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 the actions of Staff Sgt. Kenneth E. Stumpf on April 25, 1967, near Duc Pho, South Vietnam.
Kenneth E. Stumpf’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Staff Sgt. Stumpf distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader of the 3d Platoon, Company C, on a search-and-destroy mission.
“As Staff Sgt. Stumpf’s company approached a village, it encountered a North Vietnamese rifle company occupying a well-fortified bunker complex. During the initial contact, three men from his squad fell wounded in front of a hostile machinegun emplacement.
“The enemy’s heavy volume of fire prevented the unit from moving to the aid of the injured men, but Staff Sgt. Stumpf left his secure position in a deep trench and ran through the barrage of incoming rounds to reach his wounded comrades. He picked up one of the men and carried him back to the safety of the trench. Twice more Staff Sgt. Stumpf dashed forward while the enemy turned automatic weapons and machineguns upon him, yet he managed to rescue the remaining two wounded squad members.
“He then organized his squad and led an assault against several enemy bunkers from which continuously heavy fire was being received. He and his squad successfully eliminated two of the bunker positions, but one to the front of the advancing platoon remained a serious threat.
“Arming himself with extra hand grenades, Staff Sgt. Stumpf ran over open ground, through a volley of fire directed at him by a determined enemy, toward the machinegun position.
“As he reached the bunker, he threw a hand grenade through the aperture. It was immediately returned by the occupants, forcing Staff Sgt. Stumpf to take cover. Undaunted, he pulled the pins on two more grenades, held them for a few seconds after activation, then hurled them into the position, this time successfully destroying the emplacement. With the elimination of this key position, his unit was able to assault and overrun the enemy.
“Staff Sgt. Stumpf’s relentless spirit of aggressiveness, intrepidity, and ultimate concern for the lives of his men, are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.”
“Weeks after the battle,” Peter Collier writes in Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, “Stumpf was waiting in a chow line when he overheard a couple of GIs whispering that he was being recommended for the CMH. It really confused him, since in basic training a drill sergeant had told Stumpf’s group of recruits that if they fell on a grenade and saved their comrades, they’d get a CMH — ‘Casket with a Metal Handle.’ Standing in line waiting for his meal, Stumpf couldn’t figure out why he was being recommended for a casket with a metal handle. He soon discovered, though, that it was the Medal of Honor he was being recommended for. It was awarded to him by President Lyndon Johnson on Sept. 19, 1968.”
Keep up with Freedoms Foundation news and events here.