During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with a look at medical corpsman Charles C. Hagemeister, of the 1st Cavalry Division, on March 20, 1967, in Binh Dinh Province in South Vietnam.
Charles Hagemeister’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
“While conducting combat operations against a hostile force, Sp5c. Hagemeister’s platoon suddenly came under heavy attack from 3 sides by an enemy force occupying well concealed, fortified positions and supported by machine guns and mortars.
“Seeing 2 of his comrades seriously wounded in the initial action, Sp5c. Hagemeister unhesitatingly and with total disregard for his safety, raced through the deadly hail of enemy fire to provide them medical aid. Upon learning that the platoon leader and several other soldiers also had been wounded, Sp5c. Hagemeister continued to brave the withering enemy fire and crawled forward to render lifesaving treatment and to offer words of encouragement.
“Attempting to evacuate the seriously wounded soldiers, Sp5c. Hagemeister was taken under fire at close range by an enemy sniper. Realizing that the lives of his fellow soldiers depended on his actions, Sp5c. Hagemeister seized a rifle from a fallen comrade, killed the sniper, 3 other enemy soldiers who were attempting to encircle his position and silenced an enemy machine gun that covered the area with deadly fire.
“Unable to remove the wounded to a less exposed location and aware of the enemy’s efforts to isolate his unit, he dashed through the fusillade of fire to secure help from a nearby platoon. Returning with help, he placed men in positions to cover his advance as he moved to evacuate the wounded forward of his location. These efforts successfully completed, he then moved to the other flank and evacuated additional wounded men despite the fact that his every move drew fire from the enemy.
“Sp5c. Hagemeister’s repeated heroic and selfless actions at the risk of his life saved the lives of many of his comrades and inspired their actions in repelling the enemy assault. Sp5c. Hagemeister’s indomitable courage was in the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces and reflect great credit upon himself.”
Peter Collier picks up the story in Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty:
“A little more than a year later, Hagemeister was back in the United States, a few days from being discharged from the Army, when he was told that he was to be awarded the Medal of Honor. During the White House ceremony on May 14, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson asked him, “How long do you have left in the service, son?” Hagemeister replied with a smile, “Seventy-two hours, sir.” The president turned to a member of the Army brass and said, “I want you to talk to this young man after we’re done here and change his mind.” The officer did. Hagemeister reenlisted and later became a commissioned officer. He stayed in the Army until 1990, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel.”
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