By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, August 26, it was announced that President Barack H Obama will award the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Bennie G. Adkins for his incredible heroics in a battle during the Vietnam War. Mr. Bennie G. Adkins of Opelika will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama on September 15th at the White House along with two other veterans.
Congressman Mike Rogers (R) from Saks issued a statement upon learning the news. Rep. Rogers who represents Opelika said, “Mr. Adkins is a true American hero who served his country in Vietnam. His acts of heroism during his tour of duty earned him our nation’s highest honor, which he has long deserved. I congratulate Mr. Adkins on this honor and thank him for his bravery, sacrifice and service to our nation.”
Rep. Rogers was instrumental in shepherding the legislation to waive the customary three year time limit for awarding the Medal of Honor. Command Sgt. Adkins served three tours of duty in Vietnam with the Special Forces; but this medal is for his actions on March 9 thru 12, 1966.
According to the account on the U.S. Army’s web site; “At that time, then-Sergeant First Class Adkins was serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces at Camp A Shau, in the Republic of Vietnam.
When Camp A Shau was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours of March 9, then-Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp. He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several Soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another Soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins repeatedly exposed himself to sniper and mortar fire, while moving casualties to the camp dispensary.
Adkins exposed himself to enemy fire transporting a casualty to an airstrip for evacuation. He and his group then came under heavy small-arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group, which had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese. Despite this overwhelming force, Adkins maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire away from the aircraft, all the while successfully covering the rescue. Later, when a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Adkins again moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much-needed supplies.
During the early morning hours of March 10, enemy forces launched their main assault. Within two hours, Adkins was the only defender firing a mortar. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy, as they infiltrated the camp perimeter and assaulted his position. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off relentless waves of attacking Viet Cong.
Adkins then withdrew to regroup with a smaller element of Soldiers at the communications bunker. While there, he single-handedly eliminated numerous insurgents with small-arms fire, almost completely exhausting his supply of ammunition. Braving intense enemy fire, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and evaded fire while returning to the bunker. After the order was given to evacuate the camp, Adkins and a small group of Soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp.
Because of his efforts to carry a wounded Soldier to an extraction point and leave no one behind, Adkins and his group were unable to reach the last evacuation helicopter. Adkins then rallied the remaining survivors and led the group into the jungle, where they evaded the enemy for 48 hours, until they were rescued by helicopter, March 12. During the 38-hour battle and 48-hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, killing an estimated 135 – 175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds. Adkins’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.”
The commanding officer of Camp A Shau at the time was retired Col. John D. Blair IV, then a captain. Col. Blair said, “Sgt. 1st Class Adkins’ contribution to the defense of the camp and subsequent recovery of the survivors was far above and beyond that called for by duty.”
Command Sgt. Adkins served with the Special Forces for more than 13 years with the 7th, 3rd, 6th and 5th Special Forces Groups (Airborne). Adkins retired from the Army, in 1978.
Adkins earned his bachelor’s degree, a Master’s Degree in Education, and a Master’s Degree in Management from Troy State University. While in college he established the Adkins Accounting Service, Inc., in Auburn, Alabama, where he was the CEO for 22 years. He also taught night classes at Alabama’s Southern Union Junior College for 10 years, and at Auburn University for six years. Adkins and his wife, Mary, raised five children. They have been married for 59 years.
The award ceremony will be held in the White House on September 15.