Joe Ronnie Hooper MOH

b. 08/08/1938 Piedmont, South Carolina. d. 06/05/1979 Louisville, Kentucky.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 21/02/1968 near Hue, Vietnam.

Joe R Hooper MOH

Hooper was born Aug. 8, 1938, in Piedmont, South Carolina, but he grew up in Washington state. He enlisted in the Navy at 17, serving until his honorable discharge in 1959. He later decided to join the Army.

Hooper was on his second tour of duty in Vietnam during 1968’s Tet Offensive. He was a 29-year-old sergeant in Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, when he earned his Medal of Honor.

On February 21, 1968, Hooper’s squad was northwest of Hue City, South Vietnam. They were attacking a heavily defended enemy position near a 20-foot-wide stream when a hail of gunfire and rockets came down on them from the Viet Cong — guerrilla allies of the North Vietnamese from the south. Most of the company was pinned down by the gunfire, but Hooper and five other paratroopers weren’t, so he led them across the stream and into the heart of enemy fire, overtaking five enemy bunkers on the opposite shore. Shortly after, the rest of his company saw what they’d done and joined the fight.

Over the next seven hours, Hooper would perform several acts of gallantry including running back under intense fire to rescue a wounded man, single-handedly storming and taking three enemy bunkers, destroyed three enemy buildings, with no ammunition left racing across an open field to rescue another wounded man, and taking out the last pocket of enemy resistance. While the enemy had been neutralized, Hooper wasn’t done. He established a final line and reorganized his men before finally allowing himself to get medical treatment for the many wounds he’d suffered. He didn’t consent to being evacuated until the next morning, when news reports said he’d passed out from blood loss.

A fellow soldier, Sgt. George Parker, said this in his lengthy eyewitness statement of what happened that day: “Sgt. Hooper in one day accomplished more than I previously believed could have been done in a month by one man, and he did it all while wounded. It wasn’t just the actual count of positions overrun and enemy killed which was important. But far more so was the fantastic inspiration he gave every man in the company.” The Army commissioned Hooper as a second lieutenant after that. He received the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon at the White House on March 7, 1969. Reports show he even asked the president for special permission to return to Vietnam.

Hooper retired from military service in 1974. He’s known as one of the most decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War, having earned 37 medals, including two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts. The Army also credited him with killing 115 North Vietnamese fighters.

Hooper went on to breed horses and teach a class on horse betting after leaving the Army. He and his wife, Faye, also had a daughter. Hooper died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