Soldier Earns MoH by Saving His Unit From a Roadside Mine In Vietnam

By Katie Lange, Department of Defense

This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

Last week, we mentioned the large number of men who have given their lives in service to our country by jumping on grenades during war. While Army Sgt. Larry S. Pierce didn’t throw himself on a grenade, exactly, he is one of many who gave his life in a similar fashion to save his fellow soldiers.

Video by Air Force Staff Sgt. Neal Uranga

Pierce was born in Wewoka, Oklahoma, in July 1941, but his family soon moved to California, where he grew up. Pierce joined the Army from there in 1961.

By 1965, he was serving as a sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade during the start of the Vietnam War.

Pierce was the squad leader of a reconnaissance platoon patrolling near Ben Cat, South Vietnam, on Sept. 20, 1965, when he and his fellow soldiers were ambushed by hostile forces. The platoon fought hard, though, and managed to take out an enemy machine gun nest and the forces that had ambushed them.

Army Sgt. Larry S. Pierce. Army photo

Pierce’s unit followed the enemy as they ran away. Once they all made it to a dirt road, however, Pierce discovered too late that there was a mine in the roadbed. Realizing what it was and that it could destroy most of the men in his squad, he immediately sacrificed his own life by throwing himself onto the mine just as it exploded.

Pierce’s complete disregard of his own life for his fellow soldiers helped save many men that day.

For his sacrifice, he was posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. He also earned the Medal of Honor, which was presented to his wife and three children by President Lyndon B. Johnson in a ceremony at the White House on Feb. 24, 1966.

It’s been a long time since Pierce gave his life, but his sacrifice hasn’t been forgotten. In Taft, California, where he grew up, the town post office was renamed in his honor. A portion of California State Route 46, which goes through the town of Wasco, where his family lived at the time of his death, was also renamed the Staff Sgt. Larry S. Pierce Memorial Highway in 2009.

As always, we thank you, Staff Sergeant Pierce, for your service and sacrifice!

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