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1965

Battle begins at Dong Xoai

Some 1,500 Viet Cong start a mortar attack on the district capital of Dong Xoai, about 60 miles northeast of Saigon, and then quickly overrun the town’s military headquarters and an adjoining militia compound. Other Viet Cong forces conducted a raid on a U.S. Special Forces camp about a mile away. U.S. helicopters flew in South Vietnamese reinforcements, but the Viet Cong isolated and cut down the troops. Heavy U.S. air strikes eventually helped to drive off the Viet Cong, but not before the South Vietnamese had suffered between 800 and 900 casualties and the United States had 7 killed, 12 missing and presumed dead, and 15 wounded. The Viet Cong were estimated to have lost 350 in the ground combat and perhaps several hundred more in air attacks. Two Americans later received the Medal of Honor for their actions during this battle.

First Lt. Charles Q. Williams assumed command of the Special Forces camp when his commanding officer was seriously wounded in the early minutes of the battle. Williams repeatedly dashed through heavy gunfire to rally the outnumbered defenders, receiving five wounds in the process. At one point, the American forces were pinned down by a Viet Cong machine gun. Williams grabbed a 3.5-inch rocket launcher and asked for a volunteer to help him go after the gun. CM3 Marvin G. Shields, a member of the camp’s Navy construction battalion (Seabees) who had already been wounded three times, stepped forward. Completely ignoring their own safety, the two attacked, with Shields loading and Williams firing as they assaulted the enemy position. They destroyed the enemy gun, but on the way back to friendly lines, Shields was mortally wounded. President Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to Charles Williams in the White House on June 23, 1966. On September 13, 1966, Joan Elaine Shields accepted her husband’s posthumous Medal of Honor from the president.

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