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First Name: Roger

Last Name: Donlon

Birthplace: Saugerties, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Hugh Charles

Date of Birth: 30 January 1934

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1953-1955 (USAF), 1958-1988 (US Army)
Roger Hugh Charles Donlon

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Roger Hugh Charles Donlon
Colonel, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Colonel Roger Hugh Charles Donlon is a retired U.S. Army officer who was the first man to receive the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, as well as the first member of the Special Forces so honored.

Donlon was born 30 January 1934, in Saugerties, NY, the eighth child of ten. Roger was president of his high school junior class and a stand-out athlete. After graduation he attended the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University for a year.

Military service was almost a tradition in the Donlon family. His father was a World War I veteran and all his brothers served; one of them was wounded in action. Roger joined the U.S. Air Force in 1953 and was admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1955 but, after two years, decided that military life was not for him. He left to take a job as a data processor with International Business Machines Corp. in Manhattan, NY.

A mere ten months of button-down hustle and bustle caused Donlon to decide that he really wanted to be a soldier. He reenlisted in the Army in 1958, went to Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA, and graduated in 1959 with a commission as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. He later served as a General's aide-de-camp and, in August 1963, joined the Special Forces. He attended airborne training and the U.S. Army Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, NC. He became a Special Forces officer and, by May 1964, commanded a twelve-man A-Team.

In May 1964, Donlon's team was sent to Vietnam where they established an outpost at Nam Dong, about 15 miles from the border with Laos. Early in the morning of 6 July 1964, the base was attacked by a large force of Vietcong. Under Captain Donlon's leadership, the two-battalion attack was repulsed. Donlon received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army.

Place and date: Near Nam Dong, Republic of Vietnam, 6 July 1964.

Entered service at: Fort Chaffee, AR. Born: 30 January 1934, Saugerties, NY.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while defending a U.S. military installation against a fierce attack by hostile forces. Capt. Donlon was serving as the commanding officer of the U.S. Army Special Forces Detachment A-726 at Camp Nam Dong when a reinforced Viet Cong battalion suddenly launched a full-scale, predawn attack on the camp. During the violent battle that ensued, lasting 5 hours and resulting in heavy casualties on both sides, Capt. Donlon directed the defense operations in the midst of an enemy barrage of mortar shells, falling grenades, and extremely heavy gunfire. Upon the initial onslaught, he swiftly marshaled his forces and ordered the removal of the needed ammunition from a blazing building. He then dashed through a hail of small arms and exploding hand grenades to abort a breach of the main gate. Enroute to this position he detected an enemy demolition team of 3 in the proximity of the main gate and quickly annihilated them. Although exposed to the intense grenade attack, he then succeeded in reaching a 60mm mortar position despite sustaining a severe stomach wound as he was within 5 yards of the gun pit. When he discovered that most of the men in this gunpit were also wounded, he completely disregarded his own injury, directed their withdrawal to a location 30 meters away, and again risked his life by remaining behind and covering the movement with the utmost effectiveness. Noticing that his team sergeant was unable to evacuate the gun pit he crawled toward him and, while dragging the fallen soldier out of the gunpit, an enemy mortar exploded and inflicted a wound in Capt. Donlon's left shoulder. Although suffering from multiple wounds, he carried the abandoned 60mm mortar weapon to a new location 30 meters away where he found 3 wounded defenders. After administering first aid and encouragement to these men, he left the weapon with them, headed toward another position, and retrieved a 57mm recoilless rifle. Then with great courage and coolness under fire, he returned to the abandoned gun pit, evacuated ammunition for the 2 weapons, and while crawling and dragging the urgently needed ammunition, received a third wound on his leg by an enemy hand grenade. Despite his critical physical condition, he again crawled 175 meters to an 81mm mortar position and directed firing operations which protected the seriously threatened east sector of the camp. He then moved to an eastern 60mm mortar position and upon determining that the vicious enemy assault had weakened, crawled back to the gun pit with the 60mm mortar, set it up for defensive operations, and turned it over to 2 defenders with minor wounds. Without hesitation, he left this sheltered position, and moved from position to position around the beleaguered perimeter while hurling hand grenades at the enemy and inspiring his men to superhuman effort. As he bravely continued to move around the perimeter, a mortar shell exploded, wounding him in the face and body. As the long awaited daylight brought defeat to the enemy forces and their retreat back to the jungle leaving behind 54 of their dead, many weapons, and grenades, Capt. Donlon immediately reorganized his defenses and administered first aid to the wounded. His dynamic leadership, fortitude, and valiant efforts inspired not only the American personnel but the friendly Vietnamese defenders as well and resulted in the successful defense of the camp. Capt. Donlon's extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam War to Captain Roger H. C. Donlon at the White House on 5 December 1964, for his actions while at Camp Nam Dong in Vietnam.

Donlon later retired at the rank of Colonel.

Donlon has written two books about his Vietnam experiences, Outpost of Freedom and Beyond Nam Dong. He currently lives in Kansas with his wife Norma.

Medals, Awards, Badges & Tabs

Medal of Honor
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
National Order of Vietnam
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge
Parachutist Badge
Special Forces Tab


Donlon was awarded the key to the city of Lexington, KY, by Mayor Fred Fugazzi on 28 June 1965.

Honoree ID: 31   Created by: MHOH




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