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Biden allows 5 Vietnam, Korean War soldiers to get Medal of Honor upgrades

President Joe Biden signs a bill Aug. 31, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
December 28, 2021

The Medal of Honor may be given to five soldiers now that President Joe Biden signed the annual defense bill which formally waived time limits on the awards. Four other soldiers could also have their decorations upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.

Three of the possible Medal of Honor recipients fought in the Korean War and two fought in the Vietnam War. The four soldiers who could receive the Distinguished Service Cross fought in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, which was depicted in the popular film “Black Hawk Down.”

The troops now eligible for Medals of Honor are:  

Pfc. Charles R. Johnson, a member of the 3rd Infantry Division from New York, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in 2011 for defending an outpost in Korea from June 11-12, 1953. Johnson was killed in the battle.  

Pfc. Wataru Nakamura, who earned the Distinguished Service Cross after making a “one-man assault” on recently-captured bunkers before the sun rose on May 18, 1951. Nakamura was a 2nd Infantry Division soldier and former member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Pvt. Bruno R. Orig, received the Distinguished Service Cross after he ran into a firefight in Korea, evacuating injured troops and manning a machine gun so the rest of the platoon could retreat. Orig died operating the machine gun.

Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro, a 1st Cavalry Division soldier who single-handedly saved his platoon from a deadly ambush in Vietnam on Dec. 1, 1966. Kaneshiro had already earned the Silver Star when he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross after he was killed in action roughly three months after the firefight.

Spc. 5 Dennis M. Fujii, who earned the Distinguished Service Cross as a medical evacuation helicopter crew chief after he was left behind and wounded in Vietnam. Fuji defended a South Vietnamese base by coordinating US airstrikes and artillery for two days before being evacuated.  

Those eligible for a Distinguish Service Cross upgrade are:

Sgt. 1st Class Earl R. Fillmore, Jr., who died while leading a movement to the site of a UH-60 Black Hawk crash.

Master Sgt. John G. Macejunas, a Delta Force NCO who led rescue efforts for missing troops connected to the downed aircraft.

Retired Col. Robert Mabry, who served as an enlisted Delta Force medic during Black Hawk Down. Mabry later played an important role in the US military’s move to include the emergency tourniquet as part of standard medical care equipment.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. William F. Thetford, who had already earned the Silver Star for his service. Thetford eventually became the senior enlisted leader for US Central Command before retiring.