LT(JG) JOSEPH R. KERREY (SEAL)
SEAL Team 1 U.S. Navy
Near Nha Trang Bay, RVN
14 March 1969
Lt. Kerrey was leading his SEAL team on a mission to a small island in the bay of Nha Trang. His objective to capture or kill several key members of the Communist political cadre.
Kerrey and his team scaled a 350-foot sheer cliff to gain access to a ledge above the enemy positioned on a lower ledge. He split the team into two elements for the descent to the enemy position. Compromised as the approached the enemy ledge, Kerrey’s element was engulfed in a barrage of Grenades and intense automatic weapons fire.
An enemy grenade detonated at Lt. Kerrey’s feet inflicting massive shrapnel wounds and throwing him down the jagged rocks. Bleeding intensely and in extreme pain, Lt. Kerrey displayed extreme courage and presence of mind by immediately directing the SEALs’ fire on the enemy camp, while providing covering fire.
Kerrey called in fire support from the second element catching the Viet Cong in the crossfire. Although no longer ambulatory due to his wounds, Kerrey remained calm, and in command ordering his team to secure and defend an extraction site.
Despite his near unconscious state, Kerrey continued to engage the enemy providing covering fire for his men and maintained positive control of the situation allowing the team to remain combat effective and accomplish their mission. Kerrey and his SEAL team were eventually evacuated by helicopter.
Lt. Kerrey’s MOH citation has the unusual mention of the effect of Kerrey’s mission on the enemy and puts it this way:
The havoc brought to the enemy by this very successful mission cannot be over-estimated. The enemy soldiers who were captured provided critical intelligence to the allied effort. Lt. (J.G.) Kerrey’s courageous and inspiring leadership, valiant fighting spirit, and tenacious devotion to duty in the face of almost overwhelming opposition sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
LT(JG) Joseph R. Kerrey (SEAL), left the Navy after his service in Viet Nam returning to his native Nebraska where he went on to serve as Governor from 1983 to 1987. As of this posting, he is 76 years old and living in his home state.