U.S.M.C. Lieutenant Frank Reasoner—who became the first Marine to be awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor for action in Vietnam—is killed by enemy fire on this day in 1965.
Reasoner and his battalion had been on a sweep of a suspected Viet Cong area to deter any enemy activity aimed at the nearby airbase at Da Nang. He and the five-man point team he was accompanying were cut off from the main body of the company. He ordered his men to lay down a base of fire and then, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire, killed two Viet Cong, single-handedly wiped out an enemy machine gun emplacement, and raced through enemy fire to rescue his injured radio operator. Trying to rally his men, Reasoner was hit by enemy machine gun fire and was killed instantly.
For this action, Reasoner was nominated for America’s highest award for valor. When Navy Secretary Paul H. Nitze presented the Medal of Honor to Reasoner’s widow and son in ceremonies at the Pentagon on January 31, 1967, he spoke of Reasoner’s willingness to die for his men: “Lieutenant Reasoner’s complete disregard for his own welfare will long serve as an inspiring example to others.”
Lieutenant Reasoner was the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for action in Vietnam.