Thursday, February 21, 2013

TFH 2/21: Staff Sergeant Clifford C. Sims, USA

Clifford Chester Sims was born as Clifford Pittman on June 18, 1942 in Port St. Joe, Florida. He was orphaned at an early age and lived either on his own or with relatives until his adoption by James and Irene Sims when he was thirteen years old. He graduated from high school and joined the United States Army in 1961. He and his high school sweetheart Mary were married on Christmas Day of the same year.

By February 1968, he had reached the rank of Staff Sergeant and was a squad leader with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, then part of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles". Forty-five years ago today on February 21, 1968 in fighting near Hue, Staff Sergant Sims used his own body to shield his fellow soldiers from the detonation of a booby trap, and was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor for his ultimate act of courage.

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


Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company D, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. Place and date: Near Hue, Republic of Vietnam, 21 February 1968. Entered service at: Jacksonville, Fla. Born: 18 June 1942, Port St. Joe, Fla. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Sims distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader with Company D. Company D was assaulting a heavily fortified enemy position concealed within a dense wooded area when it encountered strong enemy defensive fire. Once within the woodline, S/Sgt. Sims led his squad in a furious attack against an enemy force which had pinned down the 1st Platoon and threatened to overrun it. His skillful leadership provided the platoon with freedom of movement and enabled it to regain the initiative. S/Sgt. Sims was then ordered to move his squad to a position where he could provide covering fire for the company command group and to link up with the 3d Platoon, which was under heavy enemy pressure. After moving no more than 30 meters S/Sgt. Sims noticed that a brick structure in which ammunition was stocked was on fire. Realizing the danger, S/Sgt. Sims took immediate action to move his squad from this position. Though in the process of leaving the area 2 members of his squad were injured by the subsequent explosion of the ammunition, S/Sgt. Sims' prompt actions undoubtedly prevented more serious casualties from occurring. While continuing through the dense woods amidst heavy enemy fire, S/Sgt. Sims and his squad were approaching a bunker when they heard the unmistakable noise of a concealed booby trap being triggered immediately to their front. S/Sgt. Sims warned his comrades of the danger and unhesitatingly hurled himself upon the device as it exploded, taking the full impact of the blast. In so protecting his fellow soldiers, he willingly sacrificed his life. S/Sgt. Sims' extraordinary heroism at the cost of his life is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

Staff Sergeant Sims today rests in peace at the Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida. His name is inscribed on Panel 40E, Line 56 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry is presently inactive. The 101st Airborne Division is today the Army's premier air assault force and is home based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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