One of the first Black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat will receive the nation’s highest award for bravery in battle nearly 60 years after his commanding officer first recommended him for the prestigious Medal of Honor.
President Joe Biden called retired U.S. Army Col. Paris Davis on Monday “to inform him that he will receive the Medal of Honor for his remarkable heroism during the Vietnam War.”
In a statement issued afterward, Davis, 83, said the telephone call had “prompted a wave of memories of the men and women I served with in Vietnam.” He thanked his family, friends in the military and volunteers for keeping the story alive, along with Biden and military leaders.
“I think often of those fateful 19 hours on June 18, 1965, and what our team did to make sure we left no man behind on that battlefield,” said Davis, who is originally from Cleveland and currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Davis, then a captain, was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his commanding officer for distinguishing himself on that June morning during a pre-dawn raid on a North Vietnamese army camp in Bong Son. Every American there was wounded during a major enemy counterattack.
Davis repeatedly sprinted into an open rice paddy to rescue each member of his team, using his pinkie finger to fire his rifle after his hand was shattered by an enemy grenade, according to the Army Times. His entire team survived.
The paperwork recommending Davis for the Medal of Honor disappeared at least twice. He eventually was awarded a Silver Star Medal, the third-highest military combat medal, but members of Davis’ team have long argued that race was a factor in his treatment.
Davis retired in 1985, having attained the rank of colonel.
In early 2021, Christopher Miller, then the acting defense secretary, ordered an expedited review of the case. He argued in an opinion column in June 2021 that awarding Davis the Medal of Honor would address an injustice
“Some issues in our nation rise above partisanship,” Miller wrote. “The Davis case meets that standard.”
The White House did not immediately announce a date for Davis’ medal ceremony.