Saturday, January 12, 2013

TFH 1/12: Sergeant William D. Port, USA

William David Port was born on October 13 or 31, 1941 in Petersburg, Pennsylvania. He was living in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania when in late 1966 or early 1967 at age 25 he was an older draftee into the United States Army. He was sent to combat in Vietnam as a Private First Class and joined the airmobile troops of the 1st Cavalry Division in the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

Port was a rifleman with 5-7 Cavalry's Company C on January 12, 1968 when they came under fire from enemy soldiers in a fortified position. He was wounded as his platoon withdrew away from the attack. Regardless, Port rushed back into danger to save another soldier. Soon afterwards when they came under direct attack, a grenade landed amongst Port and three others. What happened next is properly told by a citation for the Medal of Honor.

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


Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Pfc.), U.S. Army, Company C, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division. Place and date: Que Son Valley, Heip Duc Province, Republic of Vietnam, 12 January 1968. Entered service at: Harrisburg, Pa. Born: 13 October 1941, Petersburg, Pa. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Port distinguished himself while serving as a rifleman with Company C, which was conducting combat operations against an enemy force in the Que Son Valley. As Sgt. Port's platoon was moving to cut off a reported movement of enemy soldiers, the platoon came under heavy fire from an entrenched enemy force. The platoon was forced to withdraw due to the intensity and ferocity of the fire. Although wounded in the hand as the withdrawal began, Sgt. Port, with complete disregard for his safety, ran through the heavy fire to assist a wounded comrade back to the safety of the platoon perimeter. As the enemy forces assaulted in the perimeter, Sgt. Port and 3 comrades were in position behind an embankment when an enemy grenade landed in their midst. Sgt. Port, realizing the danger to his fellow soldiers, shouted the warning, "Grenade," and unhesitatingly hurled himself towards the grenade to shield his comrades from the explosion. Through his exemplary courage and devotion he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers and gave the members of his platoon the inspiration needed to hold their position. Sgt. Port's selfless concern for his comrades, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

His body shattered by the grenade's explosion, William Port lay grievously wounded as the enemy overran the Americans. He was captured by the enemy, and survived in captivity until November 27, 1968 when he finally died as a result of his injuries and follow-on complications. He was buried by the communist enemy in a common grave with other American prisoners who died in captivity. While in captivity, he had received promotions up to the rank of Sergeant.

In 1985, a joint US-Vietnamese team exhumed the mass grave and Port's remains were identified in August of that year. His remains were repatriated to the United States and today rest in peace at Arlington National Cemetery. William Port's name is inscribed on Panel 34E, Line 39 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The 1st Cavalry Division is still a major component of the modern Army's warfighting capabilities. The division and its four heavy brigade combat teams and aviation brigade are home based at Fort Hood, Texas.

The battalion that William Port served with in Vietnam is today known as the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry and is the brigade armored reconnaissance squadron for the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

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