Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TFH 9/18: First Lieutenant Raymond J. Enners, USA

Raymond James Enners was born on November 5, 1945. He grew up in Farmingdale and Dix Hills, New York and was a gifted athlete, captaining his football, basketball, and lacrosse teams. He received an appointment to the United States Military Academy, West Point in 1963. He continued to excel in lacrosse while there, receiving an honorable mention as an All-American in 1967. After graduating with the class of 1967, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army's infantry branch.

Just over a year later, Enners was serving as a rifle platoon leader in the 23rd Infantry Division, popularly and better known as the Americal Division. On September 18, 1968, then First Lieutenant Enners showed extraordinary courage as he led his platoon in the attack and in the attempted rescue of a severely wounded squad leader. His valor cost him his life, and he was posthumously awarded the second highest decoration a grateful Nation can grant: 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 pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Raymond James Enners (ASN: OF-111531), 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 Company A, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. First Lieutenant Enners distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 18 September 1968 while serving as a platoon leader during a combat sweep near the village of Ha Thanh. While moving across a small valley, his platoon was ambushed by a reinforced North Vietnamese Army squad firing machine guns, automatic weapons and small arms from camouflaged positions on a hillside. A squad leader was severely wounded and fell within twenty meters of the communists. Helplessly trapped by raking fire from the enemy gunners, the badly bleeding squad leader called for help, but the deadly hostile fire kept anyone from reaching him. Lieutenant Enners, hearing his cries, began moving forward to rescue him. From his position one hundred meters back, he crawled forward through the rice paddies and leaped across the intervening dikes, dodging through continuous bursts of enemy fire until he reached his forward squad trapped behind a dike twenty meters from the fallen squad leader. With the aid of one of the other squad leaders, he dispersed his men and signaled for covering fire. He and the squad leader then jumped over the dike and ran forward through the blistering fire to within ten meters of the wounded man, but were forced to turn back when the North Vietnamese began throwing grenades. Calling for a second burst of cover fire, the two men again raced across the bullet-ridden paddies, only to be halted again by the shrapnel of exploding grenades. Returning to the scant cover of the dike, Lieutenant Enners reorganized his men, maneuvering one squad twenty meters to the right of the enemy emplacements and directing the remainder of the platoon to areas from which they could lay down the most effective cross fire. Signaling a third time for his men to open up on the aggressors, he and the squad leader vaulted the dike and again attempted to reach the wounded man. Braving rounds scorching the air around them, they raced to the injured man's position and took cover behind the dike, After applying first aid to the man's wounds while the squad leader fired at the North Vietnamese, Lieutenant Enners picked up the injured man, again disregarding the risk to his own life to carry him back across the battlefield to the care of medical aidmen. Moving the squad on the right through a hail of fire, he moved to within fifteen meters of the enemy before he was fatally wounded by hostile machine gun fire. First Lieutenant Enners' extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Enners' name is inscribed on Panel 43W, Line 26 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. He rests in peace at the West Point Cemetery.

Both the Americal Division and the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry are today inactive. The brave lieutenant from this day in 1968 is honored every year with the presentation of the Lt. Raymond Enners Award, given to the most outstanding men's college lacrosse player by the NCAA and US Lacrosse.

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