Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove have spent the past year 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 the efforts of Staff Sgt. Drew Dix and others to liberate Chau Phu, South Vietnam, during the Tet Offensive, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, 1968.
Peter Collier writes in Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty:
“In late January, Staff Sgt. Dix and several of his men were operating in and around Cambodia with part of a Navy SEAL platoon to try to acquire definitive intelligence about a rumored Viet Cong offensive. Just after dawn on Jan. 31, Dix’s unit returned to Chau Phu in the SEAL riverboats to find that the Tet Offensive had already begun and the city had been overrun by two heavily armed Viet Cong battalions. (South Vietnamese units hadn’t resisted because they thought a cease-fire had been arranged for the New Year holiday.) When they tried to land, they encountered such heavy fire that one of them later said, ‘It was like a little Normandy.'”
Drew Dix’s Medal of Honor citation continues the story:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Staff Sgt. Dix distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while serving as a unit adviser.
“Two heavily armed Viet Cong battalions attacked the Province capital city of Chau Phu resulting in the complete breakdown and fragmentation of the defenses of the city. Staff Sgt. Dix, with a patrol of Vietnamese soldiers, was recalled to assist in the defense of Chau Phu.
“Learning that a nurse was trapped in a house near the center of the city, Staff Sgt. Dix organized a relief force, successfully rescued the nurse, and returned her to the safety of the Tactical Operations Center. Being informed of other trapped civilians within the city, Staff Sgt. Dix voluntarily led another force to rescue eight civilian employees located in a building which was under heavy mortar and small-arms fire.
“Staff Sgt. Dix then returned to the center of the city. Upon approaching a building, he was subjected to intense automatic rifle and machine gun fire from an unknown number of Viet Cong. He personally assaulted the building, killing six Viet Cong, and rescuing two Filipinos.
“The following day Staff Sgt. Dix, still on his own volition, assembled a 20-man force and, though under intense enemy fire, cleared the Viet Cong out of the hotel, theater, and other adjacent buildings within the city. During this portion of the attack, Army Republic of Vietnam soldiers, inspired by the heroism and success of Staff Sgt. Dix, rallied and commenced firing upon the Viet Cong.
“Staff Sgt. Dix captured 20 prisoners, including a high-ranking Viet Cong official. He then attacked enemy troops who had entered the residence of the Deputy Province Chief and was successful in rescuing the official’s wife and children.
“Staff Sgt. Dix’s personal heroic actions resulted in 14 confirmed Viet Cong killed in action and possibly 25 more, the capture of 20 prisoners and 15 weapons, and the rescue of the 14 United States and free world civilians. The heroism of S/Sgt. Dix was in the highest tradition and reflects great credit upon the U.S. Army.”
“A year later, Dix was back in the United States. He had been told he was to receive the Medal of Honor, but he had been involved in so many dangerous actions that he wasn’t sure exactly which one he was being singled out for. He was presented with the medal by President Lyndon Johnson on Jan. 16, 1969, in one of the last official acts of his presidency.”
Dix later received a direct commission to first lieutenant and retired as a major after 20 years of service. In 2000, his memoir about Vietnam, Rescue at River City, was published. Ten years later he co-founded the Center for American Values in Pueblo, Colo.