Sunday, April 29, 2012

TFH 4/29: Lieutenant Colonel Louis Carson Wagner, USA

Louis Carson Wagner, Jr. was born on January 24, 1932 in Jackson, Missouri. He was a member of the United States Military Academy, West Point Class of 1954 and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army's Armor branch.

In April of 1972, he was posted to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam as an advisor to South Vietnamese tank units. During the Easter Offensive, he was the senior American with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam's 1st Armor Brigade. The brigade was ordered to defend Quang Tri against three attacking Communist divisions at all costs, even though they were overwhelmed by at least five or six to one.

During the battle from April 29 to May 2, Colonel Wagner refused medical assistance for his wounds, continually placed himself at personal danger, and remained with the Vietnamese leaders as a calm, inspiring bulwark who doubtlessly contributed to the 1st Armor Brigade being able to survive to fight another day. For his courage, the Army decorated him with the Distinguished Service Cross.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant Colonel (Armor) Louis Carson Wagner, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Advisory Team 4, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Lieutenant Colonel Wagner distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions during the period 29 April to 2 May 1972 while serving as Senior Advisor, 1st Armor Brigade, Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The 1st Armor Brigade was ordered to protect Quang Tri City, at all cost, against three North Vietnamese Divisions supported by two regiments of tanks. As the enemy overwhelmed and shattered the brigade, Colonel Wagner's calm and exemplary gallantry and courage became a rallying symbol to the demoralized soldiers. Disregarding his own personal safety, Colonel Wagner maintained his position at the point of severest contact and was injured when his command personnel carrier was forced to cross a bridge destroyed by enemy artillery. Refusing aid, he assisted in evacuation of his counterpart who had been wounded. When the brigade was given the mission of breaking the North Vietnamese stranglehold on the supply route to the defenders of Quang Tri, Colonel Wagner, his injury still untreated, exposed himself continuously to enemy machine gun and antitank rocket fire while directing air strikes. As the brigade's position became less tenable and the North Vietnamese forces encircled it, Colonel Wagner's daring courage and calm leadership became the guiding force that enabled the South Vietnamese to extricate themselves without crippling losses. Although knowing that large elements of four North Vietnamese Divisions would isolate his position, Colonel Wagner elected to remain with his counterpart and attempt a breakthrough. As they received devastating enemy artillery and a two-sided enemy tank attack, Lieutenant Colonel Wagner led the brigade in a penetration of the enemy encirclement to friendly lines. Lieutenant Colonel Wagner's calm and fearless leadership was singularly responsible for preventing the 1st Armor Brigade's complete decimation and saved the lives of many of his South Vietnamese comrades. Lieutenant Colonel Wagner's conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Wagner continued in service to our Nation through September 26, 1989. His final post was as the Commander of US Army Materiel Command as a full four-star General. During his career he was also a two-time recipient of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, received a Silver Star for bravery in combat, and was decorated twice with the Legion of Merit for exceptional service.

General Wagner, age 80, is still living.

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