History Wars Vietnam War

MoH Monday: SFC Eugene Ashley, Jr.

Sgt First Class Eugene Ashley, Jr.'s remarkable actions during the Vietnam War earned him the esteemed Medal of Honor.
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Photo of Eugene Ashley Jr with an American flag background

Immerse yourself in the incredible saga of Sergeant First Class Eugene Ashley, Jr., a beacon of valor and heroism in the annals of the U.S. Army. His remarkable actions during the Vietnam War earned him the esteemed Medal of Honor.

A soldier’s journey

Eugene Ashley, Jr., a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, was born on October 12, 1930. He had a destined path as a service member. Growing up in the vibrant streets of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, he responded to the call of duty like many others before him. In 1950, when the U.S. got involved in the Korean War and started enlisting troops, Ashley joined the army. Before he turned 21, he was deployed to the Korean peninsula. Bravely serving his country, he returned to New York by 1953.

But his journey as a service member was far from over. In fact, Ashley continued his service and achieved the rank of Sergeant First Class. He joined Company C, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. As America entered the war in Vietnam, Ashley once again deployed to Asia and actively participated in the actions that led to him receiving a Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, it was in this endeavor that he lost his life.

Valor in Vietnam

The setting was early February 1968 in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. The People’s Army of Vietnam had successfully overtaken an outpost held by the Laotian government, a U.S. ally. As the desperate pleas for reinforcements echoed, Ashley, along with his troops, marched forth for a daring rescue operation.

With a tenacious spirit, Ashley initiated the assault, raining mortar rounds on the enemy. The relentless adversary countered, but Ashley was undeterred. He orchestrated air support and additional artillery, even as the communication lines were severed by enemy grenades.

Ignoring the danger, Ashley courageously led a small group of soldiers on a counter-assault, launching a series of five audacious strikes against the enemy. His leadership and bravery were instrumental in pushing back the enemy, as the awaited air support finally arrived, unleashing a devastating air raid.

Thanks to Ashley’s efforts, the Allied forces regained control of a significant portion of the outpost. But victory came at a hefty price. In the heat of the advance, Ashley was struck by enemy gunfire. Although he fought valiantly even after being wounded, he tragically lost his life on the battlefield, leaving behind a legacy of courage and sacrifice.

Honor and remembrance

On December 2, 1969, Vice President Spiro Agnew paid tribute to Sergeant First Class Ashley in a solemn ceremony at the White House, presenting his posthumous Medal of Honor to his grieving family. Ashley’s bravery also earned him the Purple Heart, further honoring his heroism in Vietnam.

Today, Ashley rests in peace at the Rockfish Memorial Park Cemetery in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His name lives on, a symbol of the bravery and dedication of a true American hero.