Valor Friday

| April 21, 2023

Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann

Family duties and a horrible case of seasonal allergies have sidelined my writing this week, so I’ll be phoning in today’s Valor Friday. If you’ve never heard of John Paul Vann, his is a story worth reading. He started his Army career in 1943 as a USAAF pilot cadet, became a navigator, but didn’t see action before the end of the war. When the USAF became a separate service, Vann elected to remain in the Army and transferred to the ever noble Infantry Branch.

He served on the ground in Korea with the 25th Infantry Division. He ended his career with an early-60s deployment to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel after 20 years, he returned to Vietnam as a civilian employee of is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In that role he spent the next several years as a military advisor to the government of South Vietnam.

As Nixon’s policy of Vietnamization of the war came into effect, Vann was in the unique position of being a high level civilian serving in a military advisory position. As the Vietnamese were now commanding the American operations in the area, that means that Vann was the only civilian to lead American troops in combat during the war.

Vann died in a helicopter crash in June 1972 in Vietnam. For his bravery in action on 23-24 April 1972, Vann was initially considered for a Medal of Honor. As a civilian, he was in eligible for that, but he did receive a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross. The citation is here. He remains the only civilian to have received the nation’s second highest award for combat valor since World War II. He was also given a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civil honor of the Executive Branch) by President Nixon, just days after his death.

Here’s the Wikipedia article on Colonel Vann.

Category: Army, Distinguished Service Cross, Historical, Valor, We Remember

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“A Bright Shining Lie.”

One can watch the 1998 movie featuring Bill Paxton at this link if one has not read the book.

Thank You, Mason. Hope you get to feeling better!


Heck yeah!


Thanks much!

Don’t know how this escaped my viewing pleasure but skipped around a bit and seems like a good movie.

Thanks AGAIN!


Read the book twice. The movie sucked.


A Warrior’s Warrior…even when he was wearing a suit. Rest Easy Good Sir. Too bad more people didn’t follow your advice.


Thanks, Mason. Get well, these outstanding articles you provide aren’t gonna write themselves.


“He started his Army career in 1943 as a USAAF pilot cadet, became a navigator,”

Many of our heros started out wanting to fly but not all of them
could become pilots and were offered positions as navigators
and bombardiers. My dad washed out of pilot training but took
the offer of bombardier (gunner togglier) and got to fly anyway.

RIP Lt.Col. Vann


That he couldn’t receive the MOH brings up an interesting question.

As retirees, aren’t we still considered part of the military? I still consider myself to be a Sailor.

I looked up the MOH entry in Wiki and a retired MG received the MOH and that was for service to the country, no combat involved. It can be given by special act of congress to those who don’t usually rate it.

Just one of my many idle thoughts.


On that wiki page many great quotes. Sample of one:

“We don’t have twelve years’ experience in Vietnam. We have one year’s experience twelve times over.”

Many of them quotes fit the remistakes of conflicts shortly past.

Rest Well, LTC Vann.
‘Thank you’ isn’t enough…


“Where have all our flowers gone?” by Pete Seeger.

The song played at COL Vann’s burial.