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Robert L. Howard
Colonel Robert L. Howard
Born (1939-07-11)July 11, 1939
Died December 23, 2009(2009-12-23) (aged 70)
Place of birth Opelika, Alabama
Place of death Waco, Texas
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery Section 7A Grave 138
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army United States Army seal
Years of service 1956 – 1992
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Unit 5th Special Forces Group
Special Operations Command Korea.png Special Operations Command Korea
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Silver Star
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (4)
Bronze Star (4)
Purple Heart (8)
Other work Department of Veterans Affairs

Robert Lewis Howard (July 11, 1939 – December 23, 2009) was a highly decorated United States Army soldier and Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War. He was wounded 14 times over 54 months of combat, was awarded 8 Purple Hearts, 4 Bronze Stars, and was nominated for the Medal of Honor three separate times. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on February 22, 2010.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Howard enlisted in the Army at Montgomery, Alabama and retired as Colonel.

As a staff sergeant of the highly-classified Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), Howard was recommended for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions for three individual actions during thirteen months spanning 1967–1968. The first two nominations were downgraded to a Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross due to the covert nature of the operations in which Howard participated. As a Sergeant First Class of the same organization, he risked his life during a rescue mission in Cambodia on December 30, 1968, while second in command of a platoon-sized Hornet Force that was searching for missing American soldier Robert Scherdin, and was finally awarded the Medal of Honor. He learned of the award over a two-way radio while under enemy fire, immediately after being wounded, resulting in one of his eight Purple Hearts.[1]

Howard was wounded 14 times during one 54-month period during the Vietnam War. He received two Masters degrees during his government career which spanned almost 50 years. Howard retired as a full Colonel in 1992.[2] His Army career spanned 1956 to 1992.[3]

According to NBC News, Howard may have been the most highly-decorated American soldier since World War II. His residence was in Texas and he spent much of his free time working with veterans until the time of his death. He also took periodic trips to Iraq to visit active duty troops.[2][4]

Howard died of pancreatic cancer at a hospice in Waco, Texas on December 23, 2009. He was survived by four children and four grandchildren.[3][5] His funeral was in Arlington National Cemetery on February 22, 2010.

Medal of Honor citation[edit | edit source]

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to



for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Howard (then SFC .), distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory in the Republic of Vietnam. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated 2-company force. During the initial engagement, 1st Lt. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. 1st Lt. Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, 1st Lt. Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As 1st Lt. Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer's equipment, an enemy bullet struck 1 of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant's belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. 1st Lt. Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area. Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, 1st Lt. Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 312 hours 1st Lt. Howard's small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. 1st Lt. Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. 1st Lt. Howard's gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Awards and decorations[edit | edit source]

U.S. Awards & Decorations
Personal awards
  Medal of Honor
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster
  Silver Star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Legion of Merit with 3 oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Bronze Star with "V" device & 3 oak leaf clusters
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Purple Heart with 7 oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Meritorious Service Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Air Medal with "V" device & award numerals 3
  Joint Service Commendation
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Army Commendation Medal with "V" device & 6 oak leaf clusters
  Joint Service Achievement Medal
  Army Achievement Medal
U.S. Awards & Decorations
Unit awards
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Presidential Unit Citation with oak leaf cluster
  Meritorious Unit Commendation
  Navy Unit Commendation
Service awards
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  Good Conduct Medal with 4 Good Conduct Loops
Campaign & Service awards
  National Defense Service Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
  Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with 3 service stars
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
  Vietnam Service Medal with 3 service stars
Service & Training awards
  Army Overseas Service Ribbon
  Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
  NCO Professional Development Ribbon with award numeral "2"
  Army Service Ribbon
U.S. Awards & Decorations
Badges and tabs
SpecialForcesTabMetal.jpg  Special Forces Tab
RangerTab TIoH.gif  Ranger Tab
Combat Infantry Badge.svg  Combat Infantryman Badge
Expert Infantry Badge.svg  Expert Infantryman Badge
ArmyAvitBadge.gif  Aircrew Badge
US Army Airborne master parachutist badge.gif  Master Parachutist Badge
AirAssault.gif  Air Assault Badge
Pathfinder.gif  Pathfinder Badge
ArmyQualExpert.JPG  Expert Marksmanship Badge
Foreign Awards & Decorations
Individual & Unit awards
Bronze star
Silver star
Gold star
  Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star (Corps), Silver Star (Division) and Bronze Star (Regiment/Brigade)
  Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal, 1st Class
  Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Medal, 1st Class
  Republic of Vietnam Wound Medal
  Republic of Vietnam Staff Service Medal, 2nd Class
  Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 bar
  Republic of Korea Order of National Security Merit (Sam-Il Medal)
  Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation with Palm
  Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation with Palm
Brevet Parachutiste.jpg  French Parachutist Badge
ViPaBa.jpg  Republic of Vietnam Master Parachute Badge
No image.png  Republic of Vietnam Ranger Badge
No image.png  Thai Master Parachute Wings
No image.png  Korean Master Parachute Badge
No image.png  Thai Balloonist Badge

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Eberle, Lance Cpl. Ben (November 19, 2006). "Medal of Honor recipients make special visit". http://www.marines.mil/unit/hqmc/Pages/2006/Medal%20of%20Honor%20recipients%20make%20special%20visit.aspx. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Williams, Brian, "Medal of Honor: Robert Howard 1939–2009", NBC News, December 23, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Associated Press, "Decorated Army colonel, MoH recipient dies", Military Times, December 24, 2009.
  4. Brian Williams Marks Passing of Most Decorated Modern War Hero, Colonel Robert Howard
  5. Col. Robert Lewis Howard, believed to be nation's most decorated soldier, dies at 70 Star-Telegram, Associated Press story. Retrieved on December 24, 2009.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam, by John Plaster
  • Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG, by John Plaster

External links[edit | edit source]

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