Calvin Bouknight – Specialist 5, United States Army

  • Date of Birth: 6/23/1941
  • Date of Casualty: 11/16/1965
  • Home of Record: WASHINGTON, D.C.
  • Branch of Service: ARMY
  • Rank: SP5
  • Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM

“Greater love hath no man than this,” said Jesus, “that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

On this basis, the story of the men of the Ia Drang is, most assuredly, a towering love story. This love was exemplified many times at Landing Zones X-Ray and Albany, as in the case of Specialist Calvin Bouknight. Lieutenant Dennis Deal recounts what happened as three platoons from Alpha and Bravo companies attempted to rescue Lieutenant Henry Herrick’s platoon, which had been badly mauled and cut off from the rest of the battalion. Before the rescuers could break through to the lost platoon, they were themselves nearly overrun.

“There were at least fifteen of our men, wounded and dead, out front,” said Deal. “At this point, Specialist 5 Calvin Bouknight rose from cover, ran over, and began administering aid to the wounded. He succeeded in treating four or five of them, always by placing his body between the continuous sheets of heavy fire and the man he was treating. Bouknight was mortally wounded less than five minutes after he began performing his stunningly heroic act.”

Sp-5 CALVIN BOUKNIGHT, B 1/7, B Co Medic

Assigned to 3-6 on Nov 1, 1965. I was the 3-6, the Platoon Leader and was assigned Bouknight because I didn’t have a medic.

On 14 November we were the first company to land in the ID Valley. Calvin was a Conscientious Objector and refused to carry a weapon due to his religious beliefs although he was a career soldier. I asked him several times in the two weeks I knew him to carry a sidearm (very difficult at the time due to lack of .45 ammo, lots of pistols, no ammo).

In the hell that was the ID Valley on 14 November, Calvin was with my “command group” (me, medic, RTO, PLT SGT). I don’t think I exaggerate when I say at any given second there were 1000 bullets flying around. We got to a point where we were doubly surrounded. There were many wounded up front where we had been but had been forced to withdraw. We were all on our stomachs trying to figure where to maneuver next. Suddenly I felt someone’s boots literally running up my back in the face of all this fire where nobody could get to their knees without being shot (ref: Second Lieutenant Wayne Johnson). Calvin proceeded to place his body between the enemy and our wounded and succeeded in treating 2-4 of them before the inevitable happened. He was shot between the shoulder blades and paralyzed waist down. A lull in the firing occurred and Calvin was recovered by 2 men who made a seat for him by criss-crossing their hands and as he passed, he said as tears flooded down his face, “it hurts, sir, it hurts so bad” and they moved him on. I told him he would make it and to hang on. I was told he died in mid-scream from his horrific pain. We had given him morphine and may as well have injected water for all the good it did.

Colonel Herren and I tried to get his Silver Star upgraded to a Medal of Honor but were not successful. Later at base camp an EM club was erected and named Bouknight Hall. The real injustice for this gallant man who upheld the highest standards of the Medic Credo is that his Silver Star is not engraved on his tombstone at Arlington. Only the worst award of all is on it, the Purple Heart.

–Dennis Deal


  • SP5 USA
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 06/23/1941
  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/16/1965
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 12/01/1965

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