The White House announced Aug. 26 that Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Spec. 4 Donald P. Sloat will receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam.
It was also announced 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for actions in the Civil War during the Battle of Gettysburg.
President Barack Obama will award the medal to Adkins during a White House ceremony, Sept. 15. At the same ceremony, Dr. William Sloat of Enid, Oklahoma, will accept the medal on behalf of his brother Donald, who died in battle. Details on Cushing’s award will be announced separately, according to the White House statement.
Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins
Then-SFC Adkins was serving with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces at Camp A Shau, Vietnam. In the early morning hours of March 9, 1966, the camp was attacked by “a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force,” according documentation.
Adkins, who manned a mortar, “received several direct hits from enemy mortars” and was wounded. Despite his wounds, he ran through exploding enemy fire to drag other wounded comrades to safety.
Then, as the fighting intensified, members of the South Vietnamese Civil Irregular Defense Group defected to the enemy, according to documentation of the battle.
Fighting continued all day and during the early morning hours of March 10, enemy forces launched their main attack. Adkins purposely drew enemy fire to his position so that Air Force pilots could attempt to evacuate the other Soldiers.
By 6:30 a.m., Adkins was the only man left firing a mortar, the document continues. When the last mortar round was fired, Adkins poured “effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy positions.” Despite additional wounds, Adkins “fought off waves of attacking Viet Cong, eliminating numerous insurgents.”
After being ordered to evacuate the camp, Adkins and a small group of Soldiers fought their way out to the extraction point, carrying their wounded. Upon reaching the landing zone, they found out that the last rescue helicopter had departed, so the group evaded the enemy until March 12, when they were finally rescued by helicopter.
During the 38-hour battle and 48 hours of escape and evasion, it is estimated that Adkins killed as many as 175 of the enemy, while sustaining 18 wounds to his own body.
When asked how he could continue to help others evade the enemy with so many wounds, Adkins said “you just don’t quit. You don’t know what the word quit means.”
He said, however, that the medal doesn’t really belong to him. “I’m just a keeper of the medal for those other 16 people who were in the battle, especially the five who didn’t make it.”
Spec. 4 Donald P. Sloat
Spec. 4 Donald P. Sloat distinguished himself while serving as a machine gunner with 3rd Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, during combat operations near Danang, South Vietnam.
On the morning of Jan. 17, 1970, Sloat’s squad was on patrol, moving up a small hill in file formation, according to documentation of the battle.
“The lead soldier tripped a wire attached to a hand grenade booby-trap, set up by enemy forces,” according to the document. As the grenade rolled down the hill, Sloat knelt and picked it up.
“After initially attempting to throw the grenade, Sloat realized that detonation was imminent” so he drew the grenade to his body and shielded his squad members from the blast, saving their lives, but sacrificing his own, the document concludes.
1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing
Cushing distinguished himself during combat operations in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, July 3, 1863, while serving as a commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac.
He was grievously wounded defending the Union’s position during Longstreet’s Assault, known as Pickett’s Charge. He refused to evacuate, the White House said.
As the Confederates advanced, Cushing, who was 22 years old, manned the only remaining and serviceable field piece in his battery, the statement said.
“With the rebels within 100 yards of his position, Cushing was shot and killed during this heroic stand,” the White House said. “His actions made it possible for the Union Army to successfully repulse the Confederate assault.”