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 Marine Capt. Jay R. Vargas, and his actions from April 30 to May 2, 1968, during the Battle of Dai Do in South Vietnam.
Jay R. Vargas’ Medal of Honor citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as commanding officer, Company G, in action against enemy forces from 30 April to 2 May 1968.
“On 1 May, 1968, though suffering from wounds he had incurred while relocating his unit under heavy enemy fire the preceding day, Maj. Vargas combined Company G with two other companies and led his men in an attack on the fortified village of Dai Do. Exercising expert leadership, he maneuvered his Marines across 700 meters of open rice paddy while under intense enemy mortar, rocket and artillery fire and obtained a foothold in two hedgerows on the enemy perimeter, only to have elements of his company become pinned down by the intense enemy fire.
“Leading his reserve platoon to the aid of his beleaguered men, Maj. Vargas inspired his men to renew their relentless advance, while destroying a number of enemy bunkers. Again wounded by grenade fragments, he refused aid as he moved about the hazardous area reorganizing his unit into a strong defense perimeter at the edge of the village.
“Shortly after the objective was secured the enemy commenced a series of counterattacks and probes which lasted throughout the night but were unsuccessful as the gallant defenders of Company G stood firm in their hard-won enclave.
“Reinforced the following morning, the Marines launched a renewed assault through Dai Do on the village of Dinh To, to which the enemy retaliated with a massive counterattack resulting in hand-to-hand combat. Maj. Vargas remained in the open, encouraging and rendering assistance to his Marines when he was hit for the third time in the three-day battle.
“Observing his battalion commander sustain a serious wound, he disregarded his excruciating pain, crossed the fire swept area and carried his commander to a covered position, then resumed supervising and encouraging his men while simultaneously assisting in organizing the battalion’s perimeter defense.
“His gallant actions uphold the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.”
In Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, Peter Collier writes:
“By the end of the third day of battle, the North Vietnamese melted away and Vargas finally allowed himself to be treated for a bullet wound in his side and shrapnel from mortar blasts.
“Jay Vargas received the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon on May 14, 1970. After the ceremony, his father struck up a conversation with the president. The next day, the senior Vargas disappeared for several hours. When he returned and his son asked him where he’d been, he replied nonchalantly that the president had asked him to come to the White House and have a sandwich with him.”
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