Military Member of the Month – Sammy Davis, MOH Recipient
The High Caliber featured #militarymemberofthemonth is Mr. Sammy Davis, also known as “The Real Forrest Gump.” Davis was born November 1, 1946 in Dayton, Ohio and was raised in French Camp, California. His comes from a family of warriors that served in the military, from the Spanish-American War, to WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
Davis enlisted in the US Army in 1965, during the Vietnam War. In March 1967, he was sent to South Vietnam as a PFC, assigned to Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery Regiment, 9th ID. Just a few months later, on November 18, 1967, Davis’ unit fell under machine gun fire and heavy mortar attack from enemy fire- who swarmed the area from the south and then the west. Once Davis located the enemy position, he manned a machine gun to provide covering fire so his comrades could fire artillery in response. Davis was wounded, but ignored all warnings to take cover – he was dedicated to ensuring the safety of his brothers. Davis also disregarded his inability to swim due to a broken back, and crossed a river on an air mattress to help rescue three wounded American soldiers. He eventually found his way back, and continued firing on the enemy until they fled. The battle lasted two hours. Davis was promoted to the rank of SGT, and received the Medal of Honor the following year from President Lyndon B. Johnson. Davis retired in 1984 due to his war-time injuries.
In 1994, footage of his Medal of Honor award ceremony was used in the film Forrest Gump, with actor Tom Hanks’ head superimposed over Davis, hence the nickname “The Real Forrest Gump.”
Today, Davis spends his time talking with other Veterans, like those in the Warrior Built program and with the Boy Scouts of America. His awards include: Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Purple Heart w/Oak Leaf Cluster, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal w/two bronze stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation w/palm and frame and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal w/ 1960 device.
Medal of Honor Citation
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Private First Class), U.S. Army, Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division
Place and date: West of Cai Lay, Republic of Vietnam, 18 November 1967
Entered service at: Indianapolis, Indiana
Born: 1 November 1946, Dayton, Ohio
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Davis (then Pfc.) distinguished himself during the early morning hours while serving as a cannoneer with Battery C, at a remote fire support base. At approximately 0200 hours, the fire support base was under heavy enemy mortar attack. Simultaneously, an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a fierce ground assault upon the fire support base. The attacking enemy drove to within 25 meters of the friendly positions. Only a river separated the Viet Cong from the fire support base. Detecting a nearby enemy position, Sgt. Davis seized a machine gun and provided covering fire for his guncrew, as they attempted to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy. Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit upon the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the guncrew from their weapon and blew Sgt. Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously. Ignoring repeated warnings to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun. Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer which rolled backward, knocking Sgt. Davis violently to the ground. Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injuring him painfully. Nevertheless, Sgt. Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed and fired. Again he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired 3 more shells into the enemy. Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue 3 wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the 3 wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing. While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the 2 remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base. Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew which fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled. Sgt. Davis’ extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
Lyndon B. Johnson
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