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 Herbert Stephen Bechtel

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Herbert Stephen Bechtel

  • Birth 26 Dec 1945
  • Death 25 Aug 1966 Bin Thang, Binh Duong, Vietnam
  • Burial Bellefontaine, Logan County, Ohio, USA
  • Memorial ID 22329078

Distinguished Service Cross
Awarded posthumously for actions during the Vietnam War
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Private First Class Herbert Stephen Bechtel (ASN: 52637473), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company B, 1st Battalion, 2d Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, on 25 August 1966. Private Bechtel, serving as a machinegunner during Operation AMARILLO, moved with his unit through a dense jungle area in War Zone C in an attempt to drive heavily reinforced Viet Cong units from their sanctuaries along Route 16. His commander received word that a 16-man patrol from the Battalion had stumbled across a well-camouflaged enemy base camp and was being heavily engaged by a numerically superior Viet Cong force. Private Bechtel's company joined with other elements of the Battalion and quickly moved to assist the beleaguered patrol. As they arrived in the embattled area, his platoon maneuvered between the patrol and the Viet Cong. This gave the patrol sufficient time to move their dead and wounded to the rear. No sooner was the patrol extracted than the Viet Cong Struck the platoon with every weapon at their command. Casualties were many and the platoon was suddenly in grave danger of being destroyed. Artillery and air strikes could not be used against the Viet Cong because of the platoon's proximity to them. Private Bechtel realized the platoon faced annihilation unless someone was able to provide sufficient covering fire to enable the platoon to withdraw. Unhesitatingly, he ordered his gun crew to follow him as he moved to a foxhole forward of the platoon's position. He directed extremely heavy fire on the insurgent bunkers and emplacements, enabling most of the platoon to move back to less exposed positions. There were many wounded who had to be left behind, and Private Bechtel was all that stood between them and the enemy. His steady, intensive fire enabled aidmen to craw forward and start evacuating the wounded. The Viet Cong concentrated their firepower on Private Bechtel's position. An enemy rifle grenade landed near him. The concussion lifted him from the foxhole and shrapnel wounded him in his arms and hands. He ignored the pain and crawled back to his position to resume firing on the Viet Cong. The assistant machine gunner had taken over the weapon. Although he was severely wounded and there was someone else to man the weapon, Private Bechtel refused to go to the rear for medical attention. Instead, he painfully crawled 30 meters through a hail of enemy fire. Although he realized he was the primary target of Viet Cong fire, he secured three boxes of ammunition and started the perilous crawl back to his foxhole. When he reached the position, he found that the assistant gunner had been killed and that the ammunition bearer had manned the machinegun. As their ammunition supply became critically low, Private Bechtel defied a furious volume of hostile fire a second time as he crawled to another demolished machinegun position and returned with a large quantity of ammunition. Soon thereafter, the ammunition bearer was severely wounded. Private Bechtel told him to crawl to the rear where he could rejoin the platoon and receive medical attention. Although seriously wounded himself, Private Bechtel refused to go with his comrade. Instead, he placed intensive fire onto the insurgent positions to cover the wounded man's withdrawal. He was now alone in his isolated forward position. Private Bechtel, aware that he was low on ammunition, carefully placed short bursts of fire onto the Viet Cong emplacements. Again, a well-placed enemy grenade exploded near his position, and Private Bechtel was struck in the shoulder and hip by fragments. His Platoon Sergeant shouted to him to return to the rear so that his wounds could be treated, but he replied that he would remain at his position and continue covering the evacuation of the casualties. Again the Viet Cong increased the intensity of their fire at his position. Private Bechtel continued firing at the enemy. His highly accurate suppressive fire effectively covered the extraction of the casualties from the battlefield. Then his weapon was silenced. Later, the American forces completely routed the Viet Cong from the base camp. Private Bechtel was found dead behind his weapon with his finger still on the trigger and all ammunition expended. He had decided that, if necessary, he would sacrifice his own life to enable he comrades to live. Although there was ample opportunity for him to change his mind, he stuck with his decision to the end. His conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, at the cost of his own life, provided the covering fire that enabled his platoon to withdraw from an extremely dangerous situation and allowed his wounded comrades to be carried from the battlefield. Not only did his actions save many of his comrade's lives but also provided them with the inspiration to continue the battle and resoundingly defeat the enemy. He never relented from his determined effort to destroy the enemy and to assist and impart confidence to his fallen comrades. Private Bechtel's actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 15 (April 8, 1968)
Action Date: 25-Aug-66

  • Created by: Robert "Rob" Weller
  • Added: 21 Oct 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 22329078
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  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Herbert Stephen Bechtel (26 Dec 1945–25 Aug 1966), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22329078, citing Calvary Cemetery, Bellefontaine, Logan County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Robert "Rob" Weller (contributor 46505507) .