How This Green Beret Became a Medal of Honor Recipient

March 6, 2023David Vergun, DOD News
paris david medal of honor special forces

President Joe Biden presents retired Army Col. Paris D. Davis with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House, March 3, 2023. Photo by White House Twitter, courtesy of the Department of Defense.

This article was originally published March 3, 2023, on

Army Capt. Paris D. Davis distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty during the Vietnam War.

Davis, now a retired colonel, attended a White House ceremony today where President Joe Biden presented him the Medal of Honor. 

His Medal of Honor citation was read during the ceremony. 

While serving as commander of Detachment A-321, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, during combat operations in South Vietnam, June 17 to 18, 1965, Davis was an advisor to the 883rd Regional Force Company in the vicinity of Bong Son.

Then-Army Capt. Paris D. Davis poses for his official Army service photo in the early 1960s. US Army photo.

The company was conducting a nighttime raid against a Viet Cong regional headquarters housing a superior enemy force, according to his citation. 

While returning from the successful raid, the regional force company was ambushed and sustained several casualties, according to the citation.

"Davis consistently exposed himself to hostile, small-arms fire to rally the inexperienced and disorganized company. He expertly directed both artillery and small-arms fire, enabling other elements of the company to reach his position. Although wounded in the leg, he aided in the evacuation of other wounded men in his unit, but refused medical evacuation himself," the citation states. 

Then-Army Capt. Paris D. Davis is awarded a Silver Star on Dec. 15, 1965. Davis received the award for his actions during a battle in Bong Son, Republic of Vietnam, June 17-18, 1965. US Army photo.

Following the arrival of air support, Davis directed artillery fire within 30 meters of his own position in an attempt to halt the enemy's advance, according to the citation.

"Then with complete disregard for his own life, he braved intense enemy fire to cross an open field to rescue his seriously wounded and immobilized team sergeant," states the citation. 

While carrying the sergeant up the hill to a position of relative safety, Davis was again wounded by enemy fire. Despite two painful wounds, Davis again refused medical evacuation, remained with the troops, fought bravely and provided pivotal leadership and inspiration to the regional force company, as it repelled several Viet Cong assaults on their position over a period of several hours, according to the citation.

When friendly reinforcements finally arrived, Davis again refused medical evacuation until he had recovered an advisor under his command who had been wounded during the initial ambush and was presumed dead, the citation states.

Davis directed the helicopter extraction of his wounded colleague not leaving the battlefield himself until all friendly forces were recovered or medically evacuated, per the citation. 

"You're looking at courage in the flesh," Biden said during the ceremony.

Davis volunteered to serve a country that in many places still refused to serve people who looked like him, Biden said, noting that Davis is an African American.

"Right away, it was clear that Paris was a born warrior. He became an Army Ranger. Then, he jumped at the chance to join the Green Berets, becoming one of the nation's first Black Special Forces officers," Biden said. 

Retired Army Col. Paris D. Davis does media training at the Pentagon, Feb. 27, 2023, ahead of Medal of Honor ceremonies. Davis is set to receive the Medal of Honor for acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a detachment commander with the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Bong Son, Vietnam in June 1965. US Army photo by Bernardo Fuller.

At the time Davis returned from Vietnam, the country was still battling segregation, Biden noted.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the United States' first fully integrated armed forces, Biden mentioned. "Davis will still stand alongside the nation's pioneering heroes."

The president noted that Davis served for 25 years in the Army, earned a Ph.D. and founded the Metro Herald newspaper in Alexandria, Virginia, which reported on community news and civil rights issues. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and past Medal of Honor recipients attended the ceremony.

Read Next: ‘I Just Disobeyed the Order’: The Incredible Story of Capt. Paris Davis’ Medal of Honor

David Vergun, DOD News
David Vergun, DOD News

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