The Real Forrest Gump: Vietnam War veteran and war hero, Sergeant Sammy Davis

Sergeant Sammy L. Davis is a US Army veteran of the Vietnam War and has been awarded the Medal of Honor, the US Army’s highest honour.

Sammy was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio and joined the US Army in 1966. He undertook training and joined the 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery Regiment, 9th Infantry Division and was shipped off to Vietnam.

In 1967 Sammy’s unit was just south west of Saigon when they came under attack from the North Vietnamese. Sammy provided cover fire for his battalion so that they could launch a counter attack.

The North Vietnamese were only 25 metres away, but Sammy fired many shells from the battalion’s burning  howitzer and even though he couldn’t swim he managed to get across a river to help save three injured fellow soldiers. Once he got across he manned another howitzer and carried on fighting off the North Vietnamese until they fled.


After that attack, Sammy was given a promotion to sergeant and he received his Medal of Honor. Sammy remained in the armed forces for almost 20 years, but in 1984 he had to retire due to his injuries. It was Sammy’s Medal of Honor award ceremony that featured in the Hollywood movie, Forrest Gump. Lead actor Tom Hanks was superimposed into the ceremony to make it look like it was Forrest Gump’s own ceremony.

The Vietnam War was part of the Cold War and took place between 1955 and 1975. The war was between North Vietnam, which was supported by the communist Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam, which was supported by the liberal democratic United States and other allies. The Viet Cong fought guerrilla warfare, whilst the North Vietnamese Army engaged in more conventional war tactics, the Hawaii Reporter reports.

The Viet Cong contingent gradually decreased, while the North Vietnamese Army grew in numbers and support. The US and South Vietnamese troops relied heavily on air bombing attacks on the enemy.

The US saw Vietnam as a key foothold in the Asian region and wanted to prevent the spread of communism. Meanwhile the North Vietnamese wanted to reunify Vietnam under communist rule, and the original battle had been with the French who remained in the country as part of its colonial heritage.

Ian Harvey

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