This Day in History: Pascal Poolaw, “warrior in uniform.”
On this day in 1967, a hero engages in an action that would earn him a nomination for the Medal of Honor. Pascal Poolaw never received that honor, but some view this situation as an oversight that still needs to be rectified.
What do you think? Should Congress intervene and authorize the Medal?
“In keeping with his heritage, he was a warrior,” one journalist wrote when Poolaw was inducted into the National Indian Hall of Fame. “A full blooded Kiowa Indian, he fought for his country in three wars, from the beaches of Normandy and the plains of Germany to the frozen hills and rice paddies of Korea to the jungles of Vietnam. He served his nation and died leading his men in battle.”
Poolaw nearly avoided his end in Vietnam. He’d retired in 1962, but then he entered the Army again for his sons. One of his older sons, Pascal Jr., had been badly wounded in Vietnam and lost his right leg below the knee. Now, Poolaw’s youngest was about to be sent into combat.
Poolaw knew that he had to go. His service in a combat zone could exempt his younger son, Lindy, because of military policy preventing two members of the same family from serving in combat zones simultaneously.
Unfortunately, Lindy left for Vietnam one day before his father reached his port of departure. Poolaw decided to go anyway.
“I never realized the time would come when all my sons would be serving our country with me,” his widow remembered him saying before he left. “Now the enemy has hurt my baby, and I am determined and must go to help. I am not afraid. I have a feeling I won’t come back alive.”
During his years in the Army, Poolaw had earned more than 40 medals, badges, citations, and combat ribbons, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and the Distinguished Service Cross. His final act of bravery would come near Loc Ninh, Vietnam, on October 7, 1967.
He was then with his unit on a search and destroy mission.
“As the patrol was moving through a rubber plantation, they were subjected to sniper fire,” his Silver Star citation describes. “Within minutes, the area was raked with intensive claymore mine, rocket, small arms and automatic weapons fire from a numerically superior Viet Cong force.”
Poolaw ran to the lead squad, even though it was taking the heaviest enemy fire. He worked to organize his men and establish an effective base of fire. He’d been wounded, but he kept moving, kept exposing himself to enemy fire, kept doing whatever needed to be done to encourage his men and to assist the wounded.
“He was assisting a wounded man to safety when he was mortally wounded by Viet Cong fire,” his citation concludes. “His dynamic leadership and exemplary courage contributed significantly to the successful deployment of the lead squad and undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers.”
Would you believe that Poolaw was then just 30 miles from his son? Lindy would accompany his father’s body home.
“He has followed the trail of the great chiefs,” Poolaw’s widow later said in tribute. “His people hold him in highest esteem. He has given his life for the people and the country he loved so much.”
Enjoyed this post? More Medal of Honor
stories can be found on my website, HERE.
Herman J. Viola, Warriors in Uniform: The Legacy of American Indian Heroism (2008)
Indian Hall of Fame to Pay Final Honor to Soldier (Wichita Falls Record News; Aug. 9, 1980) (p. 5)
Indians in Army Service (Army Digest; Aug. 1968)Indian Mother to Receive Salute for Family Valor (p. 2F)
Kiowa Indian Woman Named 'Mom of the Year' (Times Herald; May 12, 1968) (p. 2)
Logan Ralston, NCO follows in footsteps of his decorated grandfather (US Army; April 24, 2015)
Native Americans in the U.S. Army: Pascal C. Poolaw Sr. (U.S. Army)
Son, 20, of USO’s Mom of Year Dies (Bangor Daily News; Oct. 26, 1968) (p. 13)
#VeteranOfTheDay Army Veteran Pascal Cleatus Poolaw Sr. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website)
Widow Given Hero’s Medals (Lawton Constitution; Feb. 16, 1968) (p. 1)