Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link Weider History Group RSS feed Weider Subscriptions Historynet Home page

Letter From Vietnam Magazine - October 2007

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: August 01, 2007 
Print Friendly
0 comments FONT +  FONT -

Why have so few Americans ever heard about Billy Walkabout?

The Vietnam War had its heroes, no less than any other American war. The problem with Vietnam is that so few people have ever heard of most of those heroes. Last March, one of the most decorated soldiers of the war died, and almost nobody had ever heard of him. Billy Walkabout was not only a great American hero, he was also a Native American hero, reportedly the most decorated American Indian of the Vietnam War and one of the most decorated ever. In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, Walkabout was awarded an incredible five Silver Stars; 10 Bronze Star Medals (five with the V Device); 10 Army Commendation Medals (five with the V Device); seven Air Medals; and six Purple Hearts.

Walkabout was only 19 years old when he earned his DSC serving with the 101st Airborne Division's Company F (long-range reconnaissance patrol), 58th Infantry. During a reconnaissance mission southwest of Hue on November 20, 1968, his 12-man patrol found itself pinned down and under fire for several hours in an enemy battalion's rear area. Three of the patrol were killed during the firefight, and another later died of his wounds. According to the Distinguished Service Cross citation: "Maneuvering under heavy fire, Sergeant Walkabout positioned himself where the enemy were concentrating their assault and placed continuous rifle fire in the adversary….Although stunned and wounded by the blast, Sergeant Walkabout rushed from man to man administering first aid….When evacuation helicopters arrived…he worked single handedly under fire to board his disabled comrades. Only when the casualties had been evacuated and friendly reinforcements had arrived, did he allow himself to be extracted."

After Walkabout was evacuated, he spent almost six months in a coma. Following a long recovery, he returned to Vietnam, serving a total of 23 months in theater. Eventually he received a commission as a second lieutenant and a disability retirement from the Army. After the war, he struggled for years with post-traumatic stress disorder, failed marriages and self-isolation. He once said, "War is not hell, it's worse." He was only 57 when he died from renal failure, brought about from exposure to Agent Orange. He was waiting for a kidney transplant when he died.

Walkabout was a Cherokee of the Blue Holley Clan. He grew up in Oklahoma but he was living in Connecticut at the time of his death. The one anchor point in his life was the spirituality of his Native American heritage. He once said: "I wanted to serve my nation and protect my people. I found myself in the jungles of Vietnam, ten thousand miles from home." And: "I couldn't wear an eagle feather on my steel helmet or tear that peace sign away. My war shirt had blood all over it. I had blood on my hands. I saw people die. I saw medevac helicopters lift them out. Those guys would remain in my memory. I didn't have time to grieve then. Firebase on the distant mountain. The jungle was full of mountain ghosts…."

Billy Walkabout, American soldier, deserves to remain forever in our memory.



Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.


Related Articles


History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer
HISTORYNET READERS' POLL

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
STAY CONNECTED WITH US
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet?

The HistoryNet.com is brought to you by the Weider History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
Weider History Group

Weider History Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer! | StreamHistory.com
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2013 Weider History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy