Profiles of Valor: Col. Paris Davis (USA, Ret.)
“He told me to move out. I just disobeyed the order.”
Nominations for the Medal of Honor are delayed for many reasons. In fact, the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center is advocating the nominations of participants who were among Andrews Raiders in 1862. We are also advocating for the advance of the nomination for Vietnam era Cobra pilot Capt. Larry Taylor, who we profiled 18 months ago. These nominations are often delayed not only because the service verification standards are very detailed but because nominees are almost universally humble warriors who require the advocacy of others, as they are disinclined to promote their own nomination.
Another long-overdue Vietnam nomination was approved and awarded this month to Col. Paris Davis (USA, Ret.), who was one of the first Black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat.
Davis was recommended for the award for his actions on June 18, 1965. During a predawn raid on a North Vietnamese army camp in Bong Son, a sustained NVA counterattack left every American wounded. Then-26-year-old Capt. Davis, commanding 5th Special Forces Group A-team A-321 during the attack, defied orders twice as he charged through an open rice paddy six times until every member of his team had been rescued.
“Sir, I’m just not gonna leave,” Davis responded to his commanding officer. “I still got an American out there.” After a grenade had shattered his hand, he used his only remaining finger to fire on the enemy. He later observed: “He told me to move out. I just disobeyed the order.” And that likely contributed to his original nomination being shelved. Thanks to his selfless and valorous actions, his entire team survived the attack.
Upon notification that his nomination had been approved, Davis said it “prompted a wave of memories of the men and women I served with in Vietnam — from the members of 5th Special Forces Group and other U.S. military units to the doctors and nurses who cared for our wounded.” He added: “I am so very grateful for my family and friends within the military and elsewhere who kept alive the story of A-team, A-321 at Camp Bong Son. I think often of those fateful 19 hours on June 18, 1965 and what our team did to make sure we left no man behind on that battlefield.”
In a 1969 interview, Davis described leading white SF soldiers as a black man: “It’s the third team that I had and I never had any negroes on my team. I’ve always had just whites. And we got along just splendidly. I think one of the good things about a war or any type of crisis like Vietnam is the fact that people that are committed to it gel. There’s no race there. In the dark, brown is just as black or white as anyone else. We’re kin … by virtue of being American citizens.”
You can read Davis’s Medal of Honor citation here on the official member page of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
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Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776
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