Elmelindo Rodrigues Smith
|Born||July 27, 1935|
|Died||February 16, 1967 (aged 31)|
Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam
|Place of burial|
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1953–1967|
|Rank||Sergeant First Class (posthumous)|
|Unit||1st Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division|
|Battles/wars||Vietnam War †|
|Awards||Medal of Honor|
Sergeant First Class Elmelindo Rodrigues Smith[note 1] (July 27, 1935 – February 16, 1967) was a United States Army soldier, of Hispanic-Asian descent, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War. Despite being severely wounded, Smith inspired his men to beat back an enemy assault.
Smith, an American of Hispanic/Asian descent, was born in Wahiawa, a town located in the center of Oahu Island in the County of Honolulu, Hawaii. There he received his primary and secondary education graduating from Leilehua High School. He joined the United States Army in 1953 and was stationed in various countries overseas, among them was Okinawa.
On July 23, 1966, Smith was sent to the Republic of Vietnam and served as Platoon Sergeant of the 1st Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry of the 4th Infantry Division. The division conducted combat operations in the western Central Highlands along the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. The division experienced intense combat against North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regular forces in the mountains surrounding Kontum.
On February 16, 1967, Sergeant Smith was leading his platoon in a reconnaissance patrol, when suddenly it came under attack. NVA forces attacked the patrol with machinegun, mortar and rocket fire. Despite the fact that he was wounded, he coordinated a counterattack by positioning his men and distributing ammunition. He was struck by a rocket, but continued to expose himself in order to direct his men's fire upon the approaching enemy. Even though he perished from his wounds, his actions resulted in the defeat of the enemy.
For his actions, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor. In October 1968, his family received the medal from the hands of Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor, because President Lyndon B. Johnson was ill at the time. However, after the ceremony, which was held at the White House, the family which included his widow Jane and two daughters, Kathleen 10 and Pamela 6, were taken to President Johnson's bedroom.
Medal of Honor citation
SMITH, ELMELINDO RODRIGUESRank and organization: Platoon Sergeant (then S/Sgt.), U.S. Army, 1st Platoon, Company C, 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division.Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 16 February 1967Entered service at: Honolulu, HawaiiBorn: 27 July 1935, Honolulu, HawaiiCitation:
- For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. During a reconnaissance patrol. his platoon was suddenly engaged by intense machinegun fire hemming in the platoon on 3 sides. A defensive perimeter was hastily established, but the enemy added mortar and rocket fire to the deadly fusillade and assaulted the position from several directions. With complete disregard for his safety, P/Sgt. Smith moved through the deadly fire along the defensive line, positioning soldiers, distributing ammunition and encouraging his men to repeal the enemy attack. Struck to the ground by enemy fire which caused a severe shoulder wound, he regained his feet, killed the enemy soldier and continued to move about the perimeter. He was again wounded in the shoulder and stomach but continued moving on his knees to assist in the defense. Noting the enemy massing at a weakened point on the perimeter, he crawled into the open and poured deadly fire into the enemy ranks. As he crawled on, he was struck by a rocket. Moments later, he regained consciousness, and drawing on his fast dwindling strength, continued to crawl from man to man. When he could move no farther, he chose to remain in the open where he could alert the perimeter to the approaching enemy. P/Sgt. Smith perished, never relenting in his determined effort against the enemy. The valorous acts and heroic leadership of this outstanding soldier inspired those remaining members of his platoon to beat back the enemy assaults. P/Sgt. Smith's gallant actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and they reflect great credit upon him and the Armed Forces of his country.
Sergeant First Class Elmelindo Rodrigues Smith's remains were buried with full military honors in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located in Honolulu, Hawaii. His name is inscribed in the Vietnam War Memorial located in Washington, D.C. in Panel 15E – Row 051.
Awards and recognitions
Among Smith's decorations and medals are the following:
|Badge||Combat Infantryman Badge|
|1st Row||Medal of Honor|
|2nd Row||Purple Heart||Army Good Conduct Medal
with bronze clasp and 5 loops (5 awards)
|National Defense Service Medal|
|3rd Row||Vietnam Service Medal
with one campaign star
|Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
|Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal |
with "60-" clasp
|Badge||4th Infantry Division |
Combat Service Identification Badge
Foreign unit decorations
- Somos Primos; December 2007; Dedicated to Hispanic Heritage and Diversity Issues, Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research
- John L. Johnson (18 April 2012). Every Night & Every Morn: Portraits of Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, African American, and Native American Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor from the Civil War to the War on Terror. BookBaby. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-9799572-4-6.
- "News Tribune, Tacoma WA ( 21 Feb 1967)". Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 7 February 2007.
- "News Tribune, Tacoma WA". Archived from the original on 2007-03-04. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
- St. Petersburg Times
- Rodrigues Smith's Medal of Honor citation
- United States Department of Veterans Affairs
- "Smith, Elmelindo, Rodrigues, SFC". army.togetherweserved.com. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
- "American Forces News Information". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
- "U.S. ARMY Medal of Honor recipients, Vietnam". Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
- "Home Town Heroes from the State of Hawaii". Archived from the original on September 14, 2012. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
- "Elmelindo Rodrigues Smith". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved 2007-12-15.