Vietnam Vet Receives Silver Star Over 50 Years After Heroic Actions

Credit: Stars &
Credit: Stars &

Vietnam Vet: More than fifty years after the battle Bart “Doc” Fabian bravely saved the lives of ten of his fellow soldiers, he was awarded the Silver Star.

The Silver Star is the third-highest decoration for combat bravery in the military. This is the second time Fabian has earned the medal. He also has two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts and Army Commendation Medal with Valor all earned during his time serving in the Vietnam War.

This medal was awarded for his actions on April 13, 1969. During an hour long battle with the Viet Cong the medic with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment left the “relative comfort of his armored cavalry assault vehicle” to help injured soldiers. He made several trips to the front of the formation to retrieve wounded soldiers and help them get to safety.

Fabian killed two enemy soldiers with his handgun during the fight and recovered the bodies of several soldiers who died in the battle. In all, six US soldiers from his cavalry troop died in the battle including one who was a close friend of Fabian’s. Fabian is credited with saving the lives of ten other servicemen that day.

Representative Chris Smith presented the medal to Fabian in Smith’s office in Freehold, New Jersey. The Congressman thanked Fabian for his bravery.

The day after the fight, he was promised that he would receive the Silver Star for his actions. That didn’t happen and Fabian did not pursue it.

When Fabian shared the story of that battle with veterans at an event for Medal of Honor recipients, his former troop commander, Harold Fritz, insisted that Fabian attempt to get his Silver Star. Fritz told Fabian that people shouldn’t give their awards away but should share them with everyone. The award shouldn’t be seen as a personal honor but an honor for his team.

Fabian upper left.
Fabian upper left.

Fabian intends to share the award with the twin sister of one of the nineteen US soldiers who died in that battle.

The first Silver Star that Fabian earned was for his bravery during a battle on January 11, 1969. The entire crew of his personnel carrier was wounded when they were ambushed.

Fabian treated and evacuated the injured while in a fully exposed position. Then he took a machine gun and lay down suppressive fire and breaking an enemy assault before it could overrun another group of injured American soldiers.

“It’s about your buddies,” Fabian said. He said that he was just doing his best to try to get everyone home.

Fritz earned his Medal of Honor during that January battle. With only a pistol and a bayonet, he led his troops to repel a second wave of attacking enemy fighters.

Impressively, Fabian earned all of his commendations during a single year serving in Vietnam.

US involvement in Vietnam began in 1955. In 1954, the communist Viet Minh had won a victory over the French-backed Vietnamese government and gained control of the northern part of the country while the democratic government retained control of the southern portion of Vietnam.

The US hardened its policy against communist countries in 1955 and gave its full support to South Vietnam which began cracking down on anyone who sympathized with the north. The Viet Cong began to fight back in 1957. The US built up their troops in South Vietnam to support the democratic government.

A coup in 1963 led to increased instability in South Vietnam and led to Congress approving broad war-making powers to President Lyndon B. Johnson. The war would last until 1975 when the northern forces captured the capital of South Vietnam.

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It is estimated that 2 million Vietnamese died in the conflict. 3 million more are believed to have been wounded and 12 million became refugees. Over 58,000 American men and women were killed or went missing in the war.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE