TFH 11/29: Staff Sergeant Robert J. Pruden, USA

Robert Joseph Pruden was born on September 9, 1949 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He joined the United States Army in 1967; evidence suggests that based on his selection/volunteering for Non-Commissioned Officer candidacy and Ranger training he was a volunteer and not a draftee.

The Vietnam-era 75th Ranger Infantry Regiment (Airborne) was constituted as a number of separate specialized infantry companies to be trained and delegated to individual divisions or corps for long range patrol and reconnaissance duties. The 75th’s Company G was assigned to the 23rd Infantry Division, better known by its moniker “Americal”, for those duties in Vietnam.

On November 29, 1969, then Staff Sergeant Pruden, just 20 years old, commanded a six-man reconnaissance and ambush team that was itself ambushed by a much larger enemy force. Pruden left himself exposed to enemy fire to draw the enemy’s attention away from his wounded comrades and to provide enough cover until evacuation helicopters could arrive. He lost his life on that field of battle, and his indomitable courage and supreme sacrifice were recognized with the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (M-Z):

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From Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*PRUDEN, ROBERT J.

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 75th Infantry, Americal Division. Place and date: Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam, 29 November 1969. Entered service at: Minneapolis, Minn. Born: 9 September 1949, St. Paul, Minn. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Pruden, Company G, distinguished himself while serving as a reconnaissance team leader during an ambush mission. The 6-man team was inserted by helicopter into enemy controlled territory to establish an ambush position and to obtain information concerning enemy movements. As the team moved into the preplanned area, S/Sgt. Pruden deployed his men into 2 groups on the opposite sides of a well used trail. As the groups were establishing their defensive positions, 1 member of the team was trapped in the open by the heavy fire from an enemy squad. Realizing that the ambush position had been compromised, S/Sgt. Pruden directed his team to open fire on the enemy force. Immediately, the team came under heavy fire from a second enemy element. S/Sgt. Pruden, with full knowledge of the extreme danger involved, left his concealed position and, firing as he ran, advanced toward the enemy to draw the hostile fire. He was seriously wounded twice but continued his attack until he fell for a third time, in front of the enemy positions. S/Sgt. Pruden’s actions resulted in several enemy casualties and withdrawal of the remaining enemy force. Although grievously wounded, he directed his men into defensive positions and called for evacuation helicopters, which safely withdrew the members of the team. S/Sgt. Pruden’s outstanding courage, selfless concern for the welfare of his men, and intrepidity in action at the cost of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Pruden rests in peace at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His name appears on Panel 16W, Line 102 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in our Nation’s capital.

The Americal Division was inactivated with its withdrawal from Vietnam in 1971 and has not been reconstituted for service in the Army since. After Vietnam, the Army recognized an ongoing need for the type of specialized infantry unit for patrolling and raiding that the Rangers comprised and reorganized the separate companies into today’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

The 75th Ranger Regiment is headquartered at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia. In addition to Benning, the regiment has one battalion located at Hunter Army Airfield (Fort Stewart), Georgia and one at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The Rangers serve throughout the world, wherever and whenever their particular combat skills are required.

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2 thoughts on “TFH 11/29: Staff Sergeant Robert J. Pruden, USA”

  1. Comment left at the original Their Finest Hour site by John Orlando, March 31, 2014 before comments were closed:

    Very interesting article about Bob. I am humbled and honored to have known and gone through Harding Senior High School with Bob. From me, (a Viet Nam veteran) to a true hero, (Robert J. Pruden U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor) I salute your memory, heroism, and honor to this great nation.

  2. While visiting Snelling National Cemetery a few years ago, I noticed a special headstone on a corner plot. I stopped to read it and it blew me away! After some research, I found that Staff Sgt Robert J. Pruden is the only Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War buried in Ft. Snelling. I left my sunglasses on his grave for him. What 20 year old kid wouldn’t want to look cool in his shades?

    I stop at “Bobby’s” grave every time I go to visit loved ones. I got in touch with one of his childhood friends, Bob Wiltse, from another website, and he told me about his friend, Bobby. I found that I had some things in common with him: we loved hot rods, playing hockey and sported dark, wavy hair!

    Thank you, S/Sgt. Prudent, for your service to our country and your selfless bravery so others can live free. You have touched my life and I am honored to pay my respects whenever I am at Ft. Snelling Cemetery. I already have a new pair of shades waiting for you…

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