Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TFH 1/18: Sergeant Gordon Douglas Yntema, USA

On January 16-18, 1968, Sergeant Gordon Douglas Yntema was serving with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Vietnam. While accompanying Vietnamese civilian irregular soldiers, he assumed command when the native commander was seriously wounded. Even when severely wounded, he refused to withdraw and leave his comrades to the enemy. Ultimately, when faced with surrender and torment, he chose to fight to the death. For his actions above and beyond the normal call of duty, he received our Nation's highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War:


Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company D, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Place and date: Near Thong Binh, Republic of Vietnam, 16-18 January 1968. Entered service at: Detroit, Mich. Born: 26 June 1945, Bethesda, Md. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Yntema, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while assigned to Detachment A-431, Company D. As part of a larger force of civilian irregulars from Camp Cai Cai, he accompanied 2 platoons to a blocking position east of the village of Thong Binh, where they became heavily engaged in a small-arms fire fight with the Viet Cong. Assuming control of the force when the Vietnamese commander was seriously wounded, he advanced his troops to within 50 meters of the enemy bunkers. After a fierce 30 minute fire fight, the enemy forced Sgt. Yntema to withdraw his men to a trench in order to afford them protection and still perform their assigned blocking mission. Under cover of machinegun fire, approximately 1 company of Viet Cong maneuvered into a position which pinned down the friendly platoons from 3 sides. A dwindling ammunition supply, coupled with a Viet Cong mortar barrage which inflicted heavy losses on the exposed friendly troops, caused many of the irregulars to withdraw. Seriously wounded and ordered to withdraw himself, Sgt. Yntema refused to leave his fallen comrades. Under withering small arms and machinegun fire, he carried the wounded Vietnamese commander and a mortally wounded American Special Forces advisor to a small gully 50 meters away in order to shield them from the enemy fire. Sgt. Yntema then continued to repulse the attacking Viet Cong attempting to overrun his position until, out of ammunition and surrounded, he was offered the opportunity to surrender. Refusing, Sgt. Yntema stood his ground, using his rifle as a club to fight the approximately 15 Viet Cong attempting his capture. His resistance was so fierce that the Viet Cong were forced to shoot in order to overcome him. Sgt. Yntema's personal bravery in the face of insurmountable odds and supreme self-sacrifice were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself, the 1st Special Forces, and the U.S. Army. 

Sergeant Yntema left behind a wife and three young daughters. He also received the Silver Star Medal for gallantry and two Purple Heart medals during his Vietnam service. He rests in Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland, Michigan and appears on Panel 34E, Line 73 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) still defends our great Nation and the cause of liberty throughout the world from their home base at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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