Medal of Honor

 

 

Ingram, Robert R.

 

Rank and organization: Hospital Corpsman Third Class, United States Navy

 

Place and date: Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam, 28 March 1966

 

Entered service at: Coral Gables, Florida

 

Born: Jan 20, 1945 at Clearwater, Florida

 

Citation:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Corpsman with Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines against elements of a North Vietnam Aggressor (NVA) battalion in Quang Ngai Province Republic of Vietnam on 28 March 1966. Petty Officer Ingram accompanied the point platoon as it aggressively dispatched an outpost of an NVA battalion. The momentum of the attack rolled off a ridge line down a tree covered slope to a small paddy and a village beyond. Suddenly, the village tree line exploded with an intense hail of automatic rifle fire from approximately 100 North Vietnamese regulars. In mere moments, the platoon ranks were decimated. Oblivious to the danger, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the bullet spattered terrain to reach a downed Marine. As he administered aid, a bullet went through the palm of his hand. Calls for "CORPSMAN" echoed across the ridge. Bleeding, he edged across the fire swept landscape, collecting ammunition from the dead and administering aid to the wounded. Receiving two more wounds before realizing the third wound was life-threatening, he looked for a way off the face of the ridge, but again he heard the call for corpsman and again, he resolutely answered. Though severely wounded three times, he rendered aid to those incapable until he finally reached the right flank of the platoon. While dressing the head wound of another corpsman, he sustained his fourth bullet wound. From sixteen hundred hours until just prior to sunset, Petty Officer Ingram pushed, pulled, cajoled, and doctored his Marines. Enduring the pain from his many wounds and disregarding the probability of his demise, Petty Officer Ingram's intrepid actions saved many lives that day. By his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative, and unfaltering dedications to duty, Petty Officer Ingram reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


The Medal of Honor was awarded to Doc Ingram by President Clinton at the White House in Washington D.C. on 10 July 1998.

 

The following transcripts are of CNN television coverage of the award ceremony, and previous and subsequent television reporting.


Robert R. Ingram Discusses Receiving Congressional Medal of Honor

 

Aired July 10, 1998 - 2:29 p.m. ET .

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The Medal of Honor will be awarded in just a short time at the White House.

Jonathan Karl joins us now and he's with the recipient -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the president will present the Congressional Medal of Honor to a man's whose war experience in Vietnam sounds like a Hollywood movie, but there's nothing Hollywood about it. It's the story of one man's heroics in combat.

That man, Robert Ingram, joins me now here on the White House lawn.

Mr. Ingram, in this citation that will be read today by the president, it says that you disregarded the probability of your own death to save the lives of others.

Did you think you were going to die that day back in March, 1996?

ROBERT "DOC" INGRAM, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: I was totally convinced I was going to die, yes.

CNN: What was happening? How did you make that decision not to get evacuated? I understand you had an opportunity to leave, you wanted to stay, why?

"DOC" INGRAM: I'd already been wounded twice before the head injury, and after the head injury it was pretty obvious at that point that my head was mush from the gunshot wound. It's not likely that I was going to live through that. There was probably brain involvement and my left eye was in pretty bad shape, I had no hearing.

At that point, I really needed to decide what to do. I mean, you can lay there under fire and die or you can get up and go. And I decided that the men needed me out there if you're going to die, you might as well die doing it.

My other corpsman at that point was unconscious. I wasn't aware of it, but I found him a few minutes later and he had been hit also.

CNN: Now, you were doing more than just treating the injured Marines. You were actually going out and gathering ammunition and giving it -- tell us what was going on.

"DOC" INGRAM: Well, after having been in combat for some period of time, you learn the ways of the Marines, you learn the way of combat. And the fact is, you can not allow the enemy to have the ammunition available. You're going to need it, and each Marine I got to, I took his ammunition, rifle, tried to move it out of sight, at least take his ammunition and use it against the enemy.

CNN: Now, at one point you returned fire, am I right?

"DOC" INGRAM: Returned a lot of fire, yes.

CNN: And what happened when you -- shortly after you had been hit, I think it was the third shot?

"DOC" INGRAM: The third shot -- well, the third shot was from a man at very close range. I was tending one of the men on the ground when I noticed or heard or something and I turned my head and he was about 15 feet from me and he shot me in the head. It was a real critical day for me psychologically as well as physically.

This gentlemen looked at me, and he obviously had never looked anybody in the eyes when he shot them before because suddenly I had a personality and he was really upset over it. You could tell it from his eyes.

Probably the most painful thing I ever did in my life was eliminate him and get on with the process.

CNN: Is this hard for you to talk about? Relive these memories from so long ago?

