Wednesday, March 28, 2012

TFH 3/28: HM3 Robert R. Ingram, USN

Robert Roland Ingram was born on January 20, 1945 in Clearwater, FL. At age 18 in November 1963, he enlisted in the United States Navy and attended the Navy Hospital Corps School and the Field Medical Service School at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, both in California. He was then assigned as a Hospital Corpsman with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

The United States Marine Corps relies on its Navy brethren for medical personnel, including the men and women who venture into combat with front-line units. To quote from the website of Field Medical Training Battalion - West, Sailors looking to serve with the Marines will:
During the eight week course, you will have a mix of classroom and field training. Emphasis is placed on learning field medicine by using the principles of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC). This includes familiarization with USMC organization and procedures, competency in Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), logistics, and administrative support in a field environment. Additionally, training will include general military subjects, individual and small unit tactics, military drill, physical training/ conditioning, and weapons familiarization with the opportunity to qualify on the rifle range. Completion of FMST results in the Sailor receiving the Navy Enlisted Classification HM-8404.
On March 28, 1966, Ingram was with Company C of 1/7 Marines when they launched an attack against an enemy that, unbeknownst to the Marines, were heavily dug in and were in superior numbers. The entire lead squad was killed or wounded by enemy automatic weapons fire. Into this battlefield hell ran Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Ingram.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (A-L):


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Corpsman with Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines against elements of a North Vietnam Aggressor (NVA) battalion in Quang Ngai Province Republic of Vietnam on 28 March 1966. Petty Officer Ingram accompanied the point platoon as it aggressively dispatched an outpost of an NVA battalion. The momentum of the attack rolled off a ridge line down a tree covered slope to a small paddy and a village beyond. Suddenly, the village tree line exploded with an intense hail of automatic rifle fire from approximately 100 North Vietnamese regulars. In mere moments, the platoon ranks were decimated. Oblivious to the danger, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the bullet spattered terrain to reach a downed Marine. As he administered aid, a bullet went through the palm of his hand. Calls for "CORPSMAN" echoed across the ridge. Bleeding, he edged across the fire swept landscape, collecting ammunition from the dead and administering aid to the wounded. Receiving two more wounds before realizing the third wound was life-threatening, he looked for a way off the face of the ridge, but again he heard the call for corpsman and again, he resolutely answered. Though severely wounded three times, he rendered aid to those incapable until he finally reached the right flank of the platoon. While dressing the head wound of another corpsman, he sustained his fourth bullet wound. From sixteen hundred hours until just prior to sunset, Petty Officer Ingram pushed, pulled, cajoled, and doctored his Marines. Enduring the pain from his many wounds and disregarding the probability of his demise, Petty Officer Ingram's intrepid actions saved many lives that day. By his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative, and unfaltering dedications to duty, Petty Officer Ingram reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

The motto of the Navy Corpsman is: Until they are home, no man left behind. Robert Ingram was the embodiment of that during the battle on March 28, 1966. His four wounds convinced the crew of the helicopter that evacuated him that he was dead; he wasn't. After an eight-month recovery and leaving the Navy in 1968, he received a nursing degree.

During a reunion of the 1/7 Marines' veterans in 1995 that Ingram attended, his comrades were astonished to learn that his courage had gone unrecognized; paperwork for the awarding of the Medal of Honor had, inexplicably, been lost. Those who served with him, many of whom whose lives he saved, had not forgotten and they recreated and resubmitted the award paperwork to the Navy and Marine Corps.

On July 10, 1998 - appropriately the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Naval Hospital Corps - Robert Ingram received his Medal of Honor from President Clinton at the White House, with 24 of his Vietnam comrades looking on.

Ingram was also decorated with the Silver Star for his courage in Vietnam. On March 23, 2009 he gave an interview at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum sponsored by the Pritzker Military Library. If you have a spare hour, spend it with the story of this incredible American hero.

Robert Ingram is still living and resides in Florida.

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