Specialist 6, United States Army
at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, February 22, 1928, he earned the in Vietnam while serving as a Medical Corpsman with Headquarters
and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne
Brigade on November 8, 1965.
In spite of being wounded himself, he saved the lives of many members of his unit. He was presented the Medal of Honor by President Johnson on March 9, 1967 at the White House. He was the first living black American to have received the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War in 1898.
He died on February 4, 1984 and was buried in Section 46 of Arlington National Cemetery, adjacent to the Memorial Amphitheater.
Rank and organization: Specialist Sixth Class (then Sp5c), U.S. Army, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 8 November 1965, Entered service at: New York City, N.Y. G.O. No.: 15, 5 April 1967. Born: 22 February 1928, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at
the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp6c. Joel demonstrated
indomitable courage, determination, and professional skill when a numerically
superior and well-concealed Viet Cong element launched a vicious attack
which wounded or killed nearly every man in the lead squad of the company.
After treating the men wounded by the initial burst of gunfire, he bravely
moved forward to assist others who were wounded while proceeding to their
objective. While moving from man to man, he was struck in the right leg
by machine gun fire. Although painfully wounded his desire to aid his fellow
soldiers transcended all personal feeling. He bandaged his own wound and
self-administered morphine to deaden the pain enabling him to continue
his dangerous undertaking. Through this period of time, he constantly shouted
words of encouragement to all around him. Then, completely ignoring the
warnings of others, and his pain, he continued his search for wounded,
exposing himself to hostile fire; and, as bullets dug up the dirt around
him, he held plasma bottles high while kneeling completely engrossed in
his life saving mission. Then, after being struck a second time and with
a bullet lodged in his thigh, he dragged himself over the battlefield and
succeeded in treating 13 more men before his medical supplies ran out.
Displaying resourcefulness, he saved the life of one man by placing a plastic
bag over a severe chest wound to congeal the blood. As 1 of the platoons
pursued the Viet Cong, an insurgent force in concealed positions opened
fire on the platoon and wounded many more soldiers. With a new stock of
medical supplies, Sp6c. Joel again shouted words of encouragement as he
crawled through an intense hail of gunfire to the wounded men. After the
24 hour battle subsided and the Viet Cong dead numbered 410, snipers
continued to harass the company. Throughout the long battle, Sp6c. Joel
never lost sight of his mission as a medical aidman and continued to comfort
and treat the wounded until his own evacuation was ordered. His meticulous
attention to duty saved a large number of lives and his unselfish, daring
example under most adverse conditions was an inspiration to all. Sp6c.
Joel's profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life
above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the
U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of
Photo Courtesy of the United States Army
Photo (c) M. R. Patterson, July 1997