On this day in 1969, Americans fighting in Vietnam in three different locations saw three of their comrades exhibit courage and gallantry above and beyond that expected of the American warrior. All three men gave their lives for our Nation.
Oscar P. Austin was born on January 15, 1949 in Nacogdoches, TX. He was a Marine; a Private First Class with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.
Robert W. Hartsock hailed from Fairmont, WV. He was a Staff Sergeant with the United States Army’s 25th Infantry Division.
Lester W. Weber, another Marine, was born in Aurora, IL in 1948 and was a Lance Corporal with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.
All three men also received our Nation’s highest honor.
From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (A-L):
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, Company E, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, (Rein), FMF. Place and date: West of Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, 23 February 1969. Entered service at: Phoenix, Ariz. Born: 15 January 1948, Nacogdoches, Tex. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an assistant machine gunner with Company E, in connection with operations against enemy forces. During the early morning hours Pfc. Austin’s observation post was subjected to a fierce ground attack by a large North Vietnamese Army force supported by a heavy volume of hand grenades, satchel charges, and small arms fire. Observing that 1 of his wounded companions had fallen unconscious in a position dangerously exposed to the hostile fire, Pfc. Austin unhesitatingly left the relative security of his fighting hole and, with complete disregard for his safety, raced across the fire-swept terrain to assist the marine to a covered location. As he neared the casualty, he observed an enemy grenade land nearby and, reacting instantly, leaped between the injured marine and the lethal object, absorbing the effects of its detonation. As he ignored his painful injuries and turned to examine the wounded man, he saw a North Vietnamese Army soldier aiming a weapon at his unconscious companion. With full knowledge of the probable consequences and thinking only to protect the marine, Pfc. Austin resolutely threw himself between the casualty and the hostile soldier, and, in doing, was mortally wounded. Pfc. Austin’s indomitable courage, inspiring initiative and selfless devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
*HARTSOCK, ROBERT W.
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 44th Infantry Platoon, 3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Hau Nghia, Province, Republic of Vietnam, 23 February 1969. Entered service at: Fairmont, W. Va. Born: 24 January 1945, Cumberland, Md. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Hartsock, distinguished himself in action while serving as section leader with the 44th Infantry Platoon. When the Dau Tieng Base Camp came under a heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, S/Sgt. Hartsock and his platoon commander spotted an enemy sapper squad which had infiltrated the camp undetected. Realizing the enemy squad was heading for the brigade tactical operations center and nearby prisoner compound, they concealed themselves and, although heavily outnumbered, awaited the approach of the hostile soldiers. When the enemy was almost upon them, S/Sgt. Hartsock and his platoon commander opened fire on the squad. As a wounded enemy soldier fell, he managed to detonate a satchel charge he was carrying. S/Sgt. Hartsock, with complete disregard for his life, threw himself on the charge and was gravely wounded. In spite of his wounds, S/Sgt. Hartsock crawled about 5 meters to a ditch and provided heavy suppressive fire, completely pinning down the enemy and allowing his commander to seek shelter. S/Sgt. Hartsock continued his deadly stream of fire until he succumbed to his wounds. S/Sgt. Hartsock’s extraordinary heroism and profound concern for the lives of his fellow soldiers were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Staff Sergeant Hartsock rests in Rocky Gap Veterans Cemetery, Flintstone, MD. A picture shown at that link indicates that his Medal of Honor was presented to a special family member: his young son. His name is found on Panel 31W, Line 3
of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
*WEBER, LESTER W.
Rank and organization: Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, Company M, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Place and date: Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, 23 February 1969. Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Born: 30 July 1948, Aurora, Ill. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a machinegun squad leader with Company M, in action against the enemy. The 2d Platoon of Company M was dispatched to the Bo Ban area of Hieu Duc District to assist a squad from another platoon which had become heavily engaged with a well entrenched enemy battalion. While moving through a rice paddy covered with tall grass L/Cpl. Weber’s platoon came under heavy attack from concealed hostile soldiers. He reacted by plunging into the tall grass, successfully attacking 1 enemy and forcing 11 others to break contact. Upon encountering a second North Vietnamese Army soldier he overwhelmed him in fierce hand-to-hand combat. Observing 2 other soldiers firing upon his comrades from behind a dike, L/Cpl. Weber ignored the frenzied firing of the enemy and racing across the hazardous area, dived into their position. He neutralized the position by wrestling weapons from the hands of the 2 soldiers and overcoming them. Although by now the target for concentrated fire from hostile riflemen, L/Cpl. Weber remained in a dangerously exposed position to shout words of encouragement to his emboldened companions. As he moved forward to attack a fifth enemy soldier, he was mortally wounded. L/Cpl. Weber’s indomitable courage, aggressive fighting spirit and unwavering devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.