Marine Hero's Mother To Accept Navy Cross
NORFOLK - The nation's second highest decoration, awarded posthumously to a Marine who used his body as a decoy to draw fire from his comrades, will be presented to his mother Wednesday morning.
Mrs. Mary Perkins of 570 West Ocean View Ave. Will receive the Navy Cross presented to her son Pfc. Michael E. Hopkins, who was killed in action in South Vietnam on July 4, 1966.
Hopkins was an automatic rifleman in Company "K" of the 9th Marine Regiment. He died attempting to shield two fallen comrades by drawing Vietcong fire upon himself.
The company was on a search and destroy mission that started early that morning moving from the southeast towards Thu Bon. At about 12:30 pm the troops stopped to eat chow and sat around discussing the heat and humidity as it was about 110 degrees that day. Because it was the 4th of July they talked about what they would be doing if they were home such as family cookouts and firecrackers.
At about 1:20 pm they picked up and began moving again. Radio reports had stated that there were no Vietcong in the area which proved to be quite the contrary. The transition to battle was sudden and violent. As they neared an abandoned airfield they were ambushed by two VC battalions and encountered heavy enemy fire from small arms, machine guns and 57mm recoilless rifles from a numerically superior Vietcong force, the citation says.
A 57mm shell fired into the Marine columns hitting one of their tracked landing vehicles. The rest of the ambush party opened up with mortars, machine guns and small arms.
The initial burst killed the crew chief of the track vehicle and two other Marines had been wounded. Pfc. Hopkins immediately ran through the hail of gunfire to aid the injured crew the citation stated.
After he had helped remove the injured men Hopkins and three other Marines were sent forward to give covering fire while the injured men were taken to the rear.
As ammunition got low, Hopkins dashed across open ground to a supply point, picked up ammunition and dashed back. He did this six times, through constant heavy fire.
On the sixth trip his squad leader was wounded and Hopkins again exposed himself to the murderous fire to give first aid. He was engaged in this when he noticed a corpsman attempting to reach him. He immediately jumped up to deliver covering fire, permitting the corpsman to reach the wounded Marine.
Seconds after the corpsman reached the location an enemy rifle grenade exploded nearby killing the squad leader and wounding the corpsman.
"Realizing that the enemy fire was too intense for anyone to come to their aid, Pfc. Hopkins, in a final valiant act of complete self-sacrifice, deliberately exposed himself in an effort to direct attention away from the wounded, absorbing with his own body the full force of the deadly enemy fire.
Through his extraordinary loyalty and initiative in the face of almost certain death, he saved his comrades from further injury and possible loss of life, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service." the citation says.
Hopkins was ordered to active duty in February 1963 for basic training at Parris Island S.C. He was shipped to Vietnam in November 1963.
His first tour was with the Navy Task Force 77, operating off the coast of Vietnam. He returned to the United States in December 1964.
In July 1965 he joined "K" Company of the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, in Vietnam and a year later gave his life in the action which earned him the Navy Cross.
The medal is second only to the Medal of Honor. "He gallantly gave his life for his country." the citation says.
From a contemporary Norfolk newspaper.
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