17 Vietnam War Soldiers Who Made A Difference

Originally, I was going to write a top Vietnam War soldier post but how would I rate soldiers?

In Vietnam, many soldiers fought gallantly and with honor.

Each and everyone of the soldiers who served in Vietnam were there to defend freedom and when they arrived home, many were spat on and cussed.

Even though the Vietnam War was terrible with many innocent lives lost, our troops should never have had to suffer the extreme views they faced when stepping back on United State’s soil.

While many soldiers made a difference in one form or another, in today’s post, I am going to share 17 Vietnam War soldiers who made a huge difference.

Some are deceased while others still live; some became famous while others did not.

You may recognize some names but I believe you will not be familiar with the majority.

So scroll down and learn about these 17 Vietnam War soldiers.

1: John McCain

Senator John McCain has made a huge difference in the operation of the United States, but he also made serious differences in Vietnam.

Mr McCain was a Navy pilot and was shot down and captured.

He was tortured after refusing early release for propaganda reasons.

He showed other POWs how to endure the savage actions of the North Vietnamese.

2: John Ripley

Marine Captain Ripley had what seemed to be a basic job; he trained other Marines that had just arrived in Vietnam.

It was a wild day when the training squad saw the North Vietnamese preparing to attack their position.

Their only barrier was a bridge and Captain Ripley knew it had to be destroyed or they would all be killed.

Bombing runs wouldn’t work because of anti-aircraft fire.

John requested that he be allowed to go plant explosives to destroy the bridge.

The leadership that was not there said no, but John’s commander agreed.

Captain Ripley dodged bullets and monkey climbed the underside of that bridge planting explosive charges.

He was out there for 3 hours.

He managed somehow to get clear of the bridge when it exploded.

Captain Ripley retired from the Marines in 1992 as a Colonel.

3: Oliver Stone

Known for directing the movies Platoon and Born on the 4th of July, Oliver Stone served in combat in 1967 and 1968.

He was wounded twice, and because of his time in Vietnam, these movies were realistic.

4: Bennie Adkins

While Bennie is not famous so to speak, I believe every American should know about this fearless soldier.

You see, President Obama gave him his Medal of Honor years after he performed gallantly.

First Sergeant Adkins was a Green Beret and was missioned with several other Special Force soldiers in helping South Vietnamese cut a North Vietnamese supply line.

The North Vietnamese caught on and decided to attack their positions.

Everything Adkins did in that one day of battle was like he was a trained fighting robot.

Many of his comrades still wonder how he lived through it.

5: Colin Powell

He was a great leader in military service and a great secretary of State.

Powell took what he thought as poor leadership during Vietnam and attempted to make a difference.

He was wounded when stepping on a punji stake early in deployment, but he returned and survived a helicopter crash and rescued others from the fire.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. The Top 10 Mistakes in the Vietnam War: Things the U.S. Could Have Done Better
  2. Honorable Immigrants: Korean and Vietnam Wars
  3. The Letter Home From Vietnam: A Lesson For Those Serving In War
  4. Top 7 Military Leadership Lessons from the Vietnam War
  5. Top 10 Units in the Vietnam War

6: Charles Rogers

Lieutenant Colonel Rogers was an artillery commander.

Many would assume he would be back from the action laying artillery into areas the enemy was located, but on a Halloween night in 1968, the North Vietnamese had other ideas.

The enemy rushed their position with gobs of soldiers, but Rogers was not going to allow them the opportunity of winning this battle.

Wounded over and over, Rogers kept control of his men and led them in a massive brawl.

His leadership was outstanding and he received the Medal of Honor from President Nixon while he was serving another tour of Vietnam.

7: Bob Kerrey

Known as a wonderful Governor in Nebraska, Bob spent time as a Navy Seal and was seriously wounded in Vietnam near Nha Trang Bay where he lost part of one of his legs.

Bob received the Medal of Honor for his service that day.

With that serious wound, he continued to lead his men and showed the resolution of a true American hero.

8: Drew Dix

This another soldier that should be ultra famous.

He was a Green Beret and during the Tet Offensive, he was in a boat on the Mekong Delta with 2 Navy Seals.

Word came to them that the Vietnamese were attacking Chau Pau.

Turning the boat around, the 3 men raced to Chau Pau under heavy fire.

They scrambled into the town that was under control of the enemy.

He started rescuing Americans and South Vietnamese soldiers who he led into defense positions.

With Dix leading, they were able to push the enemy back, and Dix captured the enemy commander and 19 officers.

9: Roger Staubach

Roger Staubach attended the United States Naval Academy where he won the Heisman Trophy as a great quarterback.

He was destined for greatness but he had to serve his term in the military.

Staubach volunteered to serve in Vietnam.

Roger was a Supply Corps officer leading over 40 men.

The fact that he was willing to serve in Vietnam showed why he was a great leader.

That is why he became one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.

10: Rick Rescorla

Rick was born in England and was a great warrior in the British armed forces.

You may wonder why I am putting a British soldier in this list.

Rick moved to the U.S. and joined the U.S. Army.

Because of his experience, Rick was given a command position and he was shipped to Vietnam.

With his experience, Rick showed young and scared soldiers how to be winners.

Many would say that Rescorla was a crazed killing machine, but as such, he survived the war along with other soldiers who probably would not have if Rick wasn’t there.

What’s more, Rick saved lives on 9/11 too.

11: Steve Kroft

Steve is one of my favorite journalists.

He is a correspondent for 60 Minutes, but in Vietnam Steve was in the middle of the action as a reporter for the Armed Forces Network.

Steve was drafted into the Vietnam War and won several journalism awards as well as a Bronze Star.

The media needs more reporters like Steve.

12: Dwight Johnson

He was a tank operator in Vietnam, and the only one to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Some troops radioed in that they were under heavy attack and Specialist Johnson fired up his tank to go to their rescue.

Tanks and Vietnam are like water and oil.

Johnson had a track slip and the tank was unmovable, so Johnson grabbed the only weapon he had… a M1911 .45 and went outside for battle.

He fought bravely against the enemy and rushed to another tank that had been stopped.

Jumping in, he helped the wounded operator to safety and reentered the tank and began firing rounds at the enemy.

He was like a crazed robot with the tank and his .45.

So many would ask, did Dwight die?

He survived that war and was given the Medal of Honor for his actions.

13: Craig Venter

You may not be familiar with Craig, but he has made huge differences in biotechnology.

He was one of the first to sequence the human genome.

Craig was drafted into the Navy and sent to Vietnam.

It was quite hard on Craig since he was against war.

He managed thru and has made a huge difference in the world with science.

14: Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez

This soldier was an animal.

He had a day when he was in the perfect mode to save lives; the enemy had hit a team hard and Roy boarded a helicopter and had it land in a clearing where he ran to the surrounded Special Forces team.

Roy had been shot multiple times but he kept moving and leading the soldiers.

Roy made many other brave moves and at the end, he had been wounded 37 times by shrapnel, bullets and stab wounds.

He lived!

Ronald Reagan stated this about Roy, “If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.”

15: William Port

PFC Port was serving in the 1st Air Cavalry Division.

While in battle in the Que Son Valley, Port rescued a wounded soldier and also used his body to save several men from a grenade.

The blast did not kill Port and he was captured.

He died 10 months later as a POW.

16: Captain Humbert Versace

He was known to everyone as Rocky.

The Captain was captured after being wounded in a firefight.

Humbert was always trying to escape (4 times) and he would agitate the enemy over and over by singing things like the National Anthem and God Bless America.

Separated from other prisoners, the Liberation Radio in North Vietnam suddenly announced the execution of Captain Versace.

This was the first time a POW has attained the Medal of Honor.

17: Joe Hooper

Hooper started in the Navy in 1958.

After his Navy term, Joe enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1960.

A career soldier, Hooper served in Korea.

When Vietnam began, Hooper was in the fighting.

Hooper was such an amazing soldier that he was given many awards:

  • The Medal of Honor
  • Silver Star – 2
  • Bronze Star with V – 6
  • Purple Heart -8
  • and more.

Final Thoughts

Everyone of these Vietnam War Veterans made a difference in one or more ways.

It saddens me when I saw the way many of these soldiers were treated when they returned home.

So what do you think?

Do you want to mention any Vietnam soldiers who made a difference?

We owe debts of gratitude to these and all other military personnel who served in Vietnam.

Leave any comments and questions below.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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