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Biden awards Medal of Honor to 4 Vietnam veterans, including 1 heroic for helicopter catch

President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to four Vietnam War veterans Tuesday — including one former soldier who caught an injured compatriot as they fell out of a helicopter.

“We’re upgrading the awards for soldiers who performed acts of incredible heroism during the Vietnam conflict,” Biden said in the White House East Room.

“I mean, it’s just astounding when you hear what each of them have done,” the president added. “They went far above and beyond the call of duty.”

The three surviving veterans — Specialist Five Dwight Birdwell, Specialist Five Dennis Fujii and retired Major John Duffy — stood with Biden as they received their awards. The fourth honoree, Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro, was killed in action on March 6, 1967.

Kaneshiro destroyed three communist positions in a Vietnamese village by deploying two grenades and rifle fire during a 1966 ambush, according to the official citation for his medal.

Clockwise from left: Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, Spc. 5 Dennis Fujii, Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro and Maj. John Duffy.
US Army
President Joe Biden applauds as he presents the Medal of Honor to John Kaneshiro in posthumous memory of his father U.S. Army veteran Staff Sergeant Edward Kaneshiro.
President Biden applauds as he presents the Medal of Honor to John Kaneshiro in posthumous memory of his father, Army veteran Staff Sergeant Edward Kaneshiro.
Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS
President Joe Biden awards the Medal of Honor to retired Maj. John Duffy.
President Biden awards the Medal of Honor to retired Maj. John Duffy.
Evan Vucci/AP

Fujii fought off enemy troops for 17 hours in Laos during a frantic 1971 evacuation effort.

Birdwell helped evacuate colleagues near Saigon during the Tet Offensive in January 1968 despite being shot in the face and torso.

Duffy, meanwhile assisted in a daring 1972 evacuation of injured soldiers while directing fire on Viet Cong positions.

President Joe Biden awards the Medal of Honor to Spc. Dennis Fujii.
President Joe Biden awards the Medal of Honor to Spc. Dennis Fujii.
Evan Vucci/AP
Spc. Dennis Fujii.
Spc. Dennis Fujii fought off enemy troops for 17 hours in Laos during a 1971 evacuation effort.
Evan Vucci/AP
President Joe Biden awards the Medal of Honor to Army Specialist 5 Dwight W. Birdwell.
President Joe Biden awards the Medal of Honor to Army Specialist 5 Dwight W. Birdwell
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Dwight W. Birdwell.
Army Specialist 5 Dwight W. Birdwell helped evacuate colleagues near Saigon during the Tet Offensive.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Duffy “made sure he was the last to board the helicopter and finally the airship was ready to depart [and] one of his Vietnamese allies was shot in the foot, causing him to fall backwards out of the helicopter. Major Duffy caught him and dragged him back in,” Biden said.

Biden, 79, is of the same generation that fought the Vietnam War, but received draft deferments and was not among the roughly 2.7 million Americans sent to South Vietnam to fight off the ultimately victorious communist onslaught.

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