Maj. Jim Capers fought valiantly in Vietnam, was severely wounded, and literally became a recruiting poster Marine.
But for more than 40 years, Capers and his supporters have been fighting for an award they believe he was wrongfully denied: The Medal of Honor.
“He was always the last man on the chopper,” former Sgt. Ron Yerman told Marine public affairs in 2010. “I was the second to last man. I’d get aboard and I’d nod. If I didn’t nod, he’d know that all the men weren’t there, and we wouldn’t leave.”
Now Capers’ case is receiving more attention after the publication of the story “The Hero Who Never Was” by former Marine journalist Ethan Rocke in Maxim Magazine. In the story and accompanying video, Rocke gives an excellent account of a Marine who took part in some of the most secretive and dangerous missions of the Vietnam war.
Within minutes, the dog alerted again, and Capers noticed three NVA soldiers just a few feet away. He opened up on full automatic, dropping all three in a single stroke. Capers’ M16 jammed, but Team Broadminded had already initiated its well-rehearsed contact drill, unleashing a barrage of grenades and bullets as the enemy platoon scrambled. Capers, struggling to unjam his rifle, saw two more NVA soldiers emerge, full tilt in a desperate counterattack. He drew his 9 mm and gunned them down. Then he ordered his men to finish off what remained of the enemy platoon. When the battle was over, at least 20 NVA soldiers lay dead, their corpses obscured beneath a haze of gunpowder and smoke. From the surrounding vegetation, the screams of the wounded rang out.
On the chopper back to Khe Sanh, the team was subdued. “There was no backslapping,” Capers recalls. “For us, death and killing had become business as usual.” They’d be back in the jungle in just a few days.
That was just one story among many. Team Broadminded engaged in numerous combat engagements throughout its time in Vietnam, culminating in the vicious fight that would ultimately earn Capers the Silver Star.
On April 3, 1967 near Phu Lac, a large enemy force ambushed Capers’ nine-man patrol with claymore mines and small arms. They were immediately pinned down, and every member was wounded — including Capers, who took more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel to his abdomen and legs.
“Despite his wounds, Capers directed his team to lay down suppressive fire to gain fire superiority and set up a hasty defense,” reads a Marine Corps news release. “He called for mortar and artillery strikes against the enemy, directed the treatment of the wounded and called for the team’s evacuation, ensuring all his men made it out alive.”