A Black Soldier’s Heroism, Overlooked in 1965, May Finally Be Lauded in 2021

Captain Davis and his company of local volunteers took refuge on a small hill, and spent the next 10 hours holding off waves of attackers, some getting close enough that he killed one with the butt of his M-16. When American fighter jets bombed the enemy’s positions, instead of taking cover, Captain Davis used the distraction to sprint out and rescue his wounded teammates, the after-action reports show. First he brought in the weapons specialist. Then he ran to get the master sergeant, but was shot through the leg and had to retreat. During the next bomb strike, he limped back out across the rice field and grabbed the sergeant. A bullet clipped Captain Davis’s arm this time, but he hoisted the sergeant over his shoulder and carried him back to safety. Reinforcements arrived and found Captain Davis wounded and covered in blood. The major in command ordered him to evacuate, but he refused, saying he still needed to rescue his medic. Under the cover of friendly fire, he lurched again into the open, grabbed the wounded medic and started crawling back. “Am I going to die?” he recalled the medic mumbling to him. His reply: “Not before me.” All four of the Special Forces soldiers made it out alive that day. Master Sergeant Waugh went on to a storied 40-year career as a C.I.A. agent. Now 91, Mr. Waugh declined to be interviewed for this article, saying his memory was failing. In a summary of the battle he wrote in 2016, Mr. Waugh wrote about his former commander, “I only have to close my eyes to vividly recall the gallantry.” Knowing that Captain Davis’s heroism easily cleared the bar for the Medal of Honor, his commander, Maj. Billy J. Cole, immediately submitted his name. “He has showed as much cold courage as any human I’ve ever heard of,” Major Cole proudly told the newspaper that covered their home base at Fort Benning, Ga. But nothing happened. The major pushed for an inquiry. In 1969, a hearing determined that no record of the original nomination could be found and directed the Army to resubmit it. The file disappeared again.

A Black Soldier’s Heroism, Overlooked in 1965, May Finally Be Lauded in 2021
Captain Davis and his company of local volunteers took refuge on a small hill, and spent the next 10 hours holding off waves of attackers, some getting close enough that he killed one with the butt of his M-16. When American fighter jets bombed the enemy’s positions, instead of taking cover, Captain Davis used the distraction to sprint out and rescue his wounded teammates, the after-action reports show. First he brought in the weapons specialist. Then he ran to get the master sergeant, but was shot through the leg and had to retreat. During the next bomb strike, he limped back out across the rice field and grabbed the sergeant. A bullet clipped Captain Davis’s arm this time, but he hoisted the sergeant over his shoulder and carried him back to safety. Reinforcements arrived and found Captain Davis wounded and covered in blood. The major in command ordered him to evacuate, but he refused, saying he still needed to rescue his medic. Under the cover of friendly fire, he lurched again into the open, grabbed the wounded medic and started crawling back. “Am I going to die?” he recalled the medic mumbling to him. His reply: “Not before me.” All four of the Special Forces soldiers made it out alive that day. Master Sergeant Waugh went on to a storied 40-year career as a C.I.A. agent. Now 91, Mr. Waugh declined to be interviewed for this article, saying his memory was failing. In a summary of the battle he wrote in 2016, Mr. Waugh wrote about his former commander, “I only have to close my eyes to vividly recall the gallantry.” Knowing that Captain Davis’s heroism easily cleared the bar for the Medal of Honor, his commander, Maj. Billy J. Cole, immediately submitted his name. “He has showed as much cold courage as any human I’ve ever heard of,” Major Cole proudly told the newspaper that covered their home base at Fort Benning, Ga. But nothing happened. The major pushed for an inquiry. In 1969, a hearing determined that no record of the original nomination could be found and directed the Army to resubmit it. The file disappeared again.