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Cpl. Larry E. Smedley

Cpl. Larry E. Smedley Story


Corporal Larry E. Smedley, (March 4, 1949 – December 21, 1967) posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor.


Larry Eugene Smedley was born on March 4, 1949, in Front Royal, Virginia. He attended elementary school in Berryville, Virginia; Augusta, Georgia; Union Park, Florida and Howard Junior High School in Orlando. He attended Colonial High School, but when he was 17 he quit high school and joined the Marines.


After enlistment, on March 18, 1966 in Orlando, Smedley reported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina and underwent training with the 1st Recruit Training Battalion. In July 1966, he completed individual combat training with 2nd Infantry Training Battalion, 1st Infantry Training Regiment, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.


Pvt. Smedley was promoted to Private First Class on September 1, 1966 and to Lance Corporal on January 1, 1967. In July 1967, LCpl Smedley arrived in the Republic of Vietnam. He was assigned duty as a rifleman and squad radio man with Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, and was promoted to Corporal on September 1, 1967. While on patrol in Quang Nam Province on December 21, 1967, he was mortally wounded in the action for which he earned the Medal of Honor. 


Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a squad leader with Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, in connection with operations against the enemy.


On the evenings of 20-21 December 1967, Cpl. Smedley led his 6-man squad to an ambush site at the mouth of Happy Valley, near Phouc Ninh (2) in Quang Nam Province. Later that night an estimated 100 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army regulars, carrying 122mm rocket launchers and mortars, were observed moving toward Hill 41. Realizing this was a significant enemy move to launch an attack on the vital Danang complex, Cpl. Smedley immediately took sound and courageous action to stop the enemy threat. After he radioed for a reaction force, he skillfully maneuvered his men to a more advantageous position and led an attack on the numerically superior enemy force. A heavy volume of fire from an enemy machinegun positioned on the left flank of the squad inflicted several casualties on Cpl. Smedley's unit. Simultaneously, an enemy rifle grenade exploded nearby, wounding him in the right foot and knocking him to the ground. Cpl. Smedley disregarded this serious injury and valiantly struggled to his feet, shouting words of encouragement to his men. He fearlessly led a charge against the enemy machinegun emplacement, firing his rifle and throwing grenades, until he was again struck by enemy fire and knocked to the ground. Gravely wounded and weak from loss of blood, he rose and commenced a one-man assault against the enemy position. Although his aggressive and singlehanded attack resulted in the destruction of the machinegun, he was struck in the chest by enemy fire and fell mortally wounded. Cpl. Smedley's inspiring and courageous actions, bold initiative and selfless devotion to duty in the face of certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.


Larry E. Smedley was killed in Vietnam, at age 18.


Corporal Larry E. Smedley was buried with full military honors in Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. His name is engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. on Panel 32E, Line 40.