"DOC" INGRAM: Yes. In the early years it was much more difficult. I had much less understanding of myself and everything else that went on over there. I think I've developed some acceptance of the situation and knowledge of why these things happen.

The most important thing at this point is that all the men that I was there in the rice paddy with, at least 25 of them, are here today.

This is a joyous occasion for me.

CNN: All right, well I want to say it's a real honor to talk to you and thank you very much for joining us. I know it's about a half an hour away you'll receive that medal.

Thank you very much.

"DOC" INGRAM: Thank you.


The Medal of Honor Award Ceremony

Aired July 10, 1998 - 3:15 p.m. ET

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we take you now live at the state dining room at the White House for quite a ceremony. Robert Ingram is about to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration, 32 years after his heroics in a battlefield in Vietnam.

(COVERAGE OF LIVE EVENT)

REAR ADMIRAL A. BYRON HOLDERBY, CHIEF CHAPLAIN, U.S. NAVY: To be able to look back and to know in our hearts that we have sought to travel the honorable road. Had laid aside personal interest to care for the needs of others, have refused to let fear overwhelm us, focusing instead on the duty at hand, have believed in the rightness of our nation's course, and have trusted in your hand to guide and preserve us. This is a blessing and a gift that you must reserve for the brave.

Robert Ingram is among those few so blessed. As he is honored this day, we give thanks for his life and his example. His deeds inspire us all to reach for what is good and what is honorable.

We pray that you will continue to watch over and keep safe his family. Bless this ceremony, preserve our nation, protect the men and women in our Armed Forces, sustain our President, and accept please our praise always. Amen.

BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Welcome. Thank you, Admiral, for your invocation. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House. I thank Secretary Cohen and Secretary West, Secretary Gober, Deputy Secretary Hamre, Secretary Dalton, Secretary Caldera, Acting Air Force Secretary Peters, General Shelton and other members of the Joint Chiefs, and general officers here present today. I thank the members of the Congress from the Florida delegation who are here, and other members of Congress, including Senator Thurmond, Senator Graham, Senator Mack, Senator Glenn, Senator Cleland, Representative Brown, Representative McHale and all those in Congress whose action helped to make this day possible.

Today, we present the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military honor, to Robert R. Ingram for extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty on March the 28th, 1966, in Quang Ngai province, South Vietnam.

Today, more than 30 years later, Bob Ingram is manager of a medical service practice in Jacksonville, a registered nurse, a man who loves to work on cars. His wife, Doris, his children and his close friends are here with us today, and we welcome them.

His story spans decades and continents, but across these divides, friendship and loyalty have endured and have brought us to this moment.

Mr. Ingram enlisted in the Navy in 1963, and joined the Hospital Corps. He went to Vietnam with Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in July 1965. One day in February of 1966, the company came under heavy fire and Petty Officer Ingram rushed forward to treat the wounded.

Enemy bullets punctured both his canteens. When the unit's machine gunner was hit, he manned the gun. And for his bravery on that day, he received the Silver Star.

On March the 28th, 1966, Petty Officer Ingram accompanied the Point platoon, his company, as it was suddenly attacked by 100 North Vietnamese in a hail of automatic rifle fire. In moments the platoon was decimated. Oblivious to the danger, he crawled across the terrain to reach a wounded Marine. While administering aid, a bullet went through his hand.

After administering aid there, he heard more calls for a corpsman. Still bleeding, he edged across the fire-swept landscape, collecting ammunition from the dead and attending to the wounded, receiving two additional wounds from rifle fire.

Though severely wounded, he continued administering aid to the wounded and the dying Marines while gathering ammunition and encouraging others capable of doing so to return fire.

While dressing the head wound of another corpsman, he sustained his fourth wound. And during extreme pain from his own wounds and disregarding the probability of his own death, Petty Officer Ingram pushed, pulled, cajoled and doctored his Marines for hours more.

Losing strength and almost unrecognizable from his injuries, finally he was pulled to safety, where he tried to refuse evacuation, saying that others should go first. His vital signs dropped to the point that he was tagged "killed in action" and placed in a dead pile. But as you can see, he did not die.

Eleven members of Charlie Company, however, were killed that day, and 53 more were wounded.

Some are alive today because of the extraordinary selflessness and bravery of Robert Ingram. Harvey Capler, a corporal in the lead platoon wrote last year, "I observed Robert Ingram perform acts of heroism I had never seen before, during or after my tour of Vietnam."

Mr. Ingram later recalled: "I was just doing my job. My job was to take care of the men."

Three weeks after the attack, he wrote his platoon from his hospital bed. "I've got a tube in my throat, leg elevated, arm elevated, can't move. But I wanted you all to know, I'm still alive." After eight months recovering, he went back to sea on another deployment.

