Michael Dominic PaonessaPrivate First Class
D TRP, 3RD SQD, 5TH CAV RGT, 9 INF DIV
Army of the United States
05 February 1947 - 19 October 1968
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The database page for Michael Dominic Paonessa
Michael Paonessa was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, for "extraordinary heroism in action".
Notes from The Virtual WallOn 18 Oct 1968 the "Doughboys" of D Troop, 3/5 Cavalry, conducted an air assault in Dinh Tuong Province. As the infantrymen moved toward a tree line they came under enemy fire, wounding SP4 Ronald M. Delph. Although two others exposed themselves to pull Delph to safety, Delph was hit again and killed and the unit's radio operator was hit in the chest. As medic PFC Wayne J. Benes was working on the RTO he was hit and mortally wounded.
A D Troop UH-1D (tail number 66-16480) came into the hot area to pick up the wounded infantrymen. The UH-1 made a successful pick up but was hit and brought down by small arms and RPG fire while lifting out of the zone. PFC Paonessa, who was aboard as a radio liaison with the ground troops, was trapped beneath the downed aircraft and inundated with JP-4 jet fuel. Although brute force (reportedly by 20 men) lifted the helicopter enough to remove Paonessa and he was medevaced to a base hospital, he had inhaled enough of the JP-4 to cause fatal damage to his lungs and he died of his injuries the next day, 19 October 1968.
In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, PFC Paonessa reportedly was the recipient of two other awards for unusual valor, the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009