President Donald Trump presented the Medal of Honor to longtime American Legion member James C. McCloughan of South Haven, Mich., on July 31 during a ceremony at the White House.
McCloughan, a 24-year member of the Legion and former Army combat medic, was honored for risking his life 48 years ago to save 10 American soldiers during the Vietnam War.
“Today, we pay tribute to a veteran who went above and beyond the call of duty to protect our comrades, our country and our freedom,” Trump said. “Though he was thousands of miles from home, it was as if the strength and pride of our whole nation was beating inside of Jim’s heart. Jim did what his father had taught him – he gave it his all and then he just kept giving.”
On May 13, 1969, less than three months after he arrived in Vietnam, McCloughan was one of 89 men in his company to embark on a mission to secure a transportation route near Nui Yon. As McCloughan and his men jumped out of the helicopter, they were surrounded by enemy troops.
Within minutes, two choppers were shot down and a soldier was badly wounded in the middle of an open field. “Jim did not hesitate,” Trump said. “He blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the wounded and the soldier to safety. But this was only the first of many heroic deeds Jim would perform over the next 48 hours.”
Despite being ambushed after an attempt to advance toward the enemy, Trump said McCloughan ran into danger to rescue his men. As he cared for two soldiers, shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade slashed open the back of McCloughan’s body from head to foot.
Yet, McCloughan didn’t let his badly injured body stop him from pulling the two soldiers to safety, as well as answering the plea of another wounded servicemember whom he also rescued and carried to safety.
“As day turned to dusk, nearly all of those who could and really, really had to make it back – they were finally within their night defensive position, except for one soldier whose plea Jim could not ignore,” Trump said. “After several minutes passed, Jim emerged from the smoke and fire carrying yet another soldier. He got the wounds fixed and lifted the soldier to a medevac helicopter.”
Over the next 24 hours, McCloughan fired at enemy combatants, suffered a bullet wound to his arm, and continued to race into gunfire to save more and more lives.
“He would not yield, he would not rest, he would not stop and he would not flinch in the face of sure death and definite danger,” Trump said.
After nearly two days with no food, water or rest, he also volunteered to hold a blinking light in an open field to signal for a supply drop. In those 48 hours, McCloughan rescued 10 Americans and tended to countless others.
He was one of 32 men who held their ground against more than 2,000 enemy troops, Trump said.
“Jim, I know I speak for every person here when I say that we are in awe of your actions and your bravery,” Trump said. “Specialist Five McCloughan – We honor you. We salute you. And with God as your witness, we thank you for what you did for all of us.”