Sammy L. Davis
|Sammy Lee Davis|
Sammy Davis, Medal of Honor recipient (July 2009)
|Nickname(s)||The Real Forrest Gump|
November 1, 1946 |
Peggy Jo (née Martin) (m. 1968; died 2004)
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1965–1984|
|Rank||Sergeant First Class|
|Unit||Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division|
|Awards||Medal of Honor
Purple Heart (2)
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Davis was raised in French Camp, California. His family had a long tradition of military service; his grandfather served in the Spanish–American War, his father Robert Davis was in World War II, and his brothers Hubert ("Buddy") and Darrell Davis served in Korea and Vietnam, respectively. Davis attended Manteca High School in Manteca, California, where he was a member of the football and diving teams. He also participated in Sea Scouting in Stockton. After his junior year of high school, Davis' family moved to Indiana.
Davis enlisted in the U.S. Army from Indianapolis, Indiana, during the Vietnam War, in 1965.
In March 1967, Davis was sent to South Vietnam as a private first class, and was assigned to Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. On November 18, 1967, his unit at "Fire Support Base Cudgel" west of Cai Lay, fell under machine gun fire and heavy mortar attack by an estimated three companies of Vietcong from the 261st Viet Cong Main Force Battalion who swarmed the area from the south and then west. Upon detecting an enemy position, Davis manned a machine gun to give his comrades covering fire so they could fire artillery in response. Davis was wounded, but ignored warnings to take cover, taking over the unit's burning howitzer and firing several shells himself. He also disregarded his inability to swim due to a broken back, and crossed a river there on an air mattress to help rescue three wounded American soldiers. He ultimately found his way to another howitzer site to continue fighting the NVA attack until they fled. The battle lasted two hours.
Medal of Honor
Davis was subsequently promoted to sergeant and received the Medal of Honor the following year from President Lyndon B. Johnson. After he was presented the medal at the White house ceremony, Davis played "Oh Shenandoah" on his harmonica in memory of the men he served with in Vietnam.
Davis retired in 1984 due to his war-time injuries.
He has also been honored by the Joe Foss Institute for his dedication to serving America.
Davis is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Davis's military decorations and awards include:
- Medal of Honor
- Silver Star
- Purple Heart w/ Oak Leaf Cluster
- Good Conduct Medal
- Presidential Unit Citation
- National Defense Service Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal w/ two bronze stars
- Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation w/ palm and frame
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal w/ 1960- device
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Private First Class), U.S. Army, Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division
Place and date: West of Cai Lay, Republic of Vietnam, 18 November 1967
Entered service at: Indianapolis, Indiana
Born: 1 November, 1946, Dayton, Ohio
- For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Davis (then Pfc.) distinguished himself during the early morning hours while serving as a cannoneer with Battery C, at a remote fire support base. At approximately 0200 hours, the fire support base was under heavy enemy mortar attack. Simultaneously, an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a fierce ground assault upon the fire support base. The attacking enemy drove to within 25 meters of the friendly positions. Only a river separated the Viet Cong from the fire support base. Detecting a nearby enemy position, Sgt. Davis seized a machine gun and provided covering fire for his guncrew, as they attempted to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy. Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit upon the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the guncrew from their weapon and blew Sgt. Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously. Ignoring repeated warnings to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun. Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer which rolled backward, knocking Sgt. Davis violently to the ground. Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injuring him painfully. Nevertheless, Sgt. Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed and fired. Again he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired 3 more shells into the enemy. Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue 3 wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the 3 wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing. While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the 2 remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base. Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew which fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled. Sgt. Davis' extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
- Davis, Sammy L. and Caroline Lambert (2016). You Don't Lose 'Til You Quit Trying: Lessons on Adversity and Victory from a Vietnam Veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient. New York, NY: Berkley Books. ISBN 978-0425283035 OCLC 918284690
- Peter Collier. The "Real" Forrest Gump: Sammy L. Davis. Military.com. Retrieved on 2012-06-18.
- Find A Grave. "Peggy Jo Martin Davis". Retrieved 9 August 2015.
- Wyatt, Dennis (April 1, 2010). "War hero joining Hall of Fame". Manteca Bulletin (Manteca, California). Archived from the original on March 15, 2011.
- "Medal of Honor recipients – Vietnam (A-L)". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- "We honor you by telling your story - Medal of Honor". MyServicePride.com.
- "THE 5TH BATTALION ASSOCIATION - Fire Support Base Cudgel". tripod.com.
- Mobile Riverine Force Association. Mrfa2.org (1946-11-01). Retrieved on 2012-06-18.
- Reich, Howard (September 13, 2009). "Medal of Honor recipients say you can be hero too". Chicago Tribune (Chicago). Archived from the original on June 4, 2010.
- Veteran's Missing Medal of Honor Found. TheIndyChannel.com (2005-07-18). Retrieved on 2012-06-18.
- Daily Herald (Published: 7/5/2010)
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Sammy L. Davis