Stating The Case For A Medal Of Honor

Native son Peter Kama, Kamehameha Schools ’53, Army private to lieutenant colonel, two Vietnam combat tours and one there as a general’s aide, has a new mission in retirement.

He says one of his men was overlooked for the Medal of Honor in 1972, and he’s damn determined to get the fellow’s case before the Army Board of Decoration.


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Retired Maj. John Duffy U.S. ARMY PHOTO

Kama’s been on this since 1982 but never has been able to get before the board.

“I don’t think some clerk along the way — be he even a lieutenant colonel — should be able to say, ‘No, you can’t get this before the board.'”

Late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye did send it up through the chain of command, but someone stiffed it short of the Board of Decoration.

So now he’s asking U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz to send the recommendation straight to the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of Defense.

The would-be awardee is retired Maj. John Duffy, who served under Kama as an adviser to the South Vietnamese 2nd Airborne Brigade.

There are 54 living MOH awardees from that war, but 60 percent of all those medals since World War II have gone to people who died in combat.

Plenty of witnesses, including the late Hawaii Gen. Fred Weyand, have supported the MOH for Duffy — now living in Santa Clara, Calif.

The essential story is this: Duffy did four Vietnam combat tours. On this one he was adviser to the 11th Airborne Battalion at a fire base in Kontum Province. It was attacked by a regiment of North Vietnamese backed by artillery. One shell hit Duffy’s bunker, killing the two men with him and wounding him.

As the base was overrun, Duffy went into the open to direct counterfire, and then called helicopter gun and rocket fire on his own position.

Duffy was the last man to abandon the firebase and stayed with wounded survivors who’d been abandoned by unwounded Vietnamese troopers, and arranged for helicopter evacuations from nearby hiding spots.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, our second-highest medal.

Kama says it should have been the MOH. So he’s gathered the new evidence needed for a new submission.

He says sometimes these things get overlooked. Like with the Medals of Honor that were awarded 50-plus years later to Inouye and some of his 100/442 comrades of WWII.

Kama served in Vietnam in ’62 as an adviser to Vietnamese self-defense forces, in ’66-’67 with the 25th Infantry Division, and 13 months in ’70-‘71 as aide to deputy Vietnam commander Weyand. His final tour was as the Vietnamese airborne adviser in ’72.

I’m always grateful he was there. That year, I was a reporter trapped in Quang Tri City with an airborne unit under attack by artillery and tanks; my water canteen had taken a bullet, and my NBC cameraman had a grenade wound in his neck.

Kama requisitioned an armored personnel carrier and pulled us out under fire.

Thank you, Peter.