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Sgt Rudolph A. Elizondo

The Vietnam War

September 24, 1968




Sergeant Rudolph A. Elizondo distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force at Katum Special Forces Camp, Republic of Vietnam on 24 September 1968.

On that date, Sergeant Elizondo was a member of a Combat Control Team who was deployed to the camp to provide air traffic control and ground support for the aerial resupply of the beleaguered Vietnamese camp which was under pre-siege mortar and rocket barrage.

With complete disregard for his personal safety Sergeant Elizondo helped clear the drop zone and recover the load before it was recovered by hostile forces and used against the camp.

By the successful recovery of these much needed supplies, the imminent hostile ground attack was bolted and the Vietnamese camp kept from being overrun by a determined hostile force.

By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Elizondo has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.


Excerpt from “Brothers in Berets”:

On the night of 23–24 September 1968, a determined enemy force made repeated attempts to overrun the camp at Katum. After the at- tacks, Slayton recalled that American intelligence personnel surmised it was “the graduation for the infantry class,” because so many brand-new AK-47s littered the area. Slayton had never experienced the effectiveness of the AC-130 Specter gunship, but that night “they put their power where they needed to” to save their comrades on the ground. At one point, Slayton manned an M-60 machine gun dur- ing a probe that brought the enemy within 70 yards of his position. The next morning, Slayton and Elizondo cleared the runway of unexploded ordnance prior to coordinating the day’s resupply airdrops. Elizondo recalled pulling bombs out of the ground, a hazardous undertaking. They also noticed a number of enemy prisoners of war (POW), several horribly wounded and missing arms or legs, the grim result of the previous night’s unrelenting attacks. Elizondo offered one a cigarette, which the wounded man refused with disdain.

Positioned near the runway, the combat controllers relied on their portable radio to maintain communications with aircraft in the vicinity. There, they were exposed, as Slayton’s Silver Star citation read, to “hostile ground fire while controlling incoming resupply aircraft bringing vital munitions and supplies to the beleaguered camp.”

Slayton and Elizondo accounted for 2 of the 22 Silver Stars earned by combat controllers during the Southeast Asia conflict.

Silver Star Medal graphic for Combat Control Acts of Valor

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