After a 60-year wait, Black Vietnam War veteran receives Medal of Honor

Col. Paris Davis finally gets the recognition he deserved

Credit: CBS News

Credit: CBS News

In 1965, then-Captain Paris Davis refused orders to retreat during the heat of battle, and despite being injured himself, managed to rescue the injured soldier from his Special Forces team.

“I think often of those fateful 19 hours on June 18, 1965 and what our team did to make sure we left no man behind on that battlefield.” Davis later recalled.

Now, nearly 60 years after those heroic actions, Davis, a retired colonel, has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

One of the first Black officers in the Army’s Special Forces — now better known as the Green Berets — Davis, now 83, received a call from President Biden to announce the award of the nation’s highest military honor.

“The call today from President Biden prompted a wave of memories of the men and women I served with in Vietnam — from the members of 5th Special Forces Group and other U.S. military units to the doctors and nurses who cared for our wounded,” Col. Davis said in a statement released by his family.

Davis was awarded the Silver Star and a Purple Heart at the time of the incident. He was also nominated twice for the Medal of Honor, but both times those submissions however were “lost” during the process. Military historian Doug Sterner has looked into the matter and says the handling of the events and the paperwork was odd.

“This is a veteran, a war hero, who was submitted for our nation’s highest honor, and the paperwork for that award was actually lost. The military is redundant in paperwork, if nothing else. And so it’s very rare for that to occur,” Sterner told CBS News.

Davis experienced his fair share of racism while defending the country during his 23 years of service.

“I thought that maybe this was just one of those racist things that shouldn’t have happened, but did happen and when [the paperwork] got lost a second time I was convinced,” Col. Davis told CBS News.

Former acting U.S. defense secretary Christopher Miller ordered a review of Davis’ case in 2021, noting that “bureaucracy has a way of perpetuating injustice”.

“Awarding Davis the Medal of Honor now might not untangle much military bureaucracy,” he wrote in an editorial for USA Today. “But it would address an injustice.”