Longtime South Haven Teacher To Receive Medal Of Honor For Vietnam Heroics 48 Years Ago [Video]
In May of 1969, Pfc. James McCloughlan, a combat medic, crawled onto a battlefield near Tam Ky, in then South Vietnam and helped rescue many of his comrades during a firefight.
On July 31, the South Haven native will be honored for his actions with the highest military award.
McCloughlan, an Olivet College graduate, returned to his hometown following the war, and resumed the teaching position he had left when he was drafted in 1968. He taught and coached in the South Haven school district for 40 years before retiring.
President Donald Trump will award McCloughlan the Congressional Medal of Honor for his sacrifices on July 31 at a ceremony in DC.
According to the US Army website, McCloughlan’s heroics involved helping soldiers from both sides of the conflict:
A private first class at the time, McCloughan voluntarily risked his life to rescue wounded and disoriented personnel.
Despite being personally wounded by shrapnel and small-arms fire, McCloughan refused medical evacuation.
Instead, he opted to stay with his unit, where he continued to brave enemy fire so that he could rescue, treat and defend his wounded comrades.
While moving the wounded onto medical evacuation helicopters, his platoon leader ordered him to join them. But he said he disobeyed the order, telling the lieutenant, “You’re going to need me.”
The next day, elements of his battalion were getting probed by the North Vietnamese army. His own platoon had stood down and was recovering in the relatively quiet sector of Landing Zone Center, also in the vicinity of Tam Kỳ. McCloughan joined another platoon for a scouting mission.
The platoon was ambushed and the other platoon medic was killed, leaving McCloughan as the sole medical specialist in the company.
Through intense battle, McCloughan was wounded a second time by small arms fire and shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade while rendering aid to two Soldiers in an open rice paddy.
In the final phases of the attack, two companies from the NVA and an element of 700 soldiers from a Viet Cong regiment descended upon Company C’s position on three sides. McCloughan, again with complete disregard for this life, went into the crossfire numerous times throughout the battle to extract wounded Soldiers, while also fighting the enemy.
In the early morning of May 15, McCloughan knocked out an RPG position with a grenade. He continued to fight, treat casualties and eliminate enemy soldiers until he collapsed from dehydration and exhaustion.
During the battle, 17 men were lost to enemy fire and many more were wounded, he said. Over the 48-hour battle
McCloughan risked his life on nine separate occasions and is credited with saving the lives of 10 members of his company.
McCloughan admitted that during the intense battle, it was surreal to be shooting at the enemy one moment and treating wounded North Vietnamese soldiers, as well as American Soldiers, the next.
McCloughlan is a member of the Michigan High School Football Association Hall of Fame, the Michigan Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame and the Olivet College Hall of Fame.
He never brought up his Vietnam experiences to any of his students, so many of them never knew of his heroics. He told army.mil that many of these experiences were terrible and it’s only been recently that he has opened up about them.