Skip to comments.America’s Most-Decorated Soldier Dies In Waco
Posted on 12/23/2009 4:22:02 PM PST by Zakeet
Services were pending Wednesday for a retired Army colonel who, at the time of his death in Waco, was believed to be the most-decorated living American soldier.
Retired Army Col. Robert L. Howard, 70, who died Wednesday in Waco, was a Medal of Honor winner who at the time of his death was believed to be the most-decorated living American soldier.
Howard will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Services were pending Wednesday through OakCrest Funeral Home in Waco.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon in which he said Howard was the bravest soldier I ever met.
His unshakeable commitment to freedom, displayed in countless episodes of battlefield gallantry, lives on in the actions of our military men and women who continue to serve in hostile conditions overseas, he said.
Howard, who grew up in Opelika, Ala., enlisted in the Army in 1956 at the age of 17 and retired as a full colonel in 1992.
In Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces and spent most of his five tours in the secret Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group, or MACV-SOG, which was an unconventional force whose members were assigned to deep-penetration reconnaissance and interdiction missions.
He was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor, which he was awarded in 1971 for the rescue of a seriously wounded platoon leader who was under enemy fire.
During his 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam, Howard was wounded 14 times and was awarded eight Purple Heart Medals.
He leaves behind his children, Denicia Howard of Florida, Melissa Gentsch and husband, Waco Assistant Chief of Police Frank Gentsch of Waco, Rosslyn Howard of California and Robert Howard, Jr. and his wife, Tori of California.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 30 December 1968. Entered service at: Montgomery, Ala. Born: 11 July 1939, Opelika, Ala. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Howard (then Sfc .), distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory in the Republic of Vietnam. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated 2-company force. During the initial engagement, 1st Lt. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. 1st Lt. Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, 1st Lt. Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As 1st Lt. Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer's equipment, an enemy bullet struck 1 of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant's belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. 1st Lt. Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area. Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, 1st Lt. Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3 1/2 hours 1st Lt. Howard's small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. 1st Lt. Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. 1st Lt. Howard's gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Col. Robert L. Howard, Retired US Army, 70, of Waco and formerly of San Antonio, and who at the time of his death was the most decorated American soldier, passed away Wednesday, December 23, 2009 in Waco.
Full military honors are pending and will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and will be announced by OakCrest Funeral Home of Waco.
Col. Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama and enlisted in the US Army in 1956 at the age of 17. He retired as a full Colonel in 1992 after 36 years of service.
During Vietnam, he served in the US Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and spent most of his five tours in the super-secret MACV-SOG.
Col. Howard was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor, his first nomination being downgraded to the DSC.
His second and third nominations were simultaneous for two separate actions and the Medal of Honor was awarded for the first of them and was presented to him by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1971.
The other nomination was downgraded to the Silver Star.
Col. Howard was wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam and was awarded 8 Purple Hearts.
Col. Howard is survived by his children, Denicia Howard of Florida, Melissa Gentsch and husband, Asst. Chief of Police Frank Gentsch of Waco, Rosslyn Howard of California and Robert Howard, Jr. and wife, Tori of California; and his grandchildren, Victoria Batey and husband, Luke of Denton, Holley Gentsch of Waco, Trey Howard of California and Isabella Gentsch of Waco.
This site is dedicated to Robert L. Howard, one of America's most decorated soldiers. He served five tours in Vietnam and is the only soldier in our nation's history to be nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions within a thirteen month period. Although it can only be awarded once to an individual, men who served with him said he deserved all three. He received a direct appointment from Master Sergeant to 1st Lieutenant in 1969, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1971. His other awards for valor include the Distinguished Service Cross - our nation's second highest award, the Silver Star - the third highest award, and numerous lesser decorations including eight Purple Hearts. He received his decorations for valor for actions while serving as an NCO (Sergeant First Class).
Robert L. Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 at age seventeen. He retired as a full Colonel in 1992 after 36 years service. During Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and spent most of his five tours in the super-secret MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group) also known as Special Operations Group, which ran classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. These men carried out some of the most daring and dangerous missions ever conducted by the U.S. military. The understrength sixty-man recon company at Kontum in which he served was the Vietnam War's most highly decorated unit of its size with five Medals of Honor. It was for his actions while serving on a mission to rescue a fellow soldier in Cambodia, that he was submitted for the Medal of Honor the third time for his extraordinary heroism.
Robert L. Howard is said to be our nation's most decorated soldier from the Vietnam War. He was the last Vietnam Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient still on active duty when he retired on Sept. 29, 1992. His story is told in John Plaster's excellent book, SOG The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam.
It is important for future generations that we remember our military heroes and the great sacrifices they have made for us in the name of Freedom.
RIP, Sir. Thank you for your service.
Thank you sir for your service to our great nation.
We will forever be in your debt.
God Bless you! and thank you
What an incredibly heroic man. God bless his soul and his family.
Rest in Peace, Colonel Howard. Thank you for such outstanding service to this nation.
Holy cow! His example is for us to follow in the fight for Freedom, if we really want it.
R.I.P. brave Colonel.
Lucky you don’t have to witness what Obamunism will now do to the country you fought so hard for.
I consider it no sacrifice to die for my country. In my mind, we came here to thank God that men like these have lived rather than to regret that they have died.
General George S. Patton
I first met Bob Howard in the fall of 1970 at Fort Sherman, Canal Zone. We were both First Lieutenants and were sent to Panama to go through the Jungle Operations School. All infantry officers enroute to their first tour in Vietnam were required to attend this course. Of course, Bob had already served multiple tours in Vietnam, spending most of his time with MACVSOG doing strategic recon across the borders. The Army deemed that this didn’t count, so Bob tagged along with us rookies.
He was then assigned to Command and Control Central in Kontum and I was assigned to an aviation unit in Pleiku. Our aircraft supported CCC as well as the border SF/ARVN Ranger camps along the border and my recon platoon ran missions on the Vietnam side of the border. I would get to Kontum from time to time and pay Bob a visit. He only served four months on that tour when he was called back to Washington to receive the Medal of Honor. The Army would not let him come back to Vietnam, so his combat days were over.
When I met Bob, he was wearing plain jane jungle fatigues. I knew that he had multiple tours as a NCO, but that was not that big a deal. He never mentioned what he had done, except to say it was “recon stuff”. We had to wear Class B’s for graduation and Bob showed up wearing all his decorations including two Distinguished Service Crosses (one was an interim award for the MOH), multiple Silver Stars and Purple Hearts. In Vietnam he soldiered hard and partied hard, and was respected by all who served with him.
America has lost a true hero.
Thank you for your outstanding service to our country.
Rest in peace sir, condolences to your family.
I read about this man in John Plaster’s book about SOG. If even half of what is in there is true (and I strongly suspect that it all is), this man died of the rest of his body being unable to support his massive brass testicles any longer.
Very high-powered soldier. Rest in peace.
I can attest that parts of it are true and have it on good authority that the rest is as well.
They used to sing a song up at Kontum when someone didn't come back. We need to sing it now:
I had a dog, and his name was Blue,
Betcha five dollars he's a good dog too,
Here Blue, you good dog you.
He was a good dog.
Read about that, too. That was a bit before my time.
You know? At a time our nation has fallen under the shadow of satanic communism, this man’s life brings my hand to my heart and my eyes to the flag once more.
Sounds like he was truly a man among men. America has lost a good one.
RIP Col. Howard and thank you.
Thanks for your posts.