Other members of the company were honored for their bravery on that day in March of 1966. But no one doubted that Robert Ingram deserved the highest honor.

We don't know how his citation got lost all those years ago, but we do know why he is here today, because his friends never forgot what he did for them.

Jim Fulkerson commanded the third platoon of Charlie company. In 1995, he organized a reunion of members of the battalion, including Bob Ingram. They remembered the war, the endless cold soaking rains, the terrible fire fights. And Ingram's friends resolved to do everything possible to ensure that America finally gave him appropriate recognition.

Charlie Company's commander, Ben Goodwin, wrote to General Krulak. "I saw my fair share of combat in Vietnam. Of all the men I brought with me, Doc Ingram was undoubtedly the most courageous."

Mr. Ingram is the 22nd Navy corpsman to receive the Medal of Honor, and his award comes appropriately as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Navy Hospital Corps.

Through all our conflicts, they have been there on ships at sea, on the front lines -- performing foxhole surgery, saving thousands of lives while risking and sometimes sacrificing their own.

I salute their courageous service to our nation.

The last troops left Vietnam almost 25 years ago now. But we do not and we must not forget their sacrifices and bravery.

As Mr. Capler recently wrote of the firefight in Quang Ngai that day: "As I grow old, I look back to that day and the heroism of the Marines and our Navy corpsmen, and I understand what is meant by the highest traditions of service. I'm extremely proud to call Robert Ingram a friend."

On that battlefield so many years ago, Robert Ingram performed truly heroic deeds and asked for nothing in return. At long last it is time to honor him.

Mr. Ingram, on behalf of all Americans, we thank you for your service, for your courage, for your determination, for your loyalty to comrades and country. We are all proud to call you an American. Hillary and I are proud that you are in the White House with us today, and I am very proud to award you the Medal of Honor.

Major Eberhardt, read the citation.

MAJOR EBERHARDT: The President of the United States, in the name of the Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert R. Ingram, United States Navy, for service set forth in the following citation.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as corpsman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines against elements of a North Vietnam aggressive battalion in Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 28 March, 1966. Petty Officer Ingram accompanied the point platoon as it aggressively engaged an outposts of an NVA battalion. As the battle moved off a ridge line, down a tree-covered slope into a small rice paddy and village beyond, a tree line suddenly exploded in an intense hell of automatic rifle fire from approximately 100 North Vietnamese regulars. In moments, the platoon was decimated.

Oblivious to the danger, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the battlefield to reach a down Marine.

He administered aid; a bullet went through the palm of his hand.

The calls for corpsmen echoed across the ridge. Bleeding, he edged across the fire-swept landscape collecting ammunition from the dead and administering aid to the wounded. Receiving two more wounds, with the third wound being a life-threatening one, he looked for a way off the face of the ridge. But again, he heard the call for help, and he resolutely answered.

He gathered magazines, resupplied and encouraged those capable of returning fire and rendered aid to the more severely wounded until he finally reached the right flank of the platoon. While dressing the head wound of another corpsman, he sustained his fourth bullet wound.

From 1600 hours until almost sunset, Petty Officer Ingram pushed, pulled, cajoled and doctored his Marines. And during the pain from his many wounds and disregarding the probability of his own death, Petty Officer Ingram's gallant actions saved many lives.

By his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative and unfaltering dedication to duty, Petty Officer Ingram reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

(APPLAUSE)

(END OF COVERAGE)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robert Ingram receives the nation's highest military decoration 32 years after his heroics on a battlefield in Vietnam. About an hour ago, he told us here at CNN that after he had been shot four times, he resisted evacuation because he knew he was going to die, he told us, and he wanted to continue working to help the other men around him. But as you heard the president say, even though he was tagged "killed in action," and put in a pile of bodies, Robert Ingram lived and 32 years later receives his day, the day he receives the Medal of Honor.

We were glad to bring you that ceremony.


Subsequent Award Ceremony Reporting

 

Aired July 10, 1998 - 6:10 p.m. ET

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Washington, a another long overdue ceremony for a surviving hero of the Vietnam war. Thirty-two years after his remarkable action under fire, Robert Ingram received the nation's highest military award at the White House.

CNN's Jonathan Karl reports.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tragedy and heroics in Vietnam more than three decades ago -- now, a hero is belatedly awarded the nation's highest military honor.

(APPLAUSE)

Robert Ingram's Vietnam experience reads like a Hollywood script, but it's a real-life story of heroics in combat.

ROBERT "DOC" INGRAM, CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: You can lay there under fire and die, or you can get up and go. I decided the men needed me out there.

