Veterans Voice: Joe Hooper

Medal of Honor winner Joe Hooper was born in South Carolina. He served 4 years in the United States Navy after which he joined the U.S. Army. He did two tours of duty in Vietnam where he was wounded a total of 8 times.

During his Navy career he served on the USS Wasp and the USS Hancock. He saw duty in Okinawa and Japan.

Joe entered the U.S. Army in 1960 at Fort Ord in California. He subsequently attended Airborne School at Fort Benning, GA. He was then assigned to Company c, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 325th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC.

His first Army tour of duty was in Korea during which time he was promoted to Sergeant and made a Squad Leader. Upon completion of that tour of duty he was assigned to Company D, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. He volunteered for Vietnam, but was sent to Panama. John became involved in a few “incidents” which led to several A15 hearings and was reduced to Corporal.

He regained the rank of Staff Sergeant and went to Vietnam with Delta Company (Delta Raiders), 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 501st Airborne Infantry. This was the first of two tours of duty in Vietnam. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Hue on February 21st, 1968.

As squad leader, John led D Company on an assault of a heavily fortified emplacement of North Vietnamese Regulars. The enemy’s position was along a river bank on the opposite side of a small river. 

Company D came under intense fire from enemy rockets, machine guns and automatic weapons. Initially pinned down, John led a daring river crossing to engage the enemy. Seeing his actions, the remainder of Company D followed. Hooper personally destroyed several enemy bunkers. He spotted a wounded member of Company D and pulled him to safety, being wounded in the process.

Hooper refused medical attention and returned to his men. He single-handedly stormed and destroyed three more enemy bunkers. He was attacked at close quarters by an enemy officer, and dispatched him with his bayonet.

He went on to destroy several enemy buildings. He was wounded a total of 8 times in the battle, refusing medical attention each time. Even with these wounds he grabbed a load of grenades, ran down a small trench in front of a line of enemy bunkers and destroyed each one. He found another wounded American and carried him to safety. 

He then went on to destroy 2 more bunkers, then finding a small pocket of resistance, he killed 3 more enemy officers. He was credited with personally killing 115 enemy troops. Despite 8 wounds and blood loss, he waited until the next day for air evacuation. 

It is for these actions that he earned the Medal of Honor and was one of the most decorated soldiers during the Vietnam War.

Hooper did another tour of duty in Vietnam, serving as a platoon Sergeant with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Infantry. He served with distinction in this tour as well.

Here is a partial list of John’s medals:

Congressional Medal of Honor

Silver Star w/ 1 bronze oak leaf cluster

Bronze Star w/ silver oak leaf cluster

Purple Heart w/ 2 silver and 2 bronze oak leaf clusters

Combat Infantry Badge

Air Medal with 4 bronze oak leaf clusters

Army Commendation Medal w/ 1 bronze cluster

Several other medals

Mustered out of the Army, John joined the Army Reserves and was promoted to Captain, and completed his military career.

After the military John became extremely upset and despondent over the treatment of returning G.I.’s from Vietnam and began drinking heavily. Sadly, he passed away at age 40.



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