Figured this deserves more attention than just a “Most Wanted” post, even if my own commentary is sparse.
On this day in 1968, a United States Marine finally allows his wounds to be treated after a 3-day battle in Vietnam. Jay Vargas’s bravery during that conflict would earn him the Medal of Honor.
There was a time when Vargas thought that he might be a Major League baseball player, but that dream never came to be. Instead, Vargas became the youngest of four brothers to join the Marines.
Vargas’s heroic actions came as he was commanding a company of Marines near the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam. Late in April, his Marines had found themselves in a difficult situation requiring a night march back to base camp.
The enemy was shooting at them throughout the march, but they made it! They hadn’t slept in 36 hours.
Unfortunately, sleep was not in their immediate future. Practically as soon as they arrived, they were being ordered out—again. Help was needed in the village of Dai Do.
Vargas had shrapnel wounds in his leg from the previous night’s march, but he told his corpsman, “Don’t you dare report it.” He and his men were soon on river boats headed toward Dai Do. Once they landed, they would need to cross 700 meters of rice paddies.
Vargas and his Marines made it about three-fourths of the way through the rice paddies before getting pinned down by enemy fire. Vargas knew he had to do something. “I went forward with four Marines,” he later recounted, “and they got hit immediately. So I ended up all by myself up there. But I knocked out three heavy machine guns, and killed 14 in the trenches.”
The move enabled the Marines to continue with their attack.
Vargas’s Marines at first seemed to have Dai Do secure, but you wouldn’t believe what happened next! The North Vietnamese began a counter attack that pushed Vargas and his men into a cemetery. They were surrounded and night was falling.
They survived in part by digging up graves, pulling out bodies, and using the holes as cover.
Remember. None of them had slept yet.
It turned into a 3-day battle. During the conflict, Vargas alternately called in air strikes, evacuated wounded men, and exposed himself to enemy fire.
At one point, he hoisted a wounded Marine across his shoulder. The Marine had lost his arm—then asked Vargas to go back for it! Muttering expletives, Vargas went back for the “f—ing” arm.
Read the rest of Tara Ross’s history post.
Jay Vargas turns 78 this July 29th.