Robert Emmett O'Malley
Robert Emmett O'Malley
Sgt Robert E. O'Malley, Medal of Honor recipient
|Born||June 3, 1943|
New York City, New York
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1961–1966|
|Unit||3rd Battalion 9th Marines, 2nd Battalion 1st Marines, 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines|
• Operation Starlite
|Awards||Medal of Honor|
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart (2)
Robert Emmett O'Malley (born June 3, 1943) is a former United States Marine who was the first Marine Corps recipient of the Medal of Honor — the United States' highest military decoration — in the Vietnam War. He received the medal for his actions as a corporal on August 18, 1965, during Operation Starlite.
O'Malley was born on June 3, 1943, in New York City. He was raised and attended school in the Woodside, Queens, section of the city. O'Malley graduated from high school in 1961 and joined the Marines soon after; all three of his brothers also served in the Marine Corps. Coincidentally, O'Malley grew up with Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan, Jr., who would also be awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, albeit posthumously. The two attended school and church together and were friends throughout childhood. After Noonan's death in Vietnam, O'Malley remained in contact with the Noonan family and visited Noonan's mother every year on Memorial Day.
Enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps on October 11, 1961, O'Malley completed recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. He then transferred to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and served with the 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He was promoted to private first class in May 1962.
The following year, he arrived on Okinawa as a member of the 3rd Battalion 9th Marines, then part of 3rd Marine Division. While there, he was promoted to lance corporal in March 1963, and to corporal in November 1963. He returned to Camp Pendleton in 1964 as a member of the 2nd Battalion 1st Marines. In October 1964, he was awarded a Good Conduct Medal upon completing three years of satisfactory service in the Marine Corps.
As a squad leader in Company I, 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines, Corporal O'Malley was sent to Vietnam in 1965, arriving at the Chu Lai Marine Corps base in May. Three months later, intelligence indicated that a Viet Cong regiment had moved down from the mountains and positioned itself a few miles south of Chu Lai. At dawn on August 18, 1965, as part of Operation Starlite, a preemptive strike against the Viet Cong force, O'Malley's battalion performed an amphibious landing near the village of An Cuong 2. Shortly after landing, they came under mortar and small arms fire. During the ensuing firefight, O'Malley single-handedly attacked a Viet Cong trench and helped to evacuate wounded Marines. Eventually, his squad was ordered to withdraw. As he led his men to the helicopter extraction point, he was hit in the legs, arm, and chest by mortar fragmentation. Despite his wounds, he refused to be evacuated and instead provided suppressive fire until all of his Marines had boarded a helicopter.
After the battle, he received treatment in Japan for his wounds, including surgery to remove fragmentation which had lodged in his lungs. He was promoted to sergeant in December 1965 and returned to Camp Pendleton, where he stayed for the remainder of his service. He left the Marine Corps in April 1966. He was flown on Air Force One to Austin, Texas. On December 6, 1966, Sgt O'Malley was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson at the Federal Building in Austin, Texas. Both the Marine Corps Drill Team and The Marine Corps Band took part in the ceremony at the Texas White House.
Awards and decorations
O'Malley's awards include:
- O'Malley received one service stripe.
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
CORPORAL ROBERT E. O'MALLEY
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
- For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the communist (Viet Cong) forces at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Squad Leader in Company "I", Third Battalion, Third Marines, Third Marine Division (Reinforced) near An Cu'ong 2, South Vietnam, on 18 August 1965. While leading his squad in the assault against a strongly entrenched enemy force, his unit came under intense small arms fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Corporal O'Malley raced across an open rice paddy to a trench line where the enemy forces were located. Jumping into the trench, he attacked the Viet Cong with his rifle and grenades, and singly killed eight of the enemy. He then led his squad to the assistance of an adjacent Marine unit which was suffering heavy casualties. Continuing to press forward, he reloaded his weapon and fired with telling effect into the enemy emplacement. He personally assisted in the evacuation of several wounded Marines, and again regrouping the remnants of his squad, he returned to the point of the heaviest fighting. Ordered to an evacuation point by an officer, Corporal O'Malley gathered his besieged and badly wounded squad, and boldly led them under fire to a helicopter for withdrawal. Although three times wounded in this encounter, and facing imminent death from a fanatic and determined enemy, he steadfastly refused evacuation and continued to cover his squad's boarding of the helicopters while, from an exposed position, he delivered fire against the enemy until his wounded men were evacuated. Only then, with his last mission accomplished, did he permit himself to be removed from the battlefield. By his valor, leadership, and courageous efforts in behalf of his comrades, he served as an inspiration to all who observed him, and reflected the highest credit upon the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
- "Sergeant Robert E. O'Malley, USMC". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
- Lehrack, Otto J. (July 2008). "Bobby and Tommy: Two Boyhood Friends–Two Medals of Honor". Leatherneck Magazine: 24–26.
- Mares, Walter (July 1, 2009). "Medal of Honor Marine admires WW II Bulge POW". Eastern Arizona Courier. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
- "Robert E. O'Malley". Purple Heart Austin War Stories. Military Order of the Purple Heart, Texas Capital Chapter 1919. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
- "United States Marine Corps - Vietnam". Living Medal of Honor recipients. HomeofHeroes.com. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
- Lyndon B. Johnson (December 6, 1966). "Remarks Upon Awarding the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Robert E. O'Malley, USMC". The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
- "Medal of Honor citation" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-10.
- "CPL Robert E. O'Malley, Medal of Honor, 1965, 3/3/3, Vietnam (Medal of Honor citation)". Marines Awarded the Medal of Honor. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 2006-05-22. Retrieved 2006-07-03.