Most decorated American soldier in US Military history

Robert L. Howard - Most decorated soldier in US Military history
Robert L. Howard (Right) – Most decorated soldier in US Military history

The title of most decorated American soldier probably goes to Robert Lewis Howard, a US Army soldier and Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War. Howard was born July 11, 1939 and he died at age 70 on December 23, 2009. Robert L. Howard was wounded 14 times while serving over 54 months of combat. He was awarded 8 Purple Hearts, 4 Bronze Stars, and was nominated for the Medal of Honor in three separate cases.

Robert L. Howard enlisted in the US Army at Montgomery, Alabama and retired in the rank of Colonel.

As a staff sergeant in Vietnam era Special Forces known as the highly-classified Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), he was recommended for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions for three individual actions. That happened in thirteen months of combat from 1967 to 1968. His actions and bravery gained him respect among his soldiers, but that wasn’t enough in the first two nominations for Medal of Honor which were downgraded to a Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross due to the covert nature of the secret operations in which Robert L. Howard participated.

The third luck, if we are able to call it like that, comes during a rescue mission in Cambodia on December 30, 1968, when he served as a Sergeant First Class in MACV-SOG. In this operations, Howard was second in command of a platoon-sized Hornet Force that was searching for missing American soldier Robert Scherdin, when he was finally awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on that day. He learned of the award over a two-way radio while under enemy fire, immediately after being wounded, resulting in one of his eight Purple Hearts.

Robert L. Howard was wounded 14 times during one 54-month period during the Vietnam War. He received two Masters degrees during his government career which spanned almost 50 years. Howard retired as a full Colonel in 1992. His Army career spanned 1956 to 1992.

Howard died of pancreatic cancer at a hospice in Waco, Texas on December 23, 2009. He was survived by four children and four grandchildren. His funeral was in Arlington National Cemetery on February 22, 2010.

Here is list of all his medals and awards during his warrior career:

U.S. Awards & Decorations
Personal awards

  • Medal of Honor
  • Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster
  • Silver Star
  • Legion of Merit with 3 oak leaf clusters
  • Bronze Star with “V” device & 3 oak leaf clusters
  • Purple Heart with 7 oak leaf clusters
  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • Meritorious Service Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters
  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • Air Medal with “V” device & award numerals 3
  • Joint Service Commendation
  • Silver oak leaf cluster
  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • Army Commendation Medal with “V” device & 6 oak leaf clusters
  • Joint Service Achievement Medal
  • Army Achievement Medal

U.S. Awards & Decorations

Unit awards

  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • Presidential Unit Citation with oak leaf cluster
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Navy Unit Commendation
  • Service awards
  • Good Conduct Medal with 4 Good Conduct Loops
  • Campaign & Service awards
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with 3 service stars
  • Vietnam Service Medal with 3 service stars

Service & Training awards

  • Army Overseas Service Ribbon
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal
  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • Bronze oak leaf cluster
  • NCO Professional Development Ribbon with award numeral “2”
  • Army Service Ribbon

U.S. Awards & Decorations

Badges and tabs

  • Special Forces Tab
  • Ranger Tab
  • Combat Infantryman Badge
  • Expert Infantryman Badge
  • Aircrew Badge
  • US Army Airborne master parachutist
  • Master Parachutist Badge
  • Air Assault Badge
  • Pathfinder Badge
  • Expert Marksmanship Badge

Foreign Awards & Decorations

  • Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star (Corps), Silver Star (Division) and Bronze Star (Regiment/Brigade)
  • Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal, 1st Class
  • Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Medal, 1st Class
  • Republic of Vietnam Wound Medal
  • Republic of Vietnam Staff Service Medal, 2nd Class
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 bar
  • Republic of Korea Order of National Security Merit (Sam-Il Medal)
  • Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation with Palm
  • Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation with Palm

Individual & Unit awards

  • Bronze star
  • Silver star
  • Gold star


  • French Parachutist Badge
  • Republic of Vietnam Master Parachute Badge
  • Republic of Vietnam Ranger Badge
  • Thai Master Parachute Wings
  • Korean Master Parachute Badge
  • Thai Balloonist Badge

Robert L. Howard is probably the single most decorated American soldier in US Military History and his military career and his life story is one of greatest I’ve ever heard. The great man and greater soldier, true American Hero.

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