I posted this at KDH, and I wanted to post it here with the citation from Joe Hooper’s Arlington page.I am a little bit overwhelmed by the whole article. I posted clips from it below. I am deeply saddened that this man fought so hard and so bravely for our Country, and yet we did not fight equally as hard and bravely for him.
We have let our Veterans down in this Country. It’s a shame. It’s outright immoral. You do not send a man in to fight for you, and then fail to extend your hand and heart to him when he comes back from defending you and protecting your freedom.
If thank you feels inadequate then “I’m sorry” feels outright shameful.
God help us.
Taken from the December 1989 Issue #20, Delta Raider Newsletter
Reprinted from the Seattle Times.
Joe Hooper was the most decorated soldier in the Vietnam War, earning more decorations than World War II’s Audie Murphy or World War I’s Sgt. Alvin York.
Hooper was just 40 years old when he died in a hotel room in Kentucky, where he had gone to learn about raising race horses. In his own way, Hooper was an appropriate hero for the Vietnam War and the millions of men and women it touched. He was a good soldier, but a troubled civilian.
Hooper had been awarded 35 medals, including the Congressional Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts. He was credited with killing 115 North Vietnamese, but the number was probably higher. He used to say he could smell the enemy.
Hooper knew that heroes from other wars would be remembered long after him. In 1977, Hooper summed up his fleeting fame and the war in Vietnam.
“It’s sort of like the war itself,” he said. “So many people wanted to forget it when I was fighting it. Why would they want to remember us now?”
On Feb. 21, 1968, during the Tet offensive and some of the hardest fighting of the war, Staff Sgt. Joe Hooper was leading a recon squad near the northern city of Hue. “We stumbled across what turned out to be the North Vietnamese divisional headquarters,” he recalled later. “It was six of us against maybe 140 of them. It was hand to hand and the main battle lasted 6 1/2 hours and it seemed like a long time before other companies got there to help.”
“In all we killed 85 and captured 13. I was credited with 22 killed.”
When Hooper used to talk about the day for which he won the Congressional Medal of Honor, he told the story matter of factly. The telling wasn’t much different than the way it is told on the official citation that went with the award.
Hooper and his men came on a heavily defended North Vietnamese position and were hit by machine-gun fire, rockets and automatic weapons. Hooper was wounded four times, but kept up the attack.
At one point, Company D was coming under enemy fire from four bunkers. Hooper gathered an armful of hand grenades and ran down the line of bunkers, tossing the grenades inside. Then he ran across an open field and rescued a wounded soldier. While rescuing the soldier, Hooper shot three more North Vietnamese officers and set up a defense line before allowing himself to be taken out for treatment.
He was promoted to second lieutenant, went on a worldwide speaking tour and then went back to Vietnam for a second tour. “I went back partly because on my first tour I didn’t lose a man,” he said, “and with my training and leadership qualities, I thought I could save some lives again.”
After his second tour, Hooper went to Fort Polk, La., where he was in charge of basic trainees. But he didn’t fit in well with the stateside version of the Army, and he resigned his commission. He returned to Yakima, but found civilian life a bit boring.
Hooper moved to Kentucky to attend school on raising thoroughbreds, and he was going to the Kentucky Derby when he died peacefully in his hotel room on May 4 or 5, 1979. A blood vessel had burst in his head.
His death was not noted by the media until a year later, when a story about local Medal of Honor winners mentioned that he was dead. The only mention before that was in the Medal of Honor Society’s newsletter. Hooper was buried in Arlington, VA….near the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Their was some talk of making a movie about him, as was done with Audie Murphy and Alvin York, but the Vietnam war and its soldiers were not popular subjects back then.
When Hooper talked with high school students, the veteran with the most decorations from the Vietnam war would offer this piece of advice about serving in that war:
“I would tell my children, if I were to do this over, ‘Go to Canada, don’t fight.’ Don’t fight a war you can’t win.”
LINK to full article
From his Arlington Page:
Born at Piedmont, South Carolina, August 8, 1938, he earned the Medal of Honorwhile serving as Staff Sergeant, Company D, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, on February 21, 1968 near Hue, Vietnam.
His citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty. He distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader with Company D. The company was assaulting a heavily defended position along a river bank when it encountered withering fire from rockets, machineguns and automatic weapons. He rallied several men and stormed across the river, overrunning several bunkers on the opposite shore. Thus inspired, the rest of the company moved on the attack. With utter disregard for his own safety, he moved our under intense fire again and pulled back the wounded, refused medical aid and returned to his men. With the relentless enemy fire disrupting the attack, he single-handedly stormed three enemy bunkers, destroying them with hand grenades and rifle fire, and shot two enemy soldiers who had attacked and wounded the Chaplain. Leading his men forward in a sweep of the area, he destroyed three buildings housing enemy riflemen. At this point he was attacked by a North Vietnamese officer whom he fatally wounded with his bayonet. Finding his men under heavy fire from a house to the front, he proceeded alone to the building, killing its occupants with rifle fire and grenades. By now his initial body wound had been compounded by grenade fragments, despite multiple wounds and the loss of blood, he continued to lead his men against the intense enemy resistance. As his squad reached the final lines of the enemy, it received devastating fire from four bunkers in line on their left flank. He gathered several hand grenades and raced down a small trench which ran the length of the bunker line, tossing grenades into each bunker as he passed by, killing all but two of the occupants. With these positions destroyed, he concentrated on the last bunkers facing his men, destroying the first with an incendiary grenade and neutralizing two more by rifle fire. He then raced across an open field, still under enemy fire, to rescue a wounded man who was trapped in a trench. Upon reaching the man, he was faced by an armed enemy soldier whom he killed with his pistol. Moving his comrade to safety, he returned to his men, neutralized the final pocket of enemy resistance bu fatally wounding three North Vietnamese officers with rifle fire. He then established a final line and reorganized his men, not accepting medical treatment until this was accomplished and not consenting to evacuation until the following morning. His supreme valor, inspiring leadership and heroic self-sacrifice were directly responsible for the company’s success are provided a lasting example in personal courage for every man on the field. His actions were in keeping with the highest tradition of military service and reflect great honor upon himself and the United States Army.”
He was presented with the Medal by President Richard Nixon at the White House on March 7, 1969. He served a total of two tours of duty in Vietnam.
He died of natural causes on May 6, 1979 after his return home and was buried in Section 46 of Arlington National Cemetery, adjacent to the Memorial Amphitheater.
His other decorations include two Silver Stars (one of them which began as a recommendation for a second Medal of Honor), six Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts.
HOOPER, JOE R
CPT US ARMY
DATE OF BIRTH: 08/08/1938
DATE OF DEATH: 05/06/1979
BURIED AT: SECTION 46 SITE 656-17
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY