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This Day in History: Allan J. Kellogg's bravery in Vietnam

On this day in 1970, a hero engages in an action that would earn him the Medal of Honor. Allan Kellogg jumped on a grenade to save his fellow Marines. Amazingly, he lived to tell the story.


Kellogg didn’t have to be on the battlefield at all. He’d enlisted in the Marines in 1960, long before U.S. troops went to Vietnam. Indeed, he was reaching the end of his enlistment when American forces finally began going overseas. He could have wrapped up his service and stayed home, but he didn’t want to.


“I was just at the point,” he later explained, “where I was in my life, and my age, and my rank and everything, I had to prove, to see what I really was . . . . are you a real Marine or an imposter?”


By March 11, 1970, he was a staff sergeant leading his platoon in Quang Nam Province.

“I had to be a blocking force for tanks that were sweeping towards us,” he described. “So they wanted me to take my squad, reinforced, go down to certain coordinates, move in, tie in with the river, bring snipers . . . .”

He and his men got stuck in the area for hours, waiting for one of the tanks to complete a repair. Nightfall was coming, and Kellogg was getting antsy. “One thing about Vietnam,” he mused, “you don’t want to be out and around in the area when it’s dark out. . . . once the lights come off, you know, now it’s their area.”


Just then, one of his men tripped over a shell, accidentally detonating it.  Three Marines were wounded. One was killed. A medevac was able to get in and evacuate the wounded, but the helicopter didn’t have room for the others. Kellogg and the rest of his men remained on the ground, protecting the body of the Marine who’d been KIA. The wounded men’s flak jackets and helmets had been left behind.


The extra gear likely saved Kellogg’s life. His small group soon came under fire.


“They were closing in on us,” Kellogg remembered. “They snuck up on me and reached over the dike and dropped a grenade right in my lap.” He remembers that he shouted a warning, working to shove the grenade deep into the mud before throwing himself on top of it.


“You figure you’ve got four to seven seconds to act,” he explained. “See, one thing was I was in a paddy with a lot of mud and water, and you don’t get the full effect of the blast like it it’s on hard ground. I pushed the grenade as far as I could in the mud, and then threw my hands straight out. I figured it’s like I’ll skate off it.  That was my plan.”


He fortunately had one of the wounded men’s flak jackets with him at the time.


The grenade went off, and he lost consciousness.  When he came to, he was lying in the mud, breathing some of it in. He thought he was dying. The wounds to his upper torso were severe.


Amazingly, he managed to pull himself out of the mud—then he kept directing his men.  He did this for hours before he was finally evacuated and treated.


“Am I a hero?” he later mused. “I don’t know. I was there, it happened. Other people can make that determination. I just did it—maybe without thinking.”


His country did, indeed, make its own determination. Kellogg was soon awarded the Medal of Honor. Nevertheless, he remained humble, as so many Medal recipients do. “Trying to save people—that’s all that counts,” he shrugged.


Yet another of our “ordinary” fellow citizens, performing heroically just when they are needed most.




Enjoyed this post? More Medal of Honor

stories can be found on my website, HERE.

Primary Sources:

  • Camp Pendelton Medal of Honor Winner Named (Sun Post News; Oct. 15, 1973) (p. 1)

  • Five Profiles in Courage: Allan Kellogg (Hartford Courant; July 4, 1982) (p. 10)

  • Hero Leaves Shores of Kaneohe (Honolulu Advertiser; Oct. 28, 1990) (p. A3)

  • Kristen Wong, Medal of Honor Recipient Assists Veterans (Hawaii Marine; Oct. 5, 2012) (p. A8)

  • Medal of Honor citation (Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr.; Vietnam)

  • Medal of Honor oral history (Allan Kellogg; Vietnam)

  • Medal of Honor Recipient Speaks at Reception (Hawaii Marine; July 31, 2015) (p. A1)

  • Medal Winners Inspire--40 Years Apart, (Honolulu Star-Advertiser; July 24, 2015) (p. A17)

  • William Cole, Reluctant Hero & the Weight of a Medal (Honolulu Star-Advertiser; July 28, 2011) (p. 1)


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