TFH 3/1: PFC Dan L. Neely, USA

During the Vietnam War, the United States Army‘s 1st Cavalry Division was equipped for and tasked with airmobile combat using helicopters. One of their light infantry units, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, ran up against both North Vietnamese Army regulars and Viet Cong guerillias in fighting near Hue on March 1, 1968.

One trooper with 2-7 Cav’s Company B, Private First Class Dan Lee Neely, a radioman from Alabama, rushed forward hurling grenades to cover and care for his wounded comrades after the company’s medics themselves became casualties. His devotion to duty and extraordinary valor in attempting to save his comrades ultimately cost PFC Neely his life, and a grateful and admiring Army and nation bestowed upon him the second-highest honor they could have: the Distinguished Service Cross.

From Military Times’ Hall of Valor:

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Photo: Military Times

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Private First Class Dan Lee Neely (ASN: RA-12937819), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company B, 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Private First Class Neely distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 1 March 1968 as radio-telephone operator of an airmobile infantry company on a search and destroy mission northwest of Hue. One of the company’s platoons made contact with an estimated company of North Vietnamese Army regulars and immediately suffered several casualties. A reinforcement platoon moved up to assist and became pinned down behind a small bush line. Several medics attempted to crawl forward to give aid to the wounded who were lying in exposed positions, and they were hit by the enemy fire as they advanced. Private Neely began to move from position to position, exposing himself to the fusillade to collect hand grenades. Discarding his equipment and carrying only grenades and medical bandages, he then crawled forward toward the casualties. He maneuvered to within a few meters of a Viet Cong bunker and threw grenades at it in an attempt to silence its weapons. The attempt failed and he was driven back by a fierce enemy barrage. While the reinforcement platoon concentrated covering fire on the enemy position, Private Neely again moved forward, this time succeeding in reaching one of the wounded medics. After applying first aid to the man, he dragged him back to the relative safety of the friendly force’s perimeter. Private Neely secured a further supply of grenades and attempted to return to the remaining wounded. While crawling forward in the face of withering fire, throwing hand grenades at the enemy, he was mortally wounded. Private Neely’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, 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 United States Army.

Neely rests in peace at the Morris Cemetery in Morris, Alabama. His name appears on Panel 42E, Line 22 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in our nation’s capital.

2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry (“Ghost”) is currently a combined arms battalion with the 4th Heavy Brigade Combat Team (“Long Knife”) of the present-day 1st Cavalry Division. When not deployed for training or overseas operations, they are stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

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