Vietnam War hero Dewitt Battle, center, is presented the Ohio Medal of Valor by Captain Roscoe Cartwright at the Clermont Veterans center just prior to Veterans Day. At left is Battle’s brother, J.C. Battle III. At right is brother Lynwood Battle, Jr. Photo by James Alexander
By Dan Yount
The Cincinnati Herald
Cincinnatian Dewitt Battle, 75, who as a combat medic twice rescued fellow soldiers from life threatening situations on the battlefield in the Vietnam War, was finally recognized in receiving the Ohio Medal of Valor and inducted into The Ohio Military Hall of Fame for “heroism in combat operations against hostile forces of the United States of America.
The awards were presented to 30 Ohio veterans by Ted Mosure, Director of the Ohio Military Hall of Fame, in a ceremony at the Clermont County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in a ceremony on November 2.
In making the presentation, Mosure said, “On behalf of the State of Ohio, thank you for your service to our nation. We are truly blessed to live in a land of unparalleled liberty and opportunity, but these blessings do not come to us without cost. You served our country honorably and have displayed tremendous dedication and resolve, and you have distinguished yourself as a patriotic and hardworking American. On behalf of all Ohioans, we are eternally grateful for your selfless sacrifice and dedication to our country.”
“In the first of two rescues, in the heat of battle, Army Specialist Battle, while wounded himself, treated and removed six wounded soldiers in his platoon from a fire zone after they had encountered an ambush. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery that day.
According to the citation, the Viet Cong were supposed to be observing a holiday ceasefire during the Tet offensive in the Vietnam War in July 1967 as a patrol from the 101st Airborne with Battle in it was advancing on a search and destroy mission through the forward positions.
Battle says he does not remember much from the ambush of his unit that day except for a tremendously loud explosion and a wound to his right hand, possibly from a bullet hitting it.
Captain David A. Korponai, in writing about Battle’s heroism, stated:
“Specialist Battle distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on June 8, 1967, in the Republic of Viet Nam. Specialist Battle was moving with his platoon on a search and destroy operation when they were ambushed by an estimated enemy platoon, wounding six paratroopers and him. Despite his serious head wound and continuing enemy fire, Specialist Battle repeatedly exposed himself as he moved among his wounded comrades administering emergency medical aid to them. On several occasions, he moved back into the ambush killing zone and pulled his wounded comrades to safety. His fearless actions, while he himself was wounded, undoubtedly saved the lives of several seriously wounded soldiers.’’
Battle, of Avondale, and a member of the family that for many years has owned and operated J.C. Battle & Sons Funeral Home, said he joined Army in April 1965, five days after was married. He had graduated from Hughes High School, playing tight end on the football team, and attended Miami University in Oxford on a football scholarship, playing there in 1965 and 1966.
“I wanted to marry my childhood sweetheart, and we were married in April of 1965,’’ he said. “Five days later, I joined the Army to have a job.’’
His father Lynwood Battle Sr. was then operating the family business, but his son Dewitt said the mortuary business was not his “cup of tea.’’ It would be left to his two brothers, J.C. and Lynwood Jr. to carry on the family business. Both also served in Vietnam, but only after their brother’s tour there had ended. Lynwood Jr. received his mortuary science degree while at Ohio State University, where he played tuba in marching band. During his senior year, he dotted the “i’’ with his tuba when the band formation spelled Ohio at the halftime performances. Brother J.C. obtained his mortuary license from Muskingum University in Concord, Ohio. Lynwood worked as an executive at Procter & Gamble, and J.C. was employed by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Tet Offensive was the series of surprise attacks on major cities, towns, and military bases all throughout South Vietnam that were launched by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops.
“When the ambush occurred, the Viet Cong were supposedly on a holiday,’’ he said. “I cannot recall anything prior to the ambush on that day. While I was operating with unit associated with the 237th Infantry on a search and destroy mission, I heard a loud bang, which must have given me a concussion, and everything after that is a complete blank. A round went into my right hand, but that did not stop me from doing my duties. The trauma was so great that it must have paralyzed my hand so it did not hurt, which allowed me to treat the wounded and take them out of the ambush zone.’’
He said the point man told him the night before the ambush that he wanted someone else to walk the point, as his time was short. He was the only soldier killed in the ambush.
After the ambush, Battle was taken out of the combat zone and sent to Osaka, Japan, where he recovered from his wound. Ninety days later, he was sent back to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where he joined 82nd Airborne, and he went back to Vietnam with the 82nd, but was stationed in the rear of the fighting. Ninety days later he was discharged.
In the second act of heroism, Battle, was awarded a Soldier’s Medal for heroic action on the battlefield in the Republic of Vietnam on April 23, 1967.
According the citation, Commander Gerald L. Overstreet, Colonel, Adjutant General, wrote, “during the daylight hours, a helicopter with a full crew of four was completing normal ammunition resupply procedures in support of Company A, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry. Upon completion of resupply, four American soldiers boarded the helicopter for return to the rear via the next resupply point. The helicopter, still loaded with a light cargo of small arms ammunition, M79 ammunition, and hand grenades, ascended and proceeded forward. Suddenly, the aircraft lost altitude and crashed. Immediately upon impact, the resupply ship was ablaze, causing the cargo of small arms ammunition and grenades to begin exploding. Rushing quickly to the scene with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Specialist Battle and four members of his platoon courageously removed two fellow soldiers from the flaming wreck. Again, disregarding the great danger, Specialist Battle returned to the wreck and removed two other seriously injured passengers. At this point, the fuel system exploded and further attempts to remove the remaining personnel were repelled by the intense heat of the now flame-engulfed aircraft. Specialist Battle and his fellow rescuers then removed the injured to an area of safety and administered life saving first aid. His heroic actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.’’
Battle’s wife became pregnant while the couple was stationed at Fort Campbell, and she delivered their son, Dewitt Jr., two weeks after he was wounded in the ambush.
When the couple returned to Cincinnati, he worked as a bank teller, then in the emergency room at Jewish Hospital, then as a UPS driver. They are now divorced.
Battle retired in 1980.
He said he was taught at Fort Sam Houston that a soldier leaves no man behind, and he never forgot that.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown expressed his gratitude.