President Joe Biden on Friday awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Army Colonel Paris Davis, some sixty years after his superior officers recommended him for the nation’s highest honor. However, the Army lost the recommendations twice, and some believe racism may have played a role.
President Biden draped the Metal of Honor around Davis, who was awarded for fighting in Vietnam during a packed event at the White House.
Davis was captain and commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, one of the few Blacks in command.
He was engaged in a continuous pre-dawn raid on a contingent of the North Vietnamese army encamped in the village of Bong Son in Binh Dinh province.
Davis fought in hand-to-hand combat with the North Vietnamese and thwarted the capture of three American soldiers. He also sprinted across open rice paddies to rescue members of his troop. His entire team survived “That world gallantry is not much used these days,”
Biden said. “But I can think of no better word to describe Paris.” Colonel Davis retired in 1985 and faced segregation in Virginia.
He also wondered why he had never heard about the recommendation he received for the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest combat medal, but his team members said his Black skin was a factor in the disappearance of the Medal of Honor recommendation.
Davis had been recommended for the Medal of Honor after the battle in 1965. Nine years later, a second nomination was submitted, but it also was lost.
Army service members said there was no evidence of racism, but former President Bill Clinton said Black men were not recommended for the Medal of Honor in World War II. He then listed several Black men who received the Silver Star but were denied the Medal of Honor often given the Silver Star, a high honor, but not the Medal of Honor.
In 1997, President Clinton presented the Medal of Honor to seven African Americans who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
In 2021, Christopher Miller, then acting defense secretary, ordered an expedited review of Davis’
Several weeks ago, President Biden called Davis, now 83, telling him he would receive the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony.