The Story Of The First Living Marine To Be Awarded The Medal Of Honor From The Vietnam War

This video is from the Medal of Honor ceremonies held on December 6, 1966, where Sgt. Robert E. O’Malley received the nation’s highest award for valor for his actions the year before in Vietnam.

O’Malley enlisted in the Marine Corps Oct. 11, 1961, and went through boot camp at MCRD Parris Island. After graduation, he was sent to the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division and was promoted to Pvt. 1st Class in May of 1962. A year later he was sent to Okinawa with the 3rd Bn, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. He made Lance Corporal there in March of 1963 and promoted to Corporal the following November.

In 1965 he was a squad leader with the 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines out of the Marine Corps Base at Chu Lai. On Aug. 18, 1965, he was involved in the first major engagement of the Vietnam War between the American forces and the Viet Cong during Operation Starlight.  

Cpl. O'Malley was a squad leader with the 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines out of the Marine Corps Base at Chu Lai.
Source: YouTube/Nuclear Vault
Cpl. O’Malley was a squad leader with the 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines out of the Marine Corps Base at Chu Lai.

According to the Medal of Honor Citation Cpl. O’Malley was outside the village of An’Cong, while leading his squad in an assault against well entrenched  enemy forces, when “his unit came under intense small arms fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Cpl. O’Malley raced across an open rice paddy to a trench line where the enemy forces were located. Jumping into the trench, he attacked the Viet Cong with his rifle and grenades, and single-handedly killed eight of the enemy. He then led his squad to the assistance of another Marine unit which was suffering heavy casualties. 

O'Malley put himself at great danger while covering his team from an attack.
Source: YouTube/Nuclear Vault
O’Malley put himself at great danger while covering his team from an attack.

Continuing to press forward, he reloaded his weapon and fired with telling effect into the enemy emplacement. He personally assisted in the evacuation of several wounded Marines, and again regrouping the remnants of his squad, he returned to the point of the heaviest fighting.

Despite being wounded three times, Cpl. O'Malley never gave up the fight.
Source: YouTube/Nuclear Vault
Despite being wounded three times, Cpl. O’Malley never gave up the fight.

Ordered to an evacuation point by an officer, O’Malley led his squad under fire to an evacuation helicopter for withdrawal. Although wounded 3 times himself during this encounter and facing immanent death from a fanatical and determined enemy, he steadfastly refused evacuation and continued to cover his squad’s boarding of the helicopters from an exposed position. It was not until the last man was aboard the evacuation helicopters that he went aboard himself.” 

O’Malley would be medically evacuated from Vietnam to Japan and would undergo surgeries for his wounds and would then finish his enlistment at Camp Pendleton in April 1966. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in December of 1965. A few months later, he was told that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions that day in August the year before.

O'Malley became the first living Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam.
Source: YouTube/Nuclear Vault
O’Malley became the first living Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam.

On Dec. 6, 1966, O’Malley was flown on Air Force One to Austin, Texas, where President Lyndon B. Johnson was in meetings with his Joint Chiefs of Staff. This video is of the ceremonies that were involved in that event. The Marine Corps Band was also present at the event.

Sgt. Robert E. O’Malley thus became the first living Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor from the Vietnam War.  

The Veterans Site honors the courage that then Corporal Robert E. O’Malley displayed on the field of battle in August of 1965. His dedication to the well-being of his men, his selfless disregard for his own safety is a true model of “gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.”  

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