During his 51-day tour in Vietnam, Clarence Sasser served as a combat medic. On January 10th, 1968, when a U.S. helicopter was hit and crashed, he picked up a wounded GI and dragged him to cover. Rushing back to aid more wounded, Sasser was hit in both legs and knocked down. Although faint and in agonizing pain, he continued to treat the wounded. He was given the Medal of Honor for his efforts.
Entry into the Military
Military Professional. Born Clarence Eugene Sasser in Chenango, Texas, on September 12th, 1947. Sasser was drafted into the United States Army in 1967 after giving up his college deferment. By the fall of 1967, Sasser was in Vietnam with the Army's 9th Infantry Division.
When he was drafted, he assumed that he would be just another GI, but a battery of tests indicated that he should be trained as a medical aidman. During his 51-day tour in Vietnam, Sasser served as a combat medic. He didn't experience a heavy firefight until January 10th, 1968.
Courage Under Fire
Early that morning, his company was flown out toward the Mekong Delta to check out reports of enemy forces in the area. When the dozen helicopters carrying the undermanned company swooped down onto a large rice paddy near where the Vietcong had already been sighted, the landing zone erupted with gun and rocket fire. The lead helicopter was hit and crashed, so the others immediately followed to protect it.
The American soldiers tried to get out of the helicopters as quickly as possible and head for the cover of leevees. In the first few minutes of the engagement, more than 30 men went down. When Sasser scrambled out of his helicopter, he slithered through the muck to get from soldier to soldier and avoid the volleys of gunfire.
As he picked up a wounded GI and dragged him to cover against the embankment of a dike, Sasser was hit by shrapnel from an exploding rocket. He pulled it out himself, waiving off help from medics from the other platoons. Rushing back to the rice paddy to aid more wounded, he was hit in both legs by machine-gun fire and knocked down. He used his arms to pull himself through the mud to help a wounded soldier calling out from a hundred yards away. Although faint from blood loss and in agonizing pain, Sasser continued to treat the wounded.
Close by, he saw a group of GIs huddled together, disoriented by the heavy fire; he managed to talk them into action, getting them to crawl toward the protection of a dike where they could begin to fire back at the enemy. "I felt that if I could get the guys up and fighting," he said later, "we might all get out of there somehow." The area was finally sufficiently pacified for U.S. helicopters to arrange an evacuation. American troops suffered 34 dead and 59 wounded.
Medal of Honor
It took several months of rehabilitation in Japan before Sasser could use his legs again. While recovering, he was called into the hospital commander's office and told that he was to receive the Medal of Honor. It was presented to him by President Richard Nixon at the White House on March 7th, 1969.
When his military commitment was finished, he returned to college as a chemistry student. He then worked at an oil refinery for more than five years before working at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
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