Black Soldier's Medal of Honor Nominations Kept Getting Lost

Teammates of Vietnam War hero Paris Davis wonder if race has been a factor in 55-year delay
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2021 8:19 AM CST
Black Soldier May Finally Get Medal of Honor, 55 Years Later
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/zabelin)

In the Hall of Valor, Paris Davis, 81, is recognized with a Soldier's Medal for his actions during the Vietnam War on May 13, 1965. A group of veterans, however, including some of his former teammates, say what happened a month later should have earned Davis the Medal of Honor, the government's most prestigious military decoration—and that longtime efforts to make that happen have been rebuffed, possibly because Davis is Black. The New York Times details what happened on June 18, 1965, when Davis, then a 26-year-old Army Special Forces captain, led the team he commanded in a raid in Binh Dinh province. The enemy hit back, and Davis was shot several times, but "certain that he was as good as dead, he began fighting without fear of consequence," the Times notes. That meant running back out into the open to rescue three of his comrades; all four made it out alive.

Davis' commander, Maj. Billy Cole submitted a Medal of Honor nomination for Davis, but no word came after that. In 1969, following an inquiry, it was revealed the nomination had been lost. The Army resubmitted it, and that nomination vanished, too. For years, Davis' teammates kept pushing, but they say they were met "with silence and indifference." They think it's because Davis was one of the few Black Special Forces soldiers. "What other assumption can you make?" Ron Deis, now 77 and then the youngest member of Davis' team, says. "We all knew he deserved it then. He sure as hell deserves it now." The Army isn't commenting, but the group's efforts have been revived, with a review of Davis' actions once more in circulation. Whatever the reason behind the decades-long delay, Davis refuses to think of himself as a victim. "The other night, I tried to write down the things I'm a victim of," he says. "I couldn't think of a thing." More on his extraordinary feats of heroism here. (More Medal of Honor stories.)

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