The story of one of the most decorated soldiers in US military history, and All-American hero, Robert L. Howard starts with his first nomination for the highest military award, Medal of Honor. In next 13 months, he was nominated two more times, something done for no other soldier before.
But when he finally was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1971, there was a virtual media blackout over the United States.
John Plaster’s recent book SECRET COMMANDOS Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG on pg. 303 talks about that:
“The day that President Nixon draped the Medal of Honor’s pale blue ribbon around Howard’s neck, I sat before the TV in my parents’ living room watching the evening news. Coming on top of his previous decorations – the Distinguished Service Cross and multiple Silver and Bronze Stars, plus eight Purple Hearts – Howard’s combat awards exceeded those of Audie Murphy, America’s legendary World War II hero, until then our most highly decorated serviceman. At last, Howard would get his due.
I flipped station to station, but not one of the networks – not CBS or NBC or ABC – could find ten seconds to mention Captain Robert Howard or his indomitable courage. I found nothing about him in the newspapers. Twisted by the antiwar politics of that era, many in the media believed that to recognize a heroic act was to glorify war. They simply chose not to cover the ceremony. It might as well not have happened.”
For sure, the hero such was the Robert L. Howard deserved better. Here is just a bit of his heroic story, and a bit of the positive news coverage, one which comes 40 years overdue, that he should have received from a grateful nation in 1971. We will try to pay part of that debt.
Robert L. Howard’s Medal of Honor citation is below the video. As with all Medal of Honor citations, you will be amazed.
HOWARD, ROBERT L
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces
Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 30 December 1968
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Howard (then SFC.), distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory in the Republic of Vietnam.
The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated 2-company force. During the initial engagement, 1st Lt. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. 1st Lt. Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, 1st Lt. Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader.
As 1st Lt. Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer’s equipment, an enemy bullet struck 1 of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant’s belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. 1st Lt. Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area.
Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, 1st Lt. Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3 1/2 hours 1st Lt. Howard’s small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters.
1st Lt. Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. 1st Lt. Howard’s gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Robert L. Howard, a highly-decorated United States Army soldier and Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War left this world on December 23, 2009, in Waco, Texas.