Posted by Curt on 30 March, 2005 at 2:51 pm. Be the first to comment!


From the Paul R. Smith website, click picture for the website

Via Smash comes news that the White House will be awarding the Congressional Medal Of Honor to a soldier for action in the Iraq War on Monday:

Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith, killed nearly two years ago defending his vastly outnumbered Army unit in a fierce battle with elite Iraqi troops for control of Baghdad’s airport, will receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, administration officials said Tuesday.

A must visit is the Paul Smith website which states some of the following:

The GIs were dirty, mosquito-bitten, fatigued, homesick. They had been on the road almost constantly for two weeks. Many had not slept in days.

At dawn on April 4, they arrived at Saddam International Airport to the sound of sporadic gunfire and the acrid smell of distant explosions. Breakfast was a mushy, prepackaged concoction the Army optimistically calls “pasta with vegetables.”

Still, the mood was upbeat.

Reaching the airport meant the war was almost over. Some of the men broke out cheap cigars to celebrate.

Afterward, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith and his combat engineers set about their mission that day, putting up a roadblock on the divided highway that connects the airport and Baghdad. Then, just before 10 a.m., a sentry spotted Iraqi troops nearby. Maybe 15 or 20. By the time Smith had a chance to look for himself, the number was closer to 100.

Smith could oppose them with just 16 men.

He ordered his soldiers to take up fighting positions and called for a Bradley, a powerful armored vehicle. It arrived quickly and opened fire. The Americans thought they were in control until, inexplicably, the Bradley backed up and left.

“Everybody was like, “What the hell?”‘ said Cpl. Daniel Medrano. “We felt like we got left out there alone.”

The outnumbered GIs faced intense Iraqi fire. Whether they would survive the next few minutes hinged largely on Smith. He was 33 years old, a 1989 graduate of Tampa Bay Vocational-Technical High School, a husband and father of two.

To his men, Smith was like a character in the old war movies they had watched as kids, an infuriating, by-the-book taskmaster they
called the “Morale Nazi.”

But Smith had spent much of his adult life preparing for precisely this moment. Indeed, in a letter to his parents composed just before the war, he seems to have anticipated it:

There are two ways to come home, stepping off the plane and being carried off the plane. It doesn’t matter how I come home because I am prepared to give all that I am to ensure that all my boys make it home.

In the end he held off 100 Iraqi’s and saved all of his men, he was not liked because he pushed his men to the limit, and now they understand why:

At night, when most other soldiers unwound in their tents watching DVDs on laptop computers, playing cards or gawking at Maxim, Smith had his men out running drills.

Even his superior, 1st Sgt. Tim Campbell, took notice. “Your guys,” Campbell told Smith, “are not having any fun.”

But Smith’s methods were extreme only in degree. For centuries, armies have hammered men with the same lesson: Their fate in battle is inextricably linked to that of their comrades.

In combat, when every natural instinct tells them to flee, men so trained will stand and fight, so as not to let down their buddies.

The payoff comes at storied places like Little Round Top, Bastogne and the Ia Drang Valley. For the men of B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, the payoff would come in a small courtyard outside Baghdad.


They were taking alot of fire from a tower and the Bradley they had called to help them had retreated after taking multiple grenade hits:

First Sgt. Campbell heard radio reports of wounded Americans. He ran into the courtyard and talked briefly with Smith. “We’ve got to kill that tower,” Campbell said. Then he left to do just that.

Inside the courtyard, what to do next was up to Smith. He reasonably could have ordered everyone to safety through the hole in the wall and followed them out.

His commanding officer now believes Smith rejected that option thinking that if Iraqis overran the courtyard, they would jeopardize about 100 GIs outside. These included the infantry at the highway roadblock, the men of a mortar platoon, medics at an aid station and officers in a command center a few hundred yards down the road.

So Smith climbed on the 113. He tried to back it up, but the trailer kept jackknifing.

“Get me a driver,” he yelled.

Pvt. Michael Seaman, 21, ran to help.

