D.Co 2/501st INFANTRY

Published Jan. 8, Joliet Herald-News, Joliet, IL

Joe Hooper may have been the perfect warrior, the ideal combat soldier but his name today isn't famous and he should be.
Joe was a REAL HERO!!
He walked as tall as Alvin York & Audie Murphy, but they earned their combat records in World Wars I and II, while Joe earned his medals in that unpopular war - the place called VIETNAM.

Joe Hooper was the most decorated soldier in Vietnam

At the age of 17 Joe enlisted in the Navy. He liked the service life and planned a military career. But when it was time to reenlist in 1961, he changed to the Army. Joe ended up with the 101st Airborne Division and went to Vietnam where he earned The Congressional Medal of Honor. ...Company D. was assaulting a heavily defended enemy position along a river bank when it encountered a withering hail of fire from rockets, machine-guns and automatic weapons. He rallied several men and stormed across the river, over running several bunkers on the opposite bank (yours truly, Al Mount was one of those several men, looking over my right shoulder I saw Joe motion me to move forward. I had taken only a few steps when a bullet from an AK-47 hit my left leg and knocked me down. Joe and the others advanced past me and I crawled to the rear.)
.....With utter disregard for his own safety, he moved out under the intense fire again and pulled back the wounded, moving them to safety...Joe was seriously wounded, but refused medical aid and returned to his men. With the relentless enemy fire disrupting the attack, he single-handedly stormed three enemy bunkers, destroying them with hand grenades and rifle fire, and shot two enemy soldiers who had attacked and wounded the Chaplin....

Finding his men under heavy fire from a house to the front, he proceeded alone to the building, killing its occupants with rifle fire and grenades By now his initial body wound had been compounded by grenade fragments, yet, despite the multiple wounds and loss of blood, he continued to lead his men against the intense enemy fire....
He gathered several grenades and raced down a small trench which ran the length of the bunker line, tossing grenades into each bunker as he passed by, killing all but two of the occupants... He then raced across an open field, still under enemy fire, to rescue a wounded man who was trapped in a trench. Upon reaching the man, he was faced by an armed enemy soldier whom he killed with a pistol... He neutralized the final pocket of enemy resistance by fatally wounding three
North Vietnamese officers...

Joe was wounded seven times that day. But he wouldn't allow himself to be removed from the battlefield until all his men were safe. He finally passed out from loss of blood.
He regained consciousness in a field hospital. But Joe was still worried about his men, young men who depended upon the experience of the 29 year old sargent.
The next day he stole a rifle and hitched a ride back to his outfit. Technically, he was AWOL. But by the time the Army found him two days later, Joe had been wounded again.

President Richard Nixon pinned the Medal of Honor on Joe, who had been commissioned a 2nd Lt. He went on a speaking tour across the nation.

Then he asked to go back to Vietnam.

After two combat tours in the war, Joe had received 37 medals. They included two Silver Stars(one of them had started out as another recommendation for a second Medal of Honor),
six Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts.

Joe returned to duty at Fort Polk, La. where he was training recruits. But he didn't fit in well with stateside duty and he resigned his commission in 1972.
Joe was disillusioned by the (New Army) and its lack of discipline. He believed that discipline and training were what paid off in combat.
Joe's wife said he cried that day as he watched the news films showing the last of the American forces being pulled out of Vietnam. He told her all those lives and all those broken bodies had been wasted. He said we had accomplished nothing.

Joe made many speeches about his combat experiences. He told a reporter
he could smell the enemy.
If someone asked, he would tell them about the day he won The Medal of Honor, I had no choice that day, Joe would say, I did what I had to do
That was Joe Hooper's philosophy in life. You do what you have to do at the time
and face tomorrow when it arrives.

Joe was in Louisville, Ky. for the Derby (he never missed the Kentucky Derby), when he died on May 5,1979. He was found in a hotel room. He was just 40.

The Perfect Warrior and the Ideal Combat Soldier had died a quiet death from a
cerebral hemorrhage while sleeping.
The news of Joe Hooper’s death wasn't big news. The national media ignored his passage.
There was just a notice in the Medal of Honor Society's newsletter.

End of Joliet Herald-News story

The following EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT was found in the Declassified Govt. Documents on the internet and sent to me!


