Edgar Lee McWethy, Jr

Specialist Five
Army of the United States
22 November 1944 - 21 June 1967
Leadville, Colorado
Panel 22E Line 032


Medal of Honor

Combat Medic

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Edgar Lee McWethy, Jr

29 May 2005

Medal of Honor

Remembered by a friend,
J. H. Moyer

The President of the United States
in the name of the Congress of the United States
takes pride in presenting the


posthumously to

Specialist 5
United States Army

for service as set forth in the following


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Serving as a medical aidman with Company B, Sp5c. McWethy accompanied his platoon to the site of a downed helicopter. Shortly after the platoon established a defensive perimeter around the aircraft, a large enemy force attacked the position from 3 sides with a heavy volume of automatic weapons fire and grenades. The platoon leader and his radio operator were wounded almost immediately, and Sp5c. McWethy rushed across the fire-swept area to their assistance. Although he could not help the mortally wounded radio operator, Sp5c. McWethy's timely first aid enabled the platoon leader to retain command during this critical period. Hearing a call for aid, Sp5c. McWethy started across the open toward the injured men, but was wounded in the head and knocked to the ground. He regained his feet and continued on but was hit again, this time in the leg. Struggling onward despite his wounds, he gained the side of his comrades and treated their injuries. Observing another fallen rifleman Lying in an exposed position raked by enemy fire, Sp5c. McWethy moved toward him without hesitation. Although the enemy fire wounded him a third time, Sp5c. McWethy reached his fallen companion. Though weakened and in extreme pain, Sp5c. McWethy gave the wounded man artificial respiration but suffered a fourth and fatal wound. Through his indomitable courage, complete disregard for his safety, and demonstrated concern for his fellow soldiers, Sp5c. McWethy inspired the members of his platoon and contributed in great measure to their successful defense of the position and the ultimate rout of the enemy force. Sp5c. McWethy's profound sense of duty, bravery, and his willingness to accept extraordinary risks in order to help the men of his unit are characteristic of the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

A Note from The Virtual Wall

An engagement on 21 June 1967 was extremely unusual in that it resulted in not one but two Medals of Honor.

On that date a platoon from Bravo Company, 1/5th Cavalry, was ordered to secure a downed helicopter. The platoon, commanded by 2LT William P. Wagner, established a defensive perimeter around the aircraft, but shortly thereafter the position was attacked by a large enemy force assaulting from three sides.

Although the platoon survived the attack, a third of its men were dead and most of the others wounded. The dead were

  • 2LT William P. Wagner, Longview, WA
  • SSG Morris D. Gagnon, North Leeds, ME
  • SGT Thomas A. Johnson, Athens, AL
  • SP5 Edgar L. McWethy, Leadville, CO (Medal of Honor)
  • SP4 Carmel B. Harvey, Chicago, IL (Medal of Honor)
  • PFC Frank J. Costantini, Sepulveda, CA
  • PFC Robert J. Dougherty, Hammonton, NJ
  • PFC Wellington M. Johnson, New Orleans, LA
  • PFC Gary L. Kenaga, Wichita, KS
  • PFC Richard G. Osborne, Hanford, CA

Army honors Vietnam hero posthumously
by Pfc. Bryan D. Kinkade

FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, June 28, 2002) - A Vietnam medic that provided life-saving attention to his comrades, in spite of his own wounds, was provided a full-honor military funeral ceremony last weekend, 35 years after his death.

Edgar L. McWethy Jr. was assigned to Company B, 1st/5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, as a specialist fifth class. In the Binh Dinh Province of Vietnam on June 21, 1967, McWethy was shot four times, including once in the head. But he continued to provide medical attention to other fallen comrades.

McWethy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Then he was buried near his home in Baxter Springs, Kansas, with a simple ceremony and a nondescript marker. In the small rural Kansas cemetery, McWethy's grave marker was inlaid at ground level and indistinguishable from others.

On the 35th anniversary of his death, the grave marker was replaced with a headstone indicating his Medal-of-Honor status.

David Gilbreath, a Vietnam veteran and the head of the local chapter of the Northeast Oklahoma Veteran's Association, raised over $20,000 in donations for a new tombstone for McWethy.

"Specialist McWethy is one of our community's greatest heroes. He has buildings named after him here in Kansas and on numerous Army posts, so it just didn't seem right that his grave stone should be so ordinary," said Gilbreath.

Buildings named in remembrance of McWethy include two medical treatment facilities on Fort Carson, Colo.; one medical treatment facility on Fort Hood; a barracks at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; and several government buildings in the state of Kansas.

In contrast to the memorial service given in his honor 35 years ago, soldiers from three states provided full honors for the fallen Cavalry trooper last weekend.

The 1st Cavalry Honor Guard from Fort Hood and the Northeast Oklahoma Veterans' Funeral Detail both assisted in providing a 21-gun salute, taps, the raising and lowering of the flag. The Kansas Air National Guard conducted a fly-over with a UH-60 Black Hawk.

Having the military pay tribute to their lost family member was an honor for the McWethy's, they said.

"I'm proud of my son," said Edgar L. McWethy Sr. "But I would be happier if he was alive."

Visit John Dennison's
Medics on the Wall
memorial which honors the
Army Medics and Navy Corpsmen who died in Vietnam.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 08/10/2009