“Jump in,” Smith said. Seaman backed the 113 to the middle of the courtyard.

Smith climbed into the gunner’s hatch. He stood behind the big machine gun, the upper half of his body exposed, the lower half protected by the armored vehicle. He started blasting away.

“Keep me loaded,” he shouted to Seaman. Whenever the 100-round ammunition belt that fed the machine gun was about to run out, Seaman reached down for another.

Whenever Smith stopped firing so Seaman could reload, fire from the Iraqis would pick up.

From the hole in the wall, Sgt. Keller could see Smith and waved for him to get out of the courtyard. Word had it that Bradleys were on their way.

Smith motioned back: “No.”

“I knew why he wouldn’t leave,” Keller said. Without Smith’s machine gun, “there was no firepower out there.”

Keller took off running in search of the Bradley. He came across one up on the road, about 100 yards away, and confronted the men inside. “What are you doing? You need to be out there,” Keller said.

The response from one of the Bradley crewmen – something like, “No, there’s friendlies out there” – confused Keller.

He ran back to the courtyard, to a scene right out of Hollywood.

Smith was atop the 113 shooting toward the gate, over the wall, at the tower.

“He was firing, firing, firing – reloading – firing, firing, firing,” said Sgt. Robert Nowack, 37. “It was like a director saying, “I want you to look intense.”‘

The sight reminded Pfc. Pace of To Hell and Back, the film about the
WWII exploits of Army 2nd Lt. Audie Murphy, who climbed onto a burning tank, manned a .50-caliber machine gun and mowed down dozens of attacking Germans.

Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945.

Seaman loaded the third can of ammo for Smith.

“Good job,” Smith said, “now get down.”

Seaman dropped into the belly of the 113 and looked through the
periscope. All he could see was the wall. Smith’s machine gun roared. Seaman stuck his fingers in his ears.

Meanwhile, 1st Sgt. Campbell had run outside the courtyard, grabbed three other GIs and set off along the outer wall of the courtyard toward the Iraqi-occupied tower.

Halfway there, Campbell realized Smith’s machine gun had stopped firing. Campbell told the others to halt. Their job would be harder if Smith could not keep up fire on the Iraqis in the tower. Then the gun awakened – Seaman had finished a reload of Smith’s .50 – and Campbell and the others continued.

Again the .50 went quiet.

By now, though, Campbell’s team had reached the bottom of the
tower. Inside, they saw Iraqis dressed in black, wearing berets. The GIs fired into the tower’s narrow window. The Iraqis flopped around, blood spraying.

“It was everywhere,” Campbell said.

Back in the 113, Seaman also wondered why Smith had stopped firing. He had plenty of ammo.

Then Smith’s knees buckled. He slumped inside the vehicle, blood running down the front of his vest. An enemy bullet, probably from the tower, had hit him in the head.

Seaman lifted himself out of the driver’s hatch. Tears streaked
his blackened cheeks.

“I told him we should just leave,” Seaman mumbled. “I told him we should leave.”

Pvt. Gary Evans, 28, ran up to help. He jumped on the 113, grabbing the machine gun’s hot barrel “like a dumb-ass.” Heat
seared his hand. Smith would have ripped him good for doing something that stupid.

Evans was pretty sure Smith was dead. But he spoke to him anyway as he drove the 113 out of the courtyard. “You’re going to be all right. You’ll be okay.”

Just outside the courtyard, the 113 stalled. Some men pulled Smith out the back, put him on a stretcher and carried him 75 yards to the aid station.

It was 11 a.m., about an hour since the Iraqis were first spotted.

Campbell’s team had taken out the tower. Smith’s machine gun had stifled any Iraqi advance on the courtyard. Enemy fire petered out.

The battle for the courtyard was over.

This man could have ordered a private to man that gun but he didn’t…why? Judging from what I have read of this man I believe he didn’t want one of his men getting hurt. A true measure of a hero.

UPDATE 4/1/05

Blackfive has a few links up. First one is to a interview with Paul’s Wife and Parents and the second one is to some of his fellow soldiers….they are both a must see.

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