MoH Monday: SFC Bennie Gene Adkins

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Bennie Gene Adkins medal of honor

Bennie Gene Adkins was a soldier in the U.S. Army, who received the Medal of Honor for his action in the Vietnam War. He was serving as Sergeant First Class at the time of his Medal of Honor action, which took place in 1966.

SFC Bennie Gene Adkins Background  

Adkins was a native of Waurika, Oklahoma. After entering the military in 1956, he PCS’d to a garrison unit in Germany. Then, he later went on to serve with the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. There, he attended Airborne School and volunteered for Special Forces in 1961. Adkins served with the 7th, 3rd, 6th, and 5th Special Forces Groups (Airborne) for over 13 years and deployed to Vietnam three times between 1963 and 1971.

During his second tour in Vietnam, he earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions with Detachment A-102 in April 1967. Following his service in Vietnam, Adkins attended the Sergeant Major Academy and returned to the Special Forces at Fort Bragg before leading training at the Jungle Operations Training Center at Fort Sherman.

After retiring from the Army in 1978, Adkins earned several degrees and taught at Southern Union Junior College and Auburn University. In 2014, President Barack Obama presented Adkins with the Medal of Honor in recognition for his actions during a 1966 battle in Vietnam. It was during this battle he saved numerous American lives while under constant enemy fire.

Adkins passed away from complications of COVID-19 on April 17, 2020, at the age of 86. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Bennie Gene Adkins press conference
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Gene Adkins participating in a press conference just after receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House, Sept. 15, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller/Released)

Medal of Honor Action

In March of 1966, the U.S. military fought the Battle of A Sầu Valley against the People’s Army of Vietnam. The U.S. and its allies had set up a camp for Special Forces in the region, about 30 miles from the Laos boarder. The North Vietnam forces needed to destroy the camp to gain clear passage to Laos and Cambodia, where they could obtain weapons and additional manpower. On March 9, the People’s Army of Vietnam invaded the site.

Numerous Special Forces units had already been stationed there as a defense. When the siege began, the American troops were ready for battle. The fog was dense, keeping the U.S. from conducting effective airstrikes, and the People’s Army advanced. Enemy forces used mortar bombardments to destroy the American communications systems, which made calling for reinforcements nearly impossible. Eventually, an AC-47D aircraft arrived, firing on the enemy forces. However, it soon crashed.

Adkins had been firing at the enemy from a trench on the outskirts of camp when he heard an explosion. Acting fast, he raced across the campsite, taking on enemy fire but pressing on nevertheless. He pushed to rescue as many as he could. Reaching them, he carried the injured soldiers to the dispensary, dodging bullets all the while.

Soon after, members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group, who had been fighting on the side of the Americans, defected and began to fire on Adkins and his team. He quickly moved the wounded soldiers out of the camp to a secure location so they could evacuate. Adkins ran back into the camp numerous times to retrieve more ammunition. While inside, he fully engaged the enemy snipers. He alone killed between 150 and 175 insurgents in the battle and rescued several injured soldiers.

Valor award

Bennie Gene Adkins lived a remarkable life of service and dedication to his country. He served with distinction in the U.S. Army for more than two decades, including three tours of duty in Vietnam as a member of the Special Forces. His heroism and bravery in combat earned him numerous commendations, including the Distinguished Service Cross.

In 2014, he was presented with the Medal of Honor during a special ceremony at the White House. Adkins continued to make a positive impact on his community even after leaving the military, through his work as an accountant and as a teacher at local colleges.