Drew Dennis Dix Was Awarded The Medal Of Honor For Incredible Heroism In Vietnam

When Drew Dix deployed to Vietnam in 1968 as a military “advisor” to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), it became abundantly clear that Dix was not the “advising” type. Up against two battalions of Viet Cong, the defense of the provincial capital city of Chau Phu melted away. The result was pockets of civilians, advisors, and soldiers trapped by the fighting throughout the city. Rather than advise the ARVN troops on what to do, Staff Sergeant Dix decided to show them instead.

On his own volition, he personally led three expeditions into the fire swept city resulting in the rescue of nearly a dozen civilian military employees.  Still not done, the next day on his own accord he took a 20 man contingent to clear additional buildings.  This time assaulting buildings by himself, his actions resulted in the capture of 20 enemy soldiers and personally saved the Deputy Province Chief’s wife and children.  For his actions at Chau Phu, Drew Dix would be awarded the Medal of Honor and the eternal gratitude of the civilians he rescued.

Born to Fight

Drew Dennis Dix was born on December 14, 1944, in West Point, New York and grew up in Colorado. From an early age, he knew he wanted to serve his nation and hoped to make his way into the special forces. He enlisted in the US Army at age 18, spending three years with the 82nd Airborne Division. At the age of 21, he was accepted into the 5th Special Forces Group.  

In 1965, Dix had his first taste of action during Operation Power Pack – the US military intervention in the Dominican Republic Civil War. His experience there was limited but prepared him for what awaited him in Vietnam. By 1968 Dix was a Staff Sergeant, assigned as a special military advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He was based in Chau Phu near the Cambodian Border just as the Viet Cong were getting ready to launch their famed Tet Offensive.

Drew Dennis Dix
Drew Dennis Dix

From Advising to Fighting

On January 31, 1968, Chau Phu City was the target for over two battalions of experienced and well-armed Viet Cong soldiers. The speed and violence of the attack broke the defenses of the city resulting in some sectors being controlled entirely by the Viet Cong. Unfortunately, various groups of civilians working with the US military were trapped and cut off from the American forces. Dix, despite the risk to his own life, went into action.

When he learned a nurse was trapped in a building near the city center, he organized and led a force to rescue her successfully. He was then informed of another group of 8 civilian employees isolated in the city. They were being subjected to heavy small arms and mortar fire making a rescue perilous. Dix assaulted the building killing six Viet Cong and rescuing 2 Filipinos inspiring the ARVN soldiers to attack the Viet Cong.

American soldiers during urban combat in Vietnam. manhhai – CC-BY 2.0
American soldiers during urban combat in Vietnam. manhhai – CC-BY 2.0

The next day he continued to lead from the front. Putting together a 20 man unit, he guided them through the fire-swept city avoiding intense enemy fire. He successfully led them in clearing multiple buildings in Chau Phu resulting in the capture of over 20 prisoners including a high ranking official.

A Rightful Honor

He then attacked the Deputy Province Chief’s residence which had been overrun by enemy soldiers rescuing the Chief’s wife and children. Dix’s gallantry and heroic actions resulted in 14 confirmed Viet Cong killed and possibly more, the capture of 20 prisoners and 15 weapons, and the rescue of 14 civilian employees.

Staff Sergeant Drew Dix was awarded the nation’s highest military honor when he received the Medal of Honor in 1969 from President Johnson. His Medal of Honor citation reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. SSG. Dix distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while serving as a unit adviser. Two heavily armed Viet Cong battalions attacked the Province capital city of Chau Phu resulting in the complete breakdown and fragmentation of the defenses of the city. SSG. Dix, with a patrol of Vietnamese soldiers, was recalled to assist in the defense of Chau Phu. Learning that a nurse was trapped in a house near the center of the city, SSG. Dix organized a relief force, successfully rescued the nurse, and returned her to the safety of the Tactical Operations Center. Being informed of other trapped civilians within the city, SSG. Dix voluntarily led another force to rescue eight civilian employees located in a building which was under heavy mortar and small-arms fire. SSG. Dix then returned to the center of the city. Upon approaching a building, he was subjected to intense automatic rifle and machinegun fire from an unknown number of Viet Cong. He personally assaulted the building, killing six Viet Cong, and rescuing two Filipinos. The following day SSG. Dix, still on his own volition, assembled a 20-man force and though under intense enemy fire cleared the Viet Cong out of the hotel, theater, and other adjacent buildings within the city. During this portion of the attack, Army Republic of Vietnam soldiers inspired by the heroism and success of SSG. Dix, rallied and commenced firing upon the Viet Cong. SSG. Dix captured 20 prisoners, including a high ranking Viet Cong official. He then attacked enemy troops who had entered the residence of the Deputy Province Chief and was successful in rescuing the official’s wife and children. SSG. Dix’s personal heroic actions resulted in 14 confirmed Viet Cong killed in action and possibly 25 more, the capture of 20 prisoners, 15 weapons, and the rescue of the 14 United States and free world civilians. The heroism of SSG. Dix was in the highest tradition and reflects great credit upon the U.S. Army.”

He later received a commission as a First Lieutenant and retired as a Major after 20 years of service. He currently lives in Alaska.

Jeff Edwards

Jeff Edwards is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE