The Green Beret
Quick History
Detailed History
Beret Flashes
Unit Patches

SF Missions
About SF
SF Primer
SF Imperatives

The Soldiers
The Team Leader
The Team Sergeant
The Team Tech
SF Heroes
Medal of Honor

The "A" Team
Support Elements
SF Aviation
Spec War Center
SF Command
R &D - Technology

Assessment (SFAS)
Qualification (SFQC)
Specialty Training
SF Schools

New Technologies
Special Ops Aircraft
Weapons / Demo

Concerning "Hooah!"
About Rambo
About John Wayne
SF Memorial Fund
The "Coin Check"
The SF Creed
The SF Prayer
Green Beret Ballad
Murphy's Laws
Rogers' Orders
The Ranger Creed
The Creation (ABN)
Commando's Prayer

About Joining?
SF Recruiting
Army Recruiting
The Army Tour
Info Request Form
Find Army Recruiter

Active Duty
Former Service

Reading Room
Official Links
Veterans Links

Commo Center


Web Hosting By

Network Viking - USA

U.S. Army Special Forces: "The Green Berets"

Special Forces Heroes:
Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez

Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez

Roy Benavidez could not speak. His jaws were locked, clubbed by a North Vietnamese rifle. Nor could he see. His eyes were caked in blood and unable to open. But he could tell what was happening, and it was the scariest moment of a day fraught with fear. He lay in a body bag, bathed in his own blood, and a doctor was pronouncing him dead.

'That's Roy," pleaded a buddy, "help him." The physician shook his head. "There's nothing I can do for him," the doctor said as he bent over to zip up the bag. Benavidez spit in his face.

The 32-year-old son of a Texas sharecropper had just performed for six hours one of the most remarkable feats of the Vietnam War. Benavidez was a seventh-grade dropout and an orphan who grew up taunted by the term "dumb Mexican." But, as Ronald Reagan noted, if the story of what he accomplished was made into a movie, no one would believe it really happened.

Roy Benavidez's ordeal began at Loc Ninh, a Green Beret outpost near the Cambodian border. It was 1:30 p.m., May 2, 1968. A chaplain was holding a prayer service around a jeep for the sergeant and several other soldiers. Suddenly, shouts rang out from a nearby short-wave radio. "Get us out of here!" someone screamed. "For God's sake, get us out!" A 12-man team monitoring enemy troop movements in the jungle had found itself surrounded by a North Vietnamese army battalion.

With out orders, Benavidez grabbed his rifle and dashed for a helicopter preparing for a rescue attempt. "I'm coming with you," he told the three crew members. Airborne, they spotted the soldiers in a tight circle. A few hundred enemy troops surrounded them in the jungle, some within 25 yards of the Americans' position. The chopper dropped low, ran into withering fire and quickly retreated. Spotting a small clearing 75 yards away, Benavidez told the pilot, "Over there, over there."

The helicopter reached the clearing and hovered 10 feet off the ground. Benavidez made the sign of the cross, jumped out and ran toward the trapped men. A bullet hit his right leg. He fell, then got up and kept running. An exploding hand grenade knocked him down and ripped his face with shrapnel. He shouted prayers, got up again and staggered to the men.

Four of the soldiers were dead; the other eight wounded and pinned down in two groups. Benavidez directed the helicopter to a landing near one group. He dragged the dead and wounded aboard. The chopper lifted a few feet off the ground and moved toward the second group, with Benavidez running beneath it, firing his rifle. He spotted the body of the team leader. Ordering the other soldiers to crawl toward the chopper, he retrieved a pouch dangling from the dead man's neck; in the pouch were classified papers with radio codes and call signs. As he shoved the papers into his shirt, a bullet struck his stomach and a grenade shattered his back. And the helicopter, barely off the ground, suddenly crashed, its pilot shot dead.

Benavidez pulled the wounded from the wreckage, forming a small perimeter. He passed out ammunition taken from the dead and radioed for air support. Jets and helicopter gunships strafed threatening enemy soldiers while Benavidez tended the wounded. "Are you hurt bad, Sarge?" one soldier asked. "Hell, no," said Benavidez, about to collapse from blood loss. I been hit so many times I don't give a damn no more."

Enemy fire raked the perimeter. Several of the wounded were hit again, including Benavidez, who took a bullet in the thigh. Blood streamed down his face, blinding him. Still he called in air strikes, adjusting their targets by sound. Several times, pilots thought he was dead, but then his voice would come back on the radio, calling for closer strikes.

Finally, a helicopter landed. "Pray and move out," Benavidez told the men as he helped each one aboard. He staggered through tall grass to fetch another soldier. Suddenly an NVA soldier stood up, swung his rifle and clubbed the sergeant in the face. Benavidez fell, rolled over and got up just as the soldier lunged forward with his bayonet. Benavidez grabbed it, slashing his right hand, and pulled his attacker toward him. With his left hand, he drew his knife and stabbed the NVA. As Benavidez dragged an American to the chopper, he saw two enemy soldiers come out of the jungle. He grabbed a rifle and shot both. Benavidez made one more trip to the clearing and came back with a Vietnamese interpreter. Only then did the sergeant let others pull him aboard the helicopter.

Blood dripped from the door as the chopper lumbered into the air. Benavidez was holding in his intestines with his hand. At Loc Ninh, he was so immobile they placed him with the dead. Even after he spit in the doctor's face and was taken from the body bag, Benavidez was considered a goner. His commander recommended he get the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor in saving eight lives. The recommendation was rushed through approval channels. A Medal of Honor would have taken much longer, thought the commander, and Benavidez would die before he got it. But Benavidez lived. Over the next year, surgeons removed half of his left lung and most of the shrapnel from his body. He also won another battle. He was allowed to stay in the Army.

Years later, his former commander learned that Benavidez had survived the war. The officer also learned more details of the sergeant's mission and concluded that Benavidez merited a higher honor. Years of red tape followed. On Feb. 24, 1981, President Reagan told White House reporters "you are going to hear something you would not believe if it were a script." Reagan then read Roy Benavidez's citation for the Medal of Honor.

Benavidez has been retired for 15 years, subsisting on an 80-percent medical disability. He lives in El Campo, Texas, with his wife, Hilaria, and three children. He frequently speaks at schools and colleges and even runaway shelters. "A lot of youth don't realize what a beautiful country we have or how many lives have been lost to keep the flag waving," he says. "Young people are the future leaders of the country. They can keep it great."

 - Back to Special Forces Heroes


This page is an unofficial document and does not represent information endorsed by the United States Government, the United States Special Operations Command or the United States Army Special Operations Command. However, most information is derived from those sources and has been checked for accuracy. For comments, questions, and suggestions, please go to the Communications Center.

Gunnery Network - SOF