Biden awards Medal of Honor to 2 Hawaiʻi soldiers for Vietnam War heroism
President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to four Army soldiers, including two from Hawaiʻi, for heroism during the Vietnam War — bravery that he said had not diminished even with the passage of time.
Speaking at a ceremony in the White House East Room on Tuesday, Biden praised their heroism, noting that many like them don't receive “the full recognition they deserve.”
“It’s just astounding when you hear what each of them have done,” he said. “They went far above and beyond the call of duty. It’s a phrase always used but ... it takes on life when you see these men.”
Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro received the medal posthumously for his actions in Vietnam in December 1966. After his platoon was attacked by North Vietnamese soldiers, he moved forward and fought the enemy soldiers, allowing his platoon to safely retreat.
Kaneshiro was killed in action by hostile gunfire in Vietnam in 1967. Kaneshiro was born and raised on Oʻahu, a son of Japanese immigrants.
“Today, we're setting the record straight. We're upgrading the awards of four soldiers who performed acts of incredible heroism during the Vietnam conflict,” Biden said. “I'm proud to finally award our highest military recognition, the Medal of Honor, to each of you.”
Spc. Five Dennis M. Fujii received the Medal of Honor for a rescue operation in Laos and Vietnam in February 1971.
After his helicopter was forced to crash land while evacuating wounded South Vietnamese soldiers, he stayed behind to administer first aid and fought enemy soldiers until he was airlifted to safety days later. Fujii currently resides in Hawaiʻi.
"They were selected for the Medal of Honor as the U.S. military continues to review the records of soldiers previously overlooked for awards due to bigotry," U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz wrote in a statement.
"Servicemembers like Mr. Fujii and Mr. Kaneshiro risk their lives to protect our nation, and we have an obligation to support them following their service," U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said in a statement.
Spc. Five Dwight W. Birdwell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and retired Maj. John J. Duffy were also awarded the Medal of Honor on Tuesday.
The Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville contributed to this story.