An Oklahoman who fought off heavy enemy fire to save fellow Army soldiers after an ambush in 1968 in Vietnam will receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, the White House announced on Monday.
Dwight W. Birdwell, who lives in Norman and practices law in Oklahoma City, was among the four recipients announced. All were in the Army and earned the award for gallantry in Vietnam. President Joe Biden will present the awards on July 5.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, authored legislation two years ago that allowed the soldiers to receive the award outside of the five-year period from the date of the acts of valor.
Birdwell, a native of Adair County, was a specialist five serving with Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division on Jan. 31, 1968, when enemy troops initiated an assault on the Tan Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon, according to the White House.
Birdwell recalled later that he and members of his cavalry unit were the first to respond to the assault and that he thought they would be fighting less experienced soldiers. The unit’s tanks ran into fire from 700 enemy troops on one side of the road and 300 on the other side.
The Troop C commander, several vehicles ahead, was seriously wounded, and his entire crew was killed.
“Under heavy enemy small-arms fire, Spc. Five Birdwell moved the tank commander to safety and fired the tank's weapons at the enemy force,” according to the White House.
“Afterwards, he dismounted and continued fighting until receiving enemy fire to his face and torso. He refused evacuation and led a small group of defenders to disrupt the enemy assault until reinforcements arrived. He then aided in evacuating the wounded until he was ordered to seek attention for his own wounds.”
Birdwell was honorably discharged on Dec. 29, 1968. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21, 2017.
The other recipients announced on Monday are: Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro (posthumous); Spc. Five Dennis M. Fujii, of Hawaii; and retired Maj. John J. Duffy, of California.
Last year, Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee, a native Oklahoman, for his gallantry in 2013 in Afghanistan.
The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the armed forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty while: engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party, the White House said.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoman to receive Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam