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First Name: Kenneth

Last Name: Olson

Birthplace: Wilmar, MN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Minneapolis, MN
Middle Name: Lee

Date of Birth: 26 May 1945

Date of Death: 13 May 1968

Rank: Specialist 4

Years Served: 1967 - 1968
Kenneth Lee Olson

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Kenneth Lee Olson
Specialist Four, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Specialist Four Kenneth Lee Olson (26 May 1945 - 13 May 1968) was a U.S. Army soldier who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Vietnam War.

Kenneth Lee Olson was born on 26 May 1945 in Willmar, MN. He joined the Army at Minneapolis, MN. On 13 May 1968, Olson was serving as a Specialist Four in Company A, 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 199th Light Infantry Brigade (Separate). During a firefight that day in the Republic of Vietnam, Olson was about to toss a hand grenade at an enemy position when he was wounded, causing him to drop the activated grenade. He then threw himself on the grenade, sacrificing his life to protect his fellow soldiers from the blast. For his self-sacrifice he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4 Olson distinguished himself at the cost of his life while serving as a team leader with Company A. Sp4 Olson was participating in a mission to reinforce a reconnaissance platoon which was heavily engaged with a well-entrenched Viet Cong force. When his platoon moved into the area of contact and had overrun the first line of enemy bunkers, Sp4 Olson and a fellow soldier moved forward of the platoon to investigate another suspected line of bunkers. As the 2 men advanced they were pinned down by intense automatic weapons fire from an enemy position 10 meters to their front. With complete disregard for his safety, Sp4 Olson exposed himself and hurled a hand grenade into the Viet Cong position. Failing to silence the hostile fire, he again exposed himself to the intense fire in preparation to assault the enemy position. As he prepared to hurl the grenade, he was wounded, causing him to drop the activated device within his own position. Realizing that it would explode immediately, Sp4 Olson threw himself upon the grenade and pulled it in to his body to take the full force of the explosion. By this unselfish action Sp4 Olson sacrificed his own life to save the lives of his fellow comrades-in-arms. His extraordinary heroism inspired his fellow soldiers to renew their efforts and totally defeat the enemy force. Sp4 Olson's profound courage and intrepidity were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Kenneth Lee Olson's name is inscribed on Panel 59E - Line 28.

Death and Burial

Specialist Four Kenneth Lee Olson was killed in action on 13 May 1968. He is buried at Paynesville Cemetery in Paynesville, MN.

Honoree ID: 1044   Created by: MHOH




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