For action this day in the Iron Triangle northwest of Saigon, Specialist Five Lawrence Joel, a medic with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade earns the Medal of Honor, becoming the first living African American since the Spanish-American War to receive the nation’s highest award for valor.
When his unit was outnumbered in an attack by an enemy force, Specialist Joel, who suffered a severe leg wound in the early stages of the battle, continued to administer aid to his wounded comrades. Wounded a second time—with a bullet lodged deep in his lungs—Joel continued to treat the wounded, completely disregarding the battle raging around him and his own safety. Even after the 24-hour battle had subsided, Joel, a 38-year-old father of two, continued to treat and comfort the wounded until his own evacuation was ordered.
President Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to Specialist Joel on March 9, 1967, in ceremonies held on the South Lawn of the White House.
Also on this day: Edward W. Brooke (R-Massachusetts) becomes the first African American elected to Senate. In California, former movie actor Ronald Reagan was elected governor.