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Robert Howard's Medal of Honor and the Birth of the SEALs

In W. Thomas Smith, Jr.'s latest article in his "This Week in American Military History" series at Human Events today, Smith writes about the late Colonel Robert Howard's actions that earned the Medal of Honor in Dec. 30-31, 1968. Amazingly, Howard had been nominated for the nation's highest decoration twice before within the last year.

U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) Sergeant First Class Robert L. Howard is operating deep in the South Vietnamese backcountry (some sources say Cambodia) when suddenly his 40-man hatchet platoon is attacked by a force of some 250 North Vietnamese soldiers.

As the attack unfolds, Howard and his lieutenant are struck by an exploding claymore. Howard is knocked unconscious. He comes to, but with blood in his eyes, he initially believes he has been blinded. Momentarily he can see, but he quickly realizes his body is riddled with shrapnel, his weapon is destroyed, and the enemy is all around him.

Howard manages to toss a grenade at an enemy soldier who is burning the bodies of Howard’s dead comrades with a flamethrower. Howard then crawls under heavy fire to his wounded lieutenant, and drags the officer toward a position of relative safety. Howard survives a second blast when his lieutenant’s ammunition pouch is struck and detonates. Despite his shredded hands, Howard manages to shoot several enemy soldiers with a pistol. He is then shot in the foot and no longer able to walk. Nevertheless, he organizes what’s left of the platoon into a defensive position, then crawls from one man to the next, tending to the wounded and dying, shouting encouragement to the living and fighting, and directing airstrikes on the attacking enemy. Though surrounded, Howard successfully repels attack-after-attack, saves his platoon, and ultimately receives the Medal of Honor.

Retired as a colonel in 1992, Howard is the only soldier to be nominated three times for the Medal of Honor for three separate actions over a period of just over a year.

Unfortunately, Col. Howard passed away last month. He was a great man - the 70 year-old found time to visit U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere this past year. I was looking forward to meeting him in the upcoming Medal of Honor convention in South Carolina this September.

Also Smith writes that SEAL Teams One (Coronado, Calif.) and Two (Little Creek, Va.) were established on Jan.1, 1962 to the horror of Communists and evil-doers worldwide.

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