Clarence Sasser, Vietnam Medic Awarded Medal of Honor for Treating Troops Below Fireplace, Dies at 76

Clarence Sasser, one of many Vietnam Battle’s few remaining Medal of Honor recipients, died final week on the age of 76.

In 1968, whereas serving as a medic with the Army’s third Battalion, sixtieth Infantry, ninth Infantry Division, Sasser’s firm unexpectedly got here beneath heavy enemy hearth whereas making an aerial insert right into a rice paddy in Vietnam’s Mekong River delta, amidst an effort to root out reported Viet Cong combatants within the space.

Sasser sustained a leg wound nearly as quickly as he exited his helicopter. Throughout the first couple of minutes of a dozen or so helicopters dropping off troops, his unit — round 115 troopers in all — suffered greater than 30 casualties.

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The then-private 1st class braved a number of hailstorms of bullets and rocket hearth to are likely to his teammates. Sasser would later go away the Army in 1969 as a specialist fifth class.

“With out hesitation, Spc. Sasser ran throughout an open rice paddy by a hail of fireplace to help the wounded,” his Medal of Honor quotation learn. “After serving to one man to security, he was painfully wounded within the left shoulder by fragments of an exploding rocket.”

Sasser had been one among three residing Black Medal of Honor recipients.

In keeping with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, there are simply 61 residing Medal of Honor recipients. Of the greater than 3,500 Medals of Honor bestowed on service members, Black veterans are traditionally considerably underrepresented.

No Black service members acquired the consideration all through World Battle I or II, which historians attribute to Jim Crow-era racism and a “tradition of discrimination on the highest reaches of the Battle Division.” Most Black recipients acquired their awards many years later.

After returning to the U.S. from Vietnam, Sasser acquired his Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon in 1969, in a ceremony wherein two different service members acquired the very best army honor, based on the Protection Division.

“Shell fragments are … one thing I will always remember how they really feel,” Sasser stated in 2001, recounting the injuries to his again as a part of an interview with the Library of Congress.

“It is nearly no ache; the ache units in later,” he stated. “The preliminary shock is what you expertise and the searing, after all, ‘trigger the shell fragments are scorching.”

Sasser refused medical consideration, operating again once more by heavy gunfire to assist extra of his wounded comrades. Bullet wounds and watchful Viet Cong snipers prevented Sasser and his wounded teammates from operating out of the kill zone — so Sasser instructed his teammates to crawl the size of just about two soccer fields, to a gaggle of bushes that would offer concealment.

“Regardless of two further wounds immobilizing his legs, he dragged himself by the mud towards one other soldier 100 meters away,” Sasser’s award quotation continued. “Though in agonizing ache and faint from lack of blood, [Spc. 5th Class] Sasser reached the person, handled him, and proceeded on to encourage one other group of troopers to crawl 200 meters to relative security.”

“In case you stood up, you had been useless,” Sasser stated in his interview, including that enemy snipers stored a particular eye out for medics, to forestall assist from being rendered to wounded troopers who would possibly in any other case survive. “One of the simplest ways to get round that day was simply merely grabbing the rice sprouts and sliding your self alongside.”

For the subsequent 5 hours, Sasser tended to his teammates’ wounds till helicopters might arrive to evacuate the unit.

“I believed firmly that my job was to look after the blokes,” Sasser continued within the 2001 interview. “I did not suppose that selecting up a weapon would assist [us]. My job was to deal with ’em — to a minimum of let ’em know that doc was round, and would come see in the event that they known as.”

Sasser stated that he would not deny being afraid all through the gunfight. “In fact you had been afraid,” he stated. “However these had been my guys. … You had been doc. You had been afforded a spot inside their ranks.

“They regarded out for you. Your job was to look out for them,” he stated. “Once they name — after they holler ‘medic’ or ‘doc’ — your job was to go. Nothing extra. With out concern of your life or something of that kind. It was your job.”

— Kelsey Baker is a graduate scholar at Northwestern’s Medill Faculty of Journalism, and a former active-duty Marine. Attain her on X at @KelsBBaker or

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