Army Capt. Paris D. Davis distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty during the Vietnam War.
Davis, now a retired colonel, attended a White House ceremony March 3, 2023, where President Joe Biden presented him the Medal of Honor.
His Medal of Honor citation was read during the ceremony.
While serving as commander of Detachment A-321, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, during combat operations in South Vietnam, June 17 to 18, 1965, Davis was an adviser to the 883rd Regional Force Company in the vicinity of Bong Son.
The company was conducting a nighttime raid against a Viet Cong regional headquarters housing a superior enemy force, according to his citation.
While returning from the successful raid, the regional force company was ambushed and sustained several casualties, according to the citation.
“Davis consistently exposed himself to hostile, small-arms fire to rally the inexperienced and disorganized company. He expertly directed both artillery and small-arms fire, enabling other elements of the company to reach his position. Although wounded in the leg, he aided in the evacuation of other wounded men in his unit, but refused medical evacuation himself,” the citation states.
Following the arrival of air support, Davis directed artillery fire within 30 meters of his own position in an attempt to halt the enemy’s advance, according to the citation.
“Then with complete disregard for his own life, he braved intense enemy fire to cross an open field to rescue his seriously wounded and immobilized team sergeant,” states the citation.
While carrying the sergeant up the hill to a position of relative safety, Davis was again wounded by enemy fire. Despite two painful wounds, Davis again refused medical evacuation, remained with the troops, fought bravely and provided pivotal leadership and inspiration to the regional force company, as it repelled several Viet Cong assaults on their position over a period of several hours, according to the citation.
When friendly reinforcements finally arrived, Davis again refused medical evacuation until he had recovered an advisor under his command who had been wounded during the initial ambush and was presumed dead, the citation states.
Davis directed the helicopter extraction of his wounded colleague not leaving the battlefield himself until all friendly forces were recovered or medically evacuated, per the citation.
“You’re looking at courage in the flesh,” Biden said during the ceremony.
Davis volunteered to serve a country that in many places still refused to serve people who looked like him, Biden said, noting that Davis is an African American.
“Right away, it was clear that Paris was a born warrior. He became an Army Ranger. Then, he jumped at the chance to join the Green Berets, becoming one of the nation’s first Black Special Forces officers,” Biden said.
At the time Davis returned from Vietnam, the country was still battling segregation, Biden noted.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the United States’ first fully integrated armed forces, Biden mentioned. “Davis will still stand alongside the nation’s pioneering heroes.”
The president noted that Davis served for 25 years in the Army, earned a Ph.D. and founded the Metro Herald newspaper in Alexandria, Virginia, which reported on community news and civil rights issues.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and past Medal of Honor recipients attended the ceremony.