March 31, 1949|
Cherokee County, Oklahoma, United States
|Died||March 7, 2007
Montville, Connecticut, United States
|Buried at||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
101st Airborne Division
United States Army Rangers
|Awards||Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star (5 awards, one upgraded to DSC)
Bronze Star (10 awards)
Purple Heart (6 award)
Army Commendation Medal (1 Valor device and 2 oak leaf clusters)
Billy Walkabout (March 31, 1949 – March 7, 2007) is thought to be the most decorated Native American soldier of the Vietnam War. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, five Silver Stars (one upgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross), ten Bronze Star Medal five with Valor device, one Army Commendation Medals (including one valor device and two oak leaf clusters), and six Purple Hearts.
Background and family
Walkabout served as an Army Ranger in Vietnam, in the Company F, 58th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. Walkabout (then Specialist Four) distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 20 November 1968 during a long range reconnaissance patrol southwest of Hue.
After successfully ambushing an enemy squad on a jungle trail, the friendly patrol radioed for immediate helicopter extraction. When the extraction helicopters arrived and the lead man began moving toward the pick-up zone, he was seriously wounded by hostile automatic weapons fire. Sergeant Walkabout quickly rose to his feet and delivered steady suppressive fire on the attackers while other team members pulled the wounded man back to their ranks. Sergeant Walkabout then administered first aid to the soldier in preparation for medical evacuation. As the man was being loaded onto the evacuation helicopter, enemy elements again attacked the team.
Maneuvering under heavy fire, Sergeant Walkabout positioned himself where the enemy were concentrating their assault and placed continuous rifle fire on the adversary. A command-detonated mine ripped through the friendly team, instantly killing three men and wounding all the others. Although stunned and wounded by the blast, Sergeant Walkabout rushed from man to man administering first aid, bandaging one soldier's severe chest wound and reviving another soldier by heart massage. He then coordinated gunship and tactical air strikes on the enemy's positions. When evacuation helicopters arrived again, he worked single-handedly under fire to board his disabled comrades. Only when the casualties had been evacuated and friendly reinforcements had arrived, did he allow himself to be extracted. He retired as a second lieutenant.
He suffered from complications arising from exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant used in Vietnam. He was waiting for a kidney transplant and took dialysis three times a week. He died of pneumonia and renal failure in a hospital in Norwich, Connecticut, survived by his wife and several children from earlier marriages.
He was honored in a portrait, Walkabout: A Warrior's Spirit, by Cherokee artist Talmadge Davis.
I'm at peace with myself. I've got my dignity and I've got my pride. ... I never lost the war in Vietnam, I never lost a day of it. Even when I was wounded, I didn't lose. When I fought, I won. I won my wars. – Billy Walkabout, 1986
- Billy Walkabout, decorated American Indian veteran, dies at 57. USA Today. March 11, 2007 (retrieved April 7, 2009)
- Billy Bob Walkabout. Arlington National Cemetery Website. (retrieved April 7, 2009)
- Obituary, Associated Press, March 12, 2007
- Billy Walkabout, decorated American Indian veteran, dies at 57, USA Today, March 11, 2007
- Obituary, Norwich Bulletin, March 11, 2007
- Mohegans salute 'warrior', Norwich Bulletin, March 12, 2007