Most people know Bob Kerrey as the Democratic governor and senator from Nebraska, who dated Debra Winger. But, when he was a 25-year-old Navy SEAL in Vietnam, he was one of the great heroes of our war there.
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Joseph Robert “Bob” Kerrey
Specialty: Navy SEAL BUD/S
Class: 42 SEAL
Service: 1968 – 1969
Rank: Lieutenant, Junior Grade Retired
Rank: Lieutenant, Junior Grade
Home: Lincoln, Nebraska
Assigned: SEAL Team ONE
Organization: U.S. Naval Reserve, SEAL
Conflict: Vietnam War
Location of Action: Near Nha Trang Bay, Republic of Vietnam
Date of Action: March 14, 1969
Date of Award: May 14, 1970
Retired: Medically Retired
Awarded: Congressional Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970 by President Richard Nixon, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a SEAL team leader during action against enemy aggressor (Viet Cong) forces.”
Other Awards: Bronze Star, for action Feb 25, 1969, in Thanh Phong, Vietnam.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a SEAL team leader during action against enemy aggressor (Viet Cong) forces. Acting in response to reliable intelligence, Lt. (j.g.) Kerrey led his SEAL team on a mission to capture important members of the enemy’s area political cadre known to be located on an island in the bay of Nha Trang. In order to surprise the enemy, he and his team scaled a 350-foot sheer cliff to place themselves above the ledge on which the enemy was located. Splitting his team in 2 elements and coordinating both, Lt. (jg.) Kerrey led his men in the treacherous downward descent to the enemy’s camp. Just as they neared the end of their descent, intense enemy fire was directed at them, and Lt. (jg.) Kerrey received massive injuries from a grenade that exploded at his feet and threw him backward onto the jagged rocks. Although bleeding profusely and suffering great pain, he displayed outstanding courage and presence of mind in immediately directing his element’s fire into the heart of the enemy camp. Utilizing his radio, Lt. (jg.) Kerrey called in the second element’s fire support, which caught the confused Viet Cong in a devastating crossfire. After successfully suppressing the enemy’s fire, and although immobilized by his multiple wounds, he continued to maintain calm, superlative control as he ordered his team to secure and defend an extraction site. Lt. (jg.) Kerrey resolutely directed his men, despite his near unconscious state, until he was eventually evacuated by helicopter. The havoc brought to the enemy by this very successful mission cannot be over-estimated. The enemy soldiers who were captured provided critical intelligence to the allied effort. Lt. (jg.) Kerrey’s courageous and inspiring leadership, valiant fighting spirit, and tenacious devotion to duty in the face of almost overwhelming opposition sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.