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Hanapepe native Fujii to get Medal of Honor Tuesday

WASHINGTON — Specialist Five Dennis M. Fujii of Hawai‘i is one of four people who will receive the Medal of Honor on July 5 from President Joseph R. Biden Jr., states a June 27 release from the White House.

“He’s a Vietnam War veteran,” said Edward Kawamura Sr., himself a Vietnam vet with the Veterans Helping Veterans organization. “He’s one of the few veterans of our age to get a medal — not just a medal, the Medal of Honor!”

Joining Fujii, the White House is honoring Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro posthumously. Specialist Five Dwight W. Birdwell and retired Major John J. Duffy — all Vietnam War veterans — will receive the Medal of Honor from Biden.

Fujii, a Hanapepe native, also received the Distinguished Service Cross while fighting North Vietnamese soldiers and coordinating U.S. airstrikes and artillery for two days while defending a South Vietnamese base during Feb. 1971, said The Hawai‘i Herald.

The White House release states that Fujii will receive the Medal of Honor for “acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as crew chief aboard a helicopter ambulance during rescue operations in Laos and the Republic of Vietnam from Feb. 18 through 22, 1971.”

The release from the White House says that during a mission to evacuate seriously wounded Vietnamese military personnel, Fujii’s medevac helicopter took on enemy fire and was forced to crash land. Although injured, he waved off a rescue from another helicopter and remained behind as the only American on the battlefield.

During that night and the following day, Fujii, although wounded, administered first aid to allied casualties.

On the night of Feb. 19, he called in American helicopter gunships to assist in repelling an enemy attack. For more than 17 hours, he repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire as he left the security of his entrenchment to better observe enemy troop positions and to direct air strikes against them until an American helicopter could attempt to airlift him from the area.

The Army News Service claims that though wounded and severely fatigued, Fujii’s actions let to the successful defense of the South Vietnamese troops and their encampment.

After a helicopter was finally able to airlift him from the battle, enemy rounds pierced its hull, forcing it to crash land at a friendly cam,p where Fujii would spend another two days before being evacuated.

Fujii, on completion of his tour, joined the Army Reserve, and lives in Hawai‘i today. In 2005, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Museum’s gallery of heroes that honors Hawai‘i residents who have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Medal of Honor.

Kaneshiro, in news reports in The Hawai‘i Herald, was 38 years old when he saved his platoon from a Viet Cong ambush in December 1966. When he was awarded the Silver Star, his citation read he single-handedly cleared a trench line and bunkers.

He was killed in action three months later and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross that ranks just below the Medal of Honor, posthumously. The Distinguished Service Cross, according to The Hawai‘i Herald, is for deeds of “extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor.” He will be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously Tuesday.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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