COL Robert L. Howard 1939 – 2009
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This page is dedicated to Robert L. Howard, one of America’s most decorated soldiers. He served five tours in Vietnam and is the only soldier in our nation’s history to be nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions within a thirteen month period. The first nomination was downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. The second nomination was downgraded to the Silver Star. The third nomination was downgraded to a 2nd Distinguished Service Cross but later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
He received a direct appointment from Master Sergeant to 1st Lieutenant in 1969, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1971. His other awards for valor include the Distinguished Service Cross – our nation’s second highest award, the Silver Star – the third highest award, and numerous lesser decorations including eight Purple Hearts. He received his decorations for valor for actions while serving as an NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer).
Robert L. Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 at age seventeen. He retired as a full Colonel in 1992 after 36 years service. During Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and spent most of his five tours in the super-secret MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group) also known as Special Operations Group, which ran classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. These men carried out some of the most daring and dangerous missions ever conducted by the U.S. military. The understrength sixty-man recon company at Kontum in which he served was the Vietnam War’s most highly decorated unit of its size with five Medals of Honor. It was for his actions while serving on a mission to rescue a fellow soldier in Cambodia, that he was submitted for the Medal of Honor the third time for his extraordinary heroism.
Robert L. Howard is said to be our nation’s most decorated soldier from the Vietnam War. He was the last Vietnam Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient still on active duty when he retired on Sept. 29, 1992. His story is told in John Plaster’s excellent book, SOG The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam.
It is important for future generations that we remember our military heroes and the great sacrifices they have made for us in the name of Freedom.
Excerpt from John Plaster’s recent book SECRET COMMANDOS Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG - pg. 303:
“The day that President Nixon draped the Medal of Honor’s pale blue ribbon around Howard’s neck, I sat before the TV in my parents’ living room watching the evening news. Coming on top of his previous decorations – the Distinguished Service Cross and multiple Silver and Bronze Stars, plus eight Purple Hearts – Howard’s combat awards exceeded those of Audie Murphy, America’s legendary World War II hero, until then our most highly decorated serviceman. At last, Howard would get his due. I flipped station to station, but not one of the networks – not CBS or NBC or ABC – could find ten seconds to mention Captain Robert Howard or his indomitable courage. I found nothing about him in the newspapers. Twisted by the antiwar politics of that era, many in the media believed that to recognize a heroic act was to glorify war. They simply chose not to cover the ceremony. It might as well not have happened.”
DOUBLE AWARDS: The act of July 9, 1918 was further clarified in September, then again in February 1919, to stipulate that no person could receive more than ONE Medal of Honor. Previously there had been 19 DOUBLE AWARDS of the Medal, but hereafter, while there were provisions for second and consecutive awards of lesser medals to be made and noted with appropriate ribbon devices, no more than ONE Medal of Honor could be awarded. Source: CMOHS Website