as a nation owe them.”

Birdwell, of Oklahoma, had previously been recognized with the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor in combat, for his actions.

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