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July 10, 1998

Navy Corpsman awarded Medal of Honor

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 10 — A former Navy hospital corpsman was awarded the nation's highest honor today in ceremonies at the White House.

Former Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert R. Ingram was presented the Medal of Honor by President Clinton for "conspicuous gallantry" during the Vietnam War. Secretary of the Navy John Dalton; Adm. Jay L. Johnson, Chief of Naval Operations; and Gen. Charles C. Krulak, Commandant of the Marine Corps, attended the ceremony in the State Dining Room, along with approximately 40 former Marines coming from across the country Mr. Ingram, a native of Clearwater, Fla., now living in Jacksonville, is the first Navy member in 20 years to receive the Medal of Honor. The last, awarded in 1979 was posthumous.

On March 28, 1966, HM3 Ingram, then 21, accompanied the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines on a search and destroy mission against North Vietnam Army forces suspected of being in a village complex in Quang Ngai province. Upon reaching the village, the lead platoon destroyed an enemy outpost but in doing so alerted the main body of NVA forces.

A firefight ensued with about 100 NVA shooting at the Marines, immediately killing or wounding members of the lead squad. Calls of "corpsman!" were everywhere. HM3 Ingram rushed through the fire to get to a wounded Marine, and, as he grasped the Marine to roll him over, was shot through the hand. He proceeded to two more patients and was shot through the knee. Limping, he moved on to other casualties.

At this point, an NVA soldier popped up from a spider hole and shot Ingram. The bullet came in beneath his right eye, went through his sinuses, and exited at the left side of the skull where the jaw attaches. Petty Officer Ingram returned the fire, killing the NVA soldier. Mr. Ingram recounted: "This must have been the first time that soldier had shot someone while looking him in the face. I could see the look of sorrow in his eyes."

Petty Officer Ingram then sought more casualties. While moving a fallen fellow hospital corpsman to safety, he was shot through the lower portion of his torso. Amid incoming mortar and antiaircraft fire, HM3 Ingram continued to tend the wounded, gather magazines and resupply those capable of returning fire. He finally returned to a friendly position. He then tried to refuse medical evacuation so others would be taken out first. As he was placed on a medevac helicopter, his bullet-riddled body was tagged "killed in action".

The Medal of Honor came 32 years after the action. During a reunion, his comrades had discovered that the original citation had apparently been lost, and they petitioned the Navy and Congress in Mr. Ingram's behalf.

Mr. Ingram enlisted in the Navy in November 1963. After completing recruit training at San Diego, he requested and was assigned to Hospital Corps School in Jan. 1964. Following Corps School, he underwent Field Medical Service School (FMSS) at Camp Pendleton.

After a short tour with Company "B", 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, he transferred to Company "C" in late spring 1965. The unit arrived in Vietnam in July 1965 after further training in Okinawa.

 

HM3 Ingram received a Silver Star for his action when on Feb. 8, 1966, elements of Company "C" took heavy fire while assaulting an enemy-held village. HM3 Ingram rushed to treat between 12 and 14 wounded. The unit's machine gunner was hit, and Ingram manned the gun until relieved.

Mr. Ingram, discharged from the Navy in 1968, is now a registered nurse at a family practice in Jacksonville, where he lives with his wife Doris. The couple have a son and a daughter

 

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