SP4 Daniel Fernandez
Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry (Mechanized) 25th Infantry Division.
Place and date: Cu Chi, Hau Nghia Province, Republic of Vietnam, 18 February 1966.
Entered service at: Albuquerque, N. Mex.
Born: 30 June 1944, Albuquerque, N. Mex.
C.O. No.: 21, 26 April 1967.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Fernandez demonstrated indomitable courage when the patrol was ambushed by a Viet Cong rifle company and driven back by the intense enemy automatic weapons fire before it could evacuate an American soldier who had been wounded in the Viet Cong attack. Sp4c. Fernandez, a sergeant and 2 other volunteers immediately fought their way through devastating fire and exploding grenades to reach the fallen soldier. Upon reaching their fallen comrade the sergeant was struck in the knee by machinegun fire and immobilized. Sp4c. Fernandez took charge, rallied the left flank of his patrol and began to assist in the recovery of the wounded sergeant. While first aid was being administered to the wounded man, a sudden increase in the accuracy and intensity of enemy fire forced the volunteer group to take cover. As they did, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the group, although some men did not see it. Realizing there was no time for the wounded sergeant or the other men to protect themselves from the grenade blast, Sp4c. Fernandez vaulted over the wounded sergeant and threw himself on the grenade as it exploded, saving the lives of his 4 comrades at the sacrifice of his life. Sp4c. Fernandez' profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
The following article was printed in the November 24th, 1966 edition of the "Tropic Lightning News"
Sp4 Daniel Fernandez, who this week was posthumously awarded the nations highest award, the Medal of Honor, was one of them rare young men who was admired and respected by his contemporaries.
He was quiet, competent, unselfish, cheerful, the type they choose as president of the senior class. When he died on February 18th of this year, he was a rifleman for Co. C, 1st Bn (mech), 5th infantry, and everyone who had known him mourned him. He was not a career soldier. He used to joke with his friends that he was in the Army for three years because he had flipped a coin with his draft board, and lost. Actually he had enlisted for three years. While he was in the Army he wanted to be a good Soldier. He spent hours at Scholfield Barrack in Hawaii pouring over infantry handbooks. His platoon leader, Lt. Joseph V. Dorso of Norwalk Conn. called him the type of guy I could always count on no matter the situation. SSgt. David M. Thompson of Belair N.Y., who used to go ski diving with him in Hawaii, said simply "Danny was my best man."
The members of his squad, a tight little group of 15 men, one subsection of a huge division, looked upon him as a father confessor. Even those who were older than he called him "Uncle Dan" and went to him with their troubles and their complaints. Specialist Fernandez had been in Vietnam once before as a volunteer machine gunner on an Army helicopter. So it was it was not surprising that he was one of 16 men who volunteered for an Ambush patrol that was sent out of Cu Chi just after midnight on February 18, 1966.
About 7 a.m. as the patrol lay in wait in a jungle clearing for the Viet Cong. Specialist Joseph T. Benton of Hetford N.C. spotted seven VC in the woods behind a burned out hut. He began firing his machine gun, then reached for a hand grenade. Before he could pull the pin out a Communist sniper killed him. Specialist Fernandez crawled to one side of the hut to cover the right flank, and Sp4 James P. McKeown of Willingsboro, N.J. moved into place on the other side. Behind the hut PFC David R. Masingale of Fresno Calif. the platoons 18 year old medic bent over Specialist Benton. A moment later the Viet Cong opened up with machine guns, and a bullet smashed into the leg of Sgt. Ray E. Sue, knocking him to the ground. Sp4 George E. Snodgrass of Pomton Lakes N.J., who had come up with Sgt. Sue to get Specialist Benton out, hit the dirt. Now all five men were pinned down in an area no bigger than a living room. PFC Masingale treated Sgt. Sue, two flank men riddled the bushes and Specialist Snodgrass fired behind Specialists Bentons body. At that instant, a grenade fired from a rifle by one of the guerrillas landed by Specialist Fernandez' leg. He got up on all fours, trying to escape, but he hit the grenade with his ankle, knocking it to within three feet of the group around Specialist Benton and Sgt. Sue. Without hesitation, so quickly that PFC Masingale is sure he didn't have time to consider the consequences of his action, Specialist Fernandez shouted "move out" and threw himself onto the grenade. When the others reached him after the explosion he was still conscious. Specialist Snodgrass helped make a litter from three shirts and bamboo poles and dragged Specialist Fernandez to an open area where a helicopter could land. "It hurts" the wounded man said "I cant breathe" Specialist Snodgrass a devoted Roman Catholic who often went to mass with Specialist Fernandez, told him to "make a good act of contrition" because no priest was present. "I will" Specialist Fernandez said, and shortly after died.
