THE WEEKEND OF MAY 12-14, 2023 VIETNAM WAR ERA VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES WERE HONORED WITH EVENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AS PART OF THE 50TH VIETNAM WAR COMMEMORATION. SERVING AS A COMMEMORATIVE PARTNER, THE INCREASE CARPENTER CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL SOCIETY OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION ORGANIZED A PINNING CEREMONY WITH THE POLISH LEGION OF AMERICAN VETERANS FRANK KOWALINSKI POST #4 AND SPONSORED BY THE VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA CHAPTER 32. THREE LOCAL MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS WERE HONORED AS PART OF THE EVENT.
HERE ARE THE INSPIRING STORIES OF THESE HEROES…
ROBERT EMMET O’MALLEY
Robert E. O’Malley was born and raised in Woodside, Queens. Soon after he graduated from high school O’Malley joined his three brothers, enlisting in the Marine Corps. His highest rank was Sergeant, though he was a Corporal and Squad Leader when he took the actions that earned him the Medal of Honor. At dawn on August 18, 1965, as part of Operation Starlite, a pre-emptive strike against the Viet Cong force, O’Malley’s battalion performed an amphibious landing near the village of An Cuong. Shortly after landing, they came under intense mortar and small-arms fire. O’Malley leapt into action, racing across an open rice paddy, jumping directly into the enemy’s trench which was filled with Viet Cong, attacking them with his rifle and grenades and single-handedly killing eight of the enemy. Then he led his squad to help another Marine unit that was close by and suffering heavy casualties. He assisted evac- uating several wounded Marines, regrouped his squad, and returned to fighting. Later, when ordered to take his squad to an evacuation point, he led them under fire to the helicopter and, although he had been wounded three times, he stayed and provided suppressive fire until all his Marines were in the helicopter. On December 6, 1966, Sergeant Robert O’Malley became the first Vietnam War Marine Corp Medal of Honor recipient. President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “ By his valor, leadership, and courageous efforts on behalf of his comrades, he served as an inspiration to all who observed him, and reflected the highest credit upon the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.” Sergeant O’Malley also holds the Purple Heart, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star, and the Vietnam Service Medal. After his service, O’Malley married and they settled down in Goldthwaite, Texas in a log cabin where he still lives.
THOMAS PATRICK NOONAN JR.
Thomas Patrick Noonan Jr. was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1943. He grew up with O’Malley attending school and church together. Noonan graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in the Bronx, New York.
Noonan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in January 1968 and was sent to Vietnam in July 1968. On New Year’s Day in 1969, he was promoted to Lance Corporal. Just one month later on February 5th his company was given orders to move to a new position down the side of the hill which was extremely slippery from heavy rains. As they performed a slow and difficult descent, the lead section of their company came under heavy fire from a North Vietnamese Army unit concealed in the rocks. Repeated attempts to recover four wounded men failed because of the intense enemy fire. Noonan moved from his position of relative security and, moving down the slippery slope to a location near the injured men, took cover behind some rocks. Shouting words of encourage- ment to the wounded men to restore their confidence, he dashed across the hazardous terrain and began dragging the most seriously wounded man away from the area. Although wounded and knocked to the ground by an enemy round, Lance Corporal Noonan recovered rapidly and resumed dragging the man toward the security of a rock. He was killed before he could reach his destination.
His heroic actions then inspired his fellow marines to launch an aggressive assault which forced the enemy soldiers to withdraw. Noonan was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in February 1969. He also holds the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Woodside Queens.
In 1996, a playground in Greenpoint was named after him and was renovated in 2015, including installation of an inscribed granite base honoring Noonan. In 2004, the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Sunnyside, Queens was renamed after him.
LOUIS EDWARD WILLETT
Private First Class Louis Edward Willett was born in Brooklyn in 1945 and raised in Queens where he graduat- ed from Archbishop Molloy High School. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 and at the time of his death was serving as a rifleman in Company C.
On February 15, 1967, Willett’s squad was conducting a security sweep when it made contact with a large and overpowering enemy force. The squad was immediately hit with a heavy volume of automatic weapons fire and pinned to the ground. Firing rapid bursts from his weap- on, Private First Class Willett rose to his feet moving to a position where he could fire on the enemy. His action allowed the remainder of his squad to begin to withdraw from the overwhelming enemy force and move to safety. While covering the withdrawal of his squad, he was wounded multiple times from heavy enemy machine gun fire. The remainder of the squad was again pinned down by the enemy. At this point, in complete disregard to his wounds, Willett struggled to an upright position and continued firing on the enemy to allow his squad to continue its movement and evacuate several of his wounded comrades. Even though he must have known that continuing to shoot would make him the main target, Willett moved from position to position and engaged the enemy at close range until he was mortally wounded. Willett’s acts of bravery saved the lives of his squad at the cost of his own.
Willett received the Medal of Honor posthumously and was buried in Saint John Cemetery in Middle Village, New York.