Three weeks ago, our Valor Friday column highlighted the heroism of Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a Pararescue crew member who sacrificed his life on April 11, 1966, to evacuate wounded soldiers from the Army’s First Infantry Division who were bogged down in a firefight near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam.
When Pitsenbarger, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, had the opportunity to evacuate the combat zone, he decided to stay behind with the men, taking up arms to repel attacks while continuing to care for the wounded.
One of those men he remained behind with was Sgt. James W. Robinson, an Illinois native who was also posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism that day.
As soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division engaged in a fierce fight with a Viet Cong battalion, Sgt. Robinson continued to assert control and inspire his men.
Enemy snipers positioned in nearby trees were wreaking havoc on Robinson’s men, inflicting heavy casualties, when the sergeant took it upon himself to locate the sniper doing the most damage and destroy him using a grenade launcher.
Sgt. Robinson then witnessed a medic who was tending to a wounded soldier get hit by enemy fire. Without hesitation, Robinson charged toward the two men through a hailstorm of enemy rounds and dragged the two to safety, quickly rendering medical care and saving the lives of both men.
Robinson continued to move along his line of soldiers, taking ammunition from wounded and redistributing it to those still in the fight.
When he noticed another wounded soldier exposed beyond cover, Robinson again abandoned his position to retrieve the man. As he dragged the man to safety, he was hit in the leg and shoulder. Ignoring his own wounds, he provided vital medical aide to the wounded soldier, saving his life.
Finally treating his own wounds, Robinson spotted an enemy machine gun that had been battering the Americans.
Completely out of ammunition, the sergeant grabbed two grenades and charged toward the enemy machine gun nest.
A tracer round struck his leg as he charged, causing his clothing to set fire, but Robinson couldn’t be stopped. He tore the burning rags from his body and continued his assault.
Enemy fire concentrated on him as he drew closer to the gun, resulting in Robinson being hit twice in the chest.
With his last strength and the machine gun in range, he hurled the two grenades on the gun’s position, destroying it before he fell dead. Robinson was 25 years old.
Sgt. Robinson originally enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1959, serving until 1961. When he was discharged, he went on to work in Northern Virginia, until the outbreak of the Vietnam War, when he again took up arms for his country.
In 1971, Robinson Secondary School in Virginia’s Fairfax County was named in his honor. Robinson’s Medal of Honor was kept in a display case in the school to inspire all who came across it.