1 of 4 | President Joe Biden on Friday awarded the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Col. Paris Davis, a Green Beret during the Vietnam War. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
March 3 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Friday recognized retired Army Col. Paris D. Davis with the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during a firefight in the Vietnam War in which he saved his fellow soldiers despite being injured himself in the process.
Davis, 84, was credited with the heroic rescue in the midst of a 20-hour battle with North Vietnam forces in 1965 as part of a U.S. special forces unit that assisted the Vietnamese Regional Forces company in a successful raid that later came under fire.
Biden presented him with the nation's highest military honor for valor during a ceremony at the White House on Friday morning.
"Paris, you are everything this medal means," he said. "I mean that. You're everything our generation aspires to be. You are everything our nation is at our best. Brave and big-hearted, determined and devoted, selfless and steadfast."
During the raid in Bong Son, then-Capt. Davis and his men encountered "vastly superior" enemy forces in South Vietnam. Davis, who was commanding a unit of inexperienced South Vietnamese troops, managed to surprise and overtake the North Vietnamese in a vicious firefight that boiled down to hand-to-hand combat.
Davis was hit multiple times by automatic weapons fire in two separate assaults that day, but he continued to fight, killing several enemy soldiers while dragging his wounded allies to safety, according to a statement from the White House.
Davis then called for backup and evacuation units while he stayed behind to ensure all of his men made it to the rescue choppers before overseeing the destruction of enemy forces.
"His story does not end there," Biden said Friday. "He went on to become captain, serving 25 years in our military. He earned a Ph.D. on top of that."
Already recognized as one of the country's first Blacks to serve in the elite Green Berets, one of the sergeants who witnessed Davis's heroics on the battlefield immediately recommended him for the Medal of Honor.
However, he was told his recommendations were "lost" twice at the Army and the Pentagon. As a result, his nomination for the award was delayed for almost 60 years although his supporters argue that racism in the upper ranks had been the biggest factor in the award being deferred.
"Somehow, the paperwork [for the Medal of Honor] was never processed, not just once, but twice," Biden said. "You know what Captain Davis said after learning he would finally receive the Medal of Honor? 'America was behind me.' He never lost faith, which I find astounding. He never stopped believing in the founding vision of our nation."
Biden said regardless of the time that has passed, honoring Davis was the right thing to do and shows the country's dedication to its military, adding he hoped the recognition helped to undo the decades of injustice in denying Davis the award
"We never walked away from our troops, who dared all and gave all to our nation," Biden said.
For his bravery, Davis had already been awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Air Medal.