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 Jan. 11, 1969, and the actions of Harold A. Fritz of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
Harold A. Fritz’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. Capt. (then 1st Lt.) Fritz, Armor, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as a platoon leader with Troop A, near Quan Loi. Capt. Fritz was leading his 7-vehicle armored column along Highway 13 to meet and escort a truck convoy when the column suddenly came under intense crossfire from a reinforced enemy company deployed in ambush positions. In the initial attack, Capt. Fritz’ vehicle was hit and he was seriously wounded.
“Realizing that his platoon was completely surrounded, vastly outnumbered, and in danger of being overrun, Capt. Fritz leaped to the top of his burning vehicle and directed the positioning of his remaining vehicles and men. With complete disregard for his wounds and safety, he ran from vehicle to vehicle in complete view of the enemy gunners in order to reposition his men, to improve the defenses, to assist the wounded, to distribute ammunition, to direct fire, and to provide encouragement to his men. When a strong enemy force assaulted the position and attempted to overrun the platoon, Capt. Fritz manned a machine gun and through his exemplary action inspired his men to deliver intense and deadly fire which broke the assault and routed the attackers. Moments later a second enemy force advanced to within 2 meters of the position and threatened to overwhelm the defenders. Capt. Fritz, armed only with a pistol and bayonet, led a small group of his men in a fierce and daring charge which routed the attackers and inflicted heavy casualties.
“When a relief force arrived, Capt. Fritz saw that it was not deploying effectively against the enemy positions, and he moved through the heavy enemy fire to direct its deployment against the hostile positions. This deployment forced the enemy to abandon the ambush site and withdraw. Despite his wounds, Capt. Fritz returned to his position, assisted his men, and refused medical attention until all of his wounded comrades had been treated and evacuated. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by Capt. Fritz, at the repeated risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect the greatest credit upon himself, his unit, and the Armed Forces.”
The story continues in the book Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier:
“During the initial ambush, Fritz had tried to call headquarters for assistance, but his radio was damaged and he didn’t know if the transmission had been received. As he readied his men for a last stand to protect their wounded, he saw the aerial of a U.S. tank coming down the road. It was part of a tank platoon that had overheard Fritz’s call for help
“With the fresh armor force in the battle, the tide began to turn. Eventually, Fritz and his wounded troopers were evacuated by helicopter. Later that day, when he returned to the battlefield, he found a battered cigarette lighter that had been given to him as a going-away present by his wife. It had been in his left breast pocket and had stopped an enemy bullet that would otherwise have killed him.”
Harold Fritz is honored in the Wisconsin Area of the Medal of Honor Grove.
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