The "Delta Raiders” were assaulting a strong enemy position near Hue on the 21st of February when heavy enemy rocket, machine gun and automatic weapons fire halted the advance in front of a stream about 20 feet wide. Sgt. Hooper, a squad leader, got a few men together and dashed across the stream and up into the face of the enemy fire even though the enemy was firing from bunkers just on the opposite bank. Those bunkers were overrun, and soon the rest of the company got moving following Sgt. Hooper's example. A couple men were hit and left exposed to enemy fire, but sgt. Hooper braved the fire and went out after him. He brought one man back, and then went after the second man. He got to him but was wounded in the process. Still he brought the man back to safety and then went out again even though he was wounded himself. He found SSG. Thomas pinned down and tried to find where the fire was coming from. SP4 Mount was up in front of them so Sgt. Hooper called out to him to see if he could move between two small houses to locate the fire. Mount took one step between the houses and was hit in the leg. Because of his wound he couldn't move and the enemy fire was getting closer and closer. Sgt. Hooper took drastic action to prevent Mount from being killed. He moved around the left of the houses even though the enemy had manned bunkers not more than fifteen meters away from the side of the house. Somehow he got past these bunkers and behind the houses where he saw three bunkers connected by a trench. Sgt. Hooper got up and charged the first bunker (they were no more than 10 meters apart), throwing a grenade inside and then spraying it with rifle fire. This killed everyone inside and from behind this bunker he started firing into the second bunker, and this fire eliminated everyone in there. He got up and ran toward the third bunker just as an NVA radioman came out, and Sgt. Hooper shot him dead. Those bunkers had had rockets, automatic weapons, and a large radio complex in them. Sgt. Hooper then returned to the river bank where a lot of men were hesitant about going forward. But after seeing Sgt. Hooper they all got up to follow him> Just as they had deployed at the top of the bank three NVA jumped out of the bamboo and started firing their AK-47's, but the Chaplin was the only man hit. Still, everyone justly froze except Sgt. Hooper who fired away, dropping two of the Communist while the other managed to escape. Sgt. Hooper then bandaged the Chaplin's wound and helped him back to safety. When he returned he led the men in a swamp up to the three bunkers he had just eliminated. In this sweep the other bunkers on the flank were overrun.

Sgt. Hooper moved ahead of his men at this point to analyze the situation and while forward saw three snipers running from a bunker in an effort to get to a house. Only two of them made it as Sgt. Hooper shot the third one down. Then taking a LAW, he hit the house they had just entered dead center and killed both men while setting the house ablaze. Over on the right the squad was getting heavy fire from two more houses and Sgt. Hooper proceeded to knock those out too. Still fire came from the right, and soon it was determined it was coming from a shrine in that area. Sgt. Hooper crawled forward with two other men and opened fire on it. The enemy fire soon ceased. Returning to his men, Sgt. Hooper led them in another sweep which overran a few more bunkers. Here they halted again and Sgt. Hooper climbed on top of the bunkers to fire on the enemy. While he was on top of it an NVA officer climbed out and pointed his rifle at Sgt. Hooper's head. Sgt. Hooper swung around but the NVA pulled the trigger first. However his weapon jammed and Sgt. Hooper found he was out of ammunition. The NVA started running, but Sgt. Hooper caught him and killed him with his bayonet. When he got back to his men he found they were under heavy automatic weapons from a house in front. Everyone was taking cover, bur Sgt. Hooper moved out alone and maneuvered around behind the house. He kicked in the back door and was fired on instantly, but the bullets missed by about an inch or less, and the NVA didn't have a second chance. Sgt. Hooper opened up with a fierce blast and then threw in two grenades as he left, the total affect killing all the defenders. as his men moved up they encountered stiff resistance. This was coming from the last line of defense where enemy bunkers were positioned in an inverted "U" with heavy fire coming from the row of bunkers on the left running perpendulicar to the line of advance. There was a trench running in front of the bunkers and Sgt. Hooper dashed down this trench with SP4 Urban following. As he passed each one he tossed a grenade into it and Urban made sure the job was done by pouring rifle fire into each one after the explosion. This killed all but two defenders who staggered out of one of the bunkers, shaken and bloody, they were taken prisoner. When they got to the last bunker they turned right and fired on two NVA behind the next bunker down the line. The NVA ducked down and Sgt. Hooper rushed up to the bunker from where he started firing on two more bunkers down the line, one housing a machine gun. He found out that the two NVA whom he had shot at were inside the bunker he was on and he dropped an incendiary grenade inside which was awfully affective. He kept on firing on the two bunkers, finally silencing one then the other. Just then he saw that SP4 Gray was wounded in a trench near the bunkers he had just been firing on. Enemy fire was still sweeping the field, but Sgt. Hooper rushed over to Gray because Gray couldn't get out of the trench and the enemy was firing on him. When Sgt. Hooper got there he sat his rifle down since he was out of ammunition and got into the trench to help Gray. Then SSG. Thomas threw Sgt. Hooper a .45 cal. pistol in case he needed it. Sgt. Hooper set the pistol down so that he could lift Gray with both hands, but just when he got him up he saw an NVA come out of nowhere and point his rifle at Sgt. Hooper's head. Before the NVA could pull the trigger though Sgt. Hooper had picked up the pistol and blasted him Then he took Gray back to a secure area and came back to reorganize his men. We were setting up a line just beyond the final bunker lines and enemy fire was still coming in. But Sgt. Hooper and SP4 Urban spotted it and started firing. Then Sgt. Hooper crawled forward to check the damage and found three NVA lieutenants with their heads riddled with bullets. After that we moved out into the field and pretty well cleaned up the area. Sgt. Hooper spent a lot of time taking care of the wounded and finally looked after his own wounds only after he had his men settled down.
Sgt. Joe R. Hooper in one day accomplished more than I previously believed could have been done in a month by one man. And he did it all while wounded. It wasn't just the actual count of positions overrun and enemy killed which was important, but fam more so was the fantastic inspiration he gave every man in the company. It was his personal courage on any number of occasions that kept everyone going against some of the heaviest fire I have ever encountered.
George Parker
PSG. Co D 2/501

We haven't forgotten you Joe!


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