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 Specialist Four Michael J. Fitzmaurice, of the 101st Airborne Division, who was guarding the airstrip at Khe Sanh in South Vietnam when it came under attack on March 23, 1971.
Michael J. Fitzmaurice’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. “Sp4c. Fitzmaurice, 3d Platoon, Troop D, distinguished himself at Khe Sanh.
“Sp4c. Fitzmaurice and 3 fellow soldiers were occupying a bunker when a company of North Vietnamese sappers infiltrated the area. At the onset of the attack Sp4c. Fitzmaurice observed 3 explosive charges which had been thrown into the bunker by the enemy. Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he hurled 2 of the charges out of the bunker. He then threw his flak vest and himself over the remaining charge. By this courageous act he absorbed the blast and shielded his fellow-soldiers.
“Although suffering from serious multiple wounds and partial loss of sight, he charged out of the bunker, and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by the blast of an enemy hand grenade.
“While in search of another weapon, Sp4c. Fitzmaurice encountered and overcame an enemy sapper in hand-to-hand combat. Having obtained another weapon, he returned to his original fighting position and inflicted additional casualties on the attacking enemy. Although seriously wounded, Sp4c. Fitzmaurice refused to be medically evacuated, preferring to remain at his post.
“Sp4c. Fitzmaurice’s extraordinary heroism in action at the risk of his life contributed significantly to the successful defense of the position and resulted in saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. These acts of heroism go above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit on Sp4c. Fitzmaurice and the U.S. Army.”
“Besides the loss of sight, Fitzmaurice’s eardrums were shattered and he had shrapnel throughout his body,” Peter Collier writes in Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. “He was hospitalized for the next 13 months. In 1973, out of the service for about two years, he was working in a meatpacking plant when Washington called to inform him that he was to receive the Medal of Honor. He traveled to the White House, where President Richard Nixon awarded him the medal on Oct. 15.”
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