Wednesday, August 27, 2014

SF Soldier to receive Medal of Honor for battle during the Vietnam War

Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins (Retired), an Opelika, Florida resident, will be awarded the Medal of Honor from President Obama in a ceremony to be held on September 15th at the White House.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to Veterans for uncommon valor in the service of our nation during previous military conflicts. It is traditionally awarded within three years of the act of bravery, but upon learning about Mr. Adkins' amazing story on the battlefield, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-District 3) worked over the past year to help shepherd legislation through Congress to waive the time requirement. "Mr. Adkins is a true American hero who served his country in Vietnam," said Congressman Rogers. "His acts of heroism during his tour of duty earned him our nation's highest honor, which he has long deserved. I congratulate Mr. Adkins on this honor and thank him for his bravery, sacrifice and service to our nation."

Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins was drafted into the Army Dec. 5, 1956, at the age of 22, from Waurika, Oklahoma. Upon completion of initial training at Fort Bliss, Texas, he was assigned as an Administrative Clerk-Typist to a garrison unit in Giessen, Germany, with a follow-on assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Benning, Georgia. After attending Airborne School, he volunteered for Special Forces, in 1961. He served with the Special Forces for more than 13 years with the 7th, 3rd, 6th and 5th Special Forces Groups (Airborne).

While in the Special Forces, he deployed to the Republic of Vietnam for three non-consecutive tours. His first tour in the Republic of Vietnam lasted from February 1963 to August 1963. His second tour of duty in Vietnam lasted from September 1965 to September 1966. His final Vietnam tour lasted from January 1971 through December 1971.

After Vietnam, Adkins served as First Sergeant for the Army Garrison Communications Command in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He then joined Class #3 of the Army Sergeants Major Academy in El Paso, Texas. After graduation, Adkins served with the Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then led training at Fort Sherman's Jungle School in the Panama Canal Zone. He retired from the Army, in 1978.

Adkins earned his bachelor's degree from Troy State University, in 1979. He earned his Master's Degree in Education, in 1982, and then, a second Master's Degree in Management, in 1988, all from Troy State University. Simultaneous to pursuing his degree programs, he established the Adkins Accounting Service, Inc., in Auburn, Alabama, serving as its CEO for 22 years. He also taught night classes at Alabama's Southern Union Junior College, for 10 years, and at Auburn University, for six years. Adkins has been married to his wife, Mary, for 59 years, and together they have raised five children.

Adkins' previous awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster and "V" Device, the Purple Heart with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and Five Loops, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one Silver Service Star and one Bronze Service Star, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with "60" Device, the Republic of Vietnam Bravery Medal with Brass Star, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm Device, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Special Forces Tab, the U.S. Army Master Parachutist Badge, the Vietnamese Parachutist Badge - Two Awards, the Expert Badge with Rifle and Pistol Bars, the Sharpshooter Badge with Carbine Bar, and the Marksman Badge with Machinegun Bar.

The Battle

Area of operation: Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam
Date of action: March 9-12, 1966
Position: Special Forces Operations and Intelligence Sergeant

Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins distinguished himself during 38 hours of close-combat fighting against enemy forces, March 9-12, 1966. At that time, then-Sergeant First Class Adkins was serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces at Camp A Shau, in the Republic of Vietnam.

When Camp A Shau was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours of March 9, then-Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp. He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several Soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another Soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins repeatedly exposed himself to sniper and mortar fire, while moving casualties to the camp dispensary.

Adkins exposed himself to enemy fire transporting a casualty to an airstrip for evacuation. He and his group then came under heavy small-arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group, which had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese. Despite this overwhelming force, Adkins maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire away from the aircraft, all the while successfully covering the rescue. Later, when a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Adkins again moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much-needed supplies.

During the early morning hours of March 10, enemy forces launched their main assault. Within two hours, Adkins was the only defender firing a mortar. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy, as they infiltrated the camp perimeter and assaulted his position. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off relentless waves of attacking Viet Cong.

Adkins then withdrew to regroup with a smaller element of Soldiers at the communications bunker. While there, he single-handedly eliminated numerous insurgents with small-arms fire, almost completely exhausting his supply of ammunition. Braving intense enemy fire, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and evaded fire while returning to the bunker. After the order was given to evacuate the camp, Adkins and a small group of Soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp.

Because of his efforts to carry a wounded Soldier to an extraction point and leave no one behind, Adkins and his group were unable to reach the last evacuation helicopter. Adkins then rallied the remaining survivors and led the group into the jungle, where they evaded the enemy for 48 hours, until they were rescued by helicopter, March 12. During the 38-hour battle and 48-hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, killing an estimated 135 - 175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds. Adkins' extraordinary heroism and selflessness, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.


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