For this action, his last, Daniel Fernandez was awarded the Medal of Honor. Specialist Fernandez' parents live at Los Lunas, N.M.
The following information is taken from:
THE FIRST BATTALION (MECHANIZED) FIFTH INFANTRY
TWENTY-FIFTH INFANTRY DIVISION
IN THE VIETNAM WAR
1966 - 1971
1st Bn(M) 5th Infantry Society of Vietnam Combat Veterans, Inc.
On February 18, 1966 the First Platoon of Company C began a raiding mission at 0100 hours. All 18 members of the raiding party were volunteers. They crossed their line of departure (LD) at about 0115 hours and the Ben Muong at 0130 hours. After crossing the stream they moved through dry rice paddies for about 900 meters, stopping some 25 meters short of the wood line, where they set up security. Sp/4 Fernandez and the squad leader went into the wood line on a brief reconnaissance of the area. At about 0235 hours Sp/4 Fernandez and the squad leader returned and the party moved forward into the rubber plantation for about 300 meters. The raiding party set up a perimeter and SP/4 Fernandez and the squad leader went out on another reconnaissance of the area. When they returned to the raiding party they stated that there was nothing to raid. The party then moved back about 100 meters and set up in a line perimeter near a graveyard (XT 178654), where they were going to wait until moving back to the base camp at 0900 hours.
At about 0700 hours, contact was made with some VC on the left front. The M-60 machine gunner on the left flank opened fire, killing 3 of the Viet Cong. Immediately the entire patrol came under intense enemy small arms, automatic weapons and grenade fire. At this time the M-60 gunner was shot and killed. The left flank was pushed back about 20 meters. Sp/4 Fernandez and the medic moved forward in an attempt to rescue the M-60 gunner. Three more men came out to help them. The gunner was picked up and the group started to move back when the man carrying the M-60 gunner was shot in the left leg. Everyone hit the ground and returned fire. Grenades and small arms and automatic weapons fire from the VC was intense. Sp/4 Fernandez observed a grenade land amongst his small group. He accidentally kicked the grenade when he attempted to move away and it rolled nearer to the wounded soldier. Sp/4 Fernandez yelled a warning and dove onto the grenade and smothered the blast with his body, saving the lives of those around him.
Artillery and mortar fire was called in on the enemy positions around the patrol. Tactical air strikes with napalm were also summoned. The remainder of the 1st Platoon of Company C made their way out to the patrol. At that time the raiding party moved back to the rice paddy area at the edge of the woods. Sp/4 Fernandez was laid on the ground and the wounded man he saved was laid next to him. The wounded man held Sp/4 Fernandez's hand and talked with him. Sp/4 Fernandez told him he was hurting. The Dust-off arrived and the wounded along with the dead M-60 gunner were evacuated. The man with the leg wound was placed next to Sp/4 Fernandez at the hospital. The next time he looked, Sp/4 Fernandez was not there anymore. The wounded man asked the doctor about SP/4 Fernandez but the doctor would not tell him anything.
The 1st Platoon of Company C returned to the base camp perimeter by 0935 hours.
SP/4 Daniel Fernandez was later posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.