CNN: Ingram was a 21-year-old Navy medical corpsman when disaster struck his unit in March 1966. Under heavy enemy fire, he tended to injured marines in the field. He was hit, and hit again. A third shot hit his head. He saw the enemy and returned fire.

"DOC" INGRAM: When I turned and looked into his eyes, I saw what I had felt already. When you take someone's life, and they suddenly have a personality, it's not an easy thing to do. I just felt great pain knowing that the enemy was no different than we were.

CNN: Facing almost certain death, Ingram kept on, tending to the injured and gathering ammunition in the field until...

BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His vital signs dropped to the point that he was tagged "killed in action" and placed in a dead pile. But as you can see, he did not die.

CNN: Ingram's Congressional Medal of Honor comes after a lobbying campaign by the men who credit him for saving their lives.

U.S. SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: He served with enormous heroism and gallantry, but didn't think of himself as being heroic. It was his friends who said, "Bob, you ought to receive the Congressional Medal Of Honor."

CNN: Modest even now, Ingram has mixed feelings about being honored.

"DOC" INGRAM: After going to the wall last night, seeing all those names on the wall, including my guys -- I'm here today, being recognized, and I am really overwhelmed by all the attention. Seeing them on the wall is all there is.

 


The following information is from the United States Navy

 

Former Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert R. Ingram was presented the Medal of Honor by President Clinton for "conspicuous gallantry" during the Vietnam War. Secretary of the Navy John Dalton; Adm. Jay L. Johnson, Chief of Naval Operations; and Gen. Charles C. Krulak, Commandant of the Marine Corps, attended the ceremony in the State Dining Room, along with approximately 40 former Marines coming from across the country Mr. Ingram, a native of Clearwater, Fla., now living in Jacksonville, is the first Navy member in 20 years to receive the Medal of Honor. The last, awarded in 1979 was posthumous.

On March 28, 1966, HM3 Ingram, then 21, accompanied the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines on a search and destroy mission against North Vietnam Army forces suspected of being in a village complex in Quang Ngai province. Upon reaching the village, the lead platoon destroyed an enemy outpost but in doing so alerted the main body of NVA forces.

A firefight ensued with about 100 NVA shooting at the Marines, immediately killing or wounding members of the lead squad. Calls of "corpsman!" were everywhere. HM3 Ingram rushed through the fire to get to a wounded Marine, and, as he grasped the Marine to roll him over, was shot through the hand. He proceeded to two more patients and was shot through the knee. Limping, he moved on to other casualties.

Medal of Honor recipient and former U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Robert Ingram and his wife Doris watch the U.S. Marine Corps band perform on the White House lawn. President William J. Clinton awarded Ingram the military's highest award for his gallant actions during the Vietnam War. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class S. Todd Stevens. [980710-N-0132S-002] Hi-Rez

At this point, an NVA soldier popped up from a spider hole and shot Ingram. The bullet came in beneath his right eye, went through his sinuses, and exited at the left side of the skull where the jaw attaches. Petty Officer Ingram returned the fire, killing the NVA soldier. Mr. Ingram recounted: "This must have been the first time that soldier had shot someone while looking him in the face. I could see the look of sorrow in his eyes."

Petty Officer Ingram then sought more casualties. While moving a fallen fellow hospital corpsman to safety, he was shot through the lower portion of his torso. Amid incoming mortar and antiaircraft fire, HM3 Ingram continued to tend the wounded, gather magazines and resupply those capable of returning fire. He finally returned to a friendly position. He then tried to refuse medical evacuation so others would be taken out first. As he was placed on a medevac helicopter, his bullet-riddled body was tagged "killed in action".

The Medal of Honor came 32 years after the action. During a reunion, his comrades had discovered that the original citation had apparently been lost, and they petitioned the Navy and Congress in Mr. Ingram's behalf.

Mr. Ingram enlisted in the Navy in November 1963. After completing recruit training at San Diego, he requested and was assigned to Hospital Corps School in Jan. 1964. Following Corps School, he underwent Field Medical Service School (FMSS) at Camp Pendleton.

After a short tour with Company "B", 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, he transferred to Company "C" in late spring 1965. The unit arrived in Vietnam in July 1965 after further training in Okinawa.

HM3 Ingram received a Silver Star for his action when on Feb. 8, 1966, elements of Company "C" took heavy fire while assaulting an enemy-held village. HM3 Ingram rushed to treat between 12 and 14 wounded. The unit's machine gunner was hit, and Ingram manned the gun until relieved.

Mr. Ingram, discharged from the Navy in 1968, is now a registered nurse at a family practice in Jacksonville, where he lives with his wife Doris. The couple have a son and a daughter.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert R. Ingram, U.S. Navy, Vietnam, 1966

 

Robert R. and Doris Ingram, The White House, 10 July 1998

 


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