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This Day in History: Drew Dix's bravery in Vietnam

On this day in 1944, a hero is born. Drew Dennis Dix is currently one of four Medal of Honor recipients to hail from Pueblo, Colorado. The city has been called the “Home of Heroes.” 

 

Dix’s heroism came in Vietnam on January 31, 1968, just as the Tet Offensive was beginning. He was then a Staff Sergeant coordinating intelligence gathering and working as a Special Forces advisor near the Cambodian border.

 

But now the provincial capital of Chau Phu had been overrun by the Viet Cong. Dix was to return to the city, along with his patrol of Vietnamese soldiers and some Navy SEALs. Together, they would assist in the defense of the city and rescue trapped civilians.


The men were in SEAL riverboats as they approached the city. The landing was difficult, “like a little Normandy,” as one of the men would later say, yet it was just the beginning of the long, grueling effort to follow.

 

“Once we got into the city, we could see it was a major offensive,” Dix later explained. “No help was coming, and things were really bad. They were worse than I thought. The city was totally under the control of the VC.”

 

One major concern was an American civilian nurse who’d been volunteering in the area. Dix went in for her, not knowing if she was still alive.

 

“We pulled up to Maggie’s house,” Dix later recounted, “and it didn’t look good because . . . there could have been a thousand bullet holes in [her vehicle].” Dix saw an enemy combatant run out, but a locked gate blocked his access.

 

Going around the back of her house wasn’t an option: The enemy were there. He yelled for Maggie, even as enemy fire flew.

 

Maggie would later describe those moments, too.

 

“It was really, really getting loud,” she described, “and the gunfire, and the shooting, and they had rocketed a hole in my kitchen wall, and one in the back wall, and I could hear Viet Cong outside my bedroom door, shooting. . . . all of a sudden I heard, ‘Maggie? Maggie?’

 

Maggie found Dix at the gate. “I remember at the time saying, ‘well, get the key,’” Dix later said, “and I know how dumb that must have sounded because the building was totally in shambles.”

 

Would you believe the key was right there? “Kind of felt like, things are going to turn out,” Dix concluded of those moments when he pulled Maggie to safety.

 

Dix’s mission was just beginning, though. He spent two days in house-to-house combat, rescuing civilians. His Medal citation would later describe the “heavy mortar and small-arms fire . . . [and] intense automatic rifle and machine-gun fire” that he repeatedly subjected himself to in those hours.

 

Sometimes he worked with others, but on at least one occasion, he made a solo assault on a building to rescue two civilian Filipinos.

 

“We spent our night praying,” one of them later said, “giving thanks to God first—second to Mr. Drew Dix, the smiling brave man of America.”

 

Dix would receive a Medal of Honor for his bravery. “S/Sgt. Dix’s personal heroic actions,” his Medal citation concludes, “resulted in 14 confirmed Viet Cong killed in action and possibly 25 more, the capture of 20 prisoners, 15 weapons, and the rescue of the 14 United States and free-world civilians.”

 

Naturally, Dix was humble about what he’d done, as so many Medal recipients are.

 

“Those of us that wear the Medal of Honor know that there are so many other soldiers, airmen, Marines that have done acts that just weren’t recognized because there were no witnesses left,” he said in an interview. “So I am very proud to be able to wear the Medal of Honor for all those that performed deeds far greater than I did.”


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