Saturday, August 18, 2012

TFH 8/18: Sergeant Robert E. O'Malley, USMC

Robert Emmett O'Malley was born on June 3, 1943 in New York City, New York. He grew up in the Woodside neighborhood of the city's borough of Queens. At age 18 on October 11, 1961, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After completing recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, he became an infantryman and served with the 5th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion/9th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Battalion/1st Marine Regiment.

O'Malley, then a Corporal, deployed to Okinawa with 2/1 Marines in January, 1965. While there, they were redesignated as the 3rd Battalion ("America's Battalion") of the 3rd Marine Regiment (Fortuna Fortes Juvat - "Fortune Follows the Brave"). 3/3 Marines was one of the first USMC combat units sent to Vietnam, arriving at Da Nang in May, 1965.

On August 18, 1965, the Marines launched Operation Starlite - their first regimental-sized combat engagement of the war. 3/3 Marines was tasked with an amphibious landing to kick off the attack, and from their landing ground, to then drive the enemy into the other participating battalions. As the rifle squad that O'Malley led progressed into increasingly intense combat, he remained at the front of his Marines as they assaulted fortified enemy positions and, when ordered to evacuate and thrice wounded himself, courageously and selflessly covered the evacuation of his squad onto helicopters before leaving the battlefield. For his indomitable valor, he received our Nation's highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (M-Z):


Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Cpl.), U .S. Marine Corps, Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division (Rein). Place and date: Near An Cu'ong 2, South Vietnam, 18 August 1965. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Born: 3 June 1943, New York, N.Y. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the communist (Viet Cong) forces at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While leading his squad in the assault against a strongly entrenched enemy force, his unit came under intense small-arms fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Sgt. O'Malley raced across an open rice paddy to a trench line where the enemy forces were located. Jumping into the trench, he attacked the Viet Cong with his rifle and grenades, and singly killed 8 of the enemy. He then led his squad to the assistance of an adjacent marine unit which was suffering heavy casualties. Continuing to press forward, he reloaded his weapon and fired with telling effect into the enemy emplacement. He personally assisted in the evacuation of several wounded marines, and again regrouping the remnants of his squad, he returned to the point of the heaviest fighting. Ordered to an evacuation point by an officer, Sgt. O'Malley gathered his besieged and badly wounded squad, and boldly led them under fire to a helicopter for withdrawal. Although 3 times wounded in this encounter, and facing imminent death from a fanatic and determined enemy, he steadfastly refused evacuation and continued to cover his squad's boarding of the helicopters while, from an exposed position, he delivered fire against the enemy until his wounded men were evacuated. Only then, with his last mission accomplished, did he permit himself to be removed from the battlefield. By his valor, leadership, and courageous efforts in behalf of his comrades, he served as an inspiration to all who observed him, and reflected the highest credit upon the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.

O'Malley received his promotion to Sergeant in December, 1965 and left active service in April, 1966. He received his Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson in Austin, Texas on December 2, 1966 and is still living.

3rd Battalion/3rd Marine Regiment is still part of today's 3rd Marine Division. Their home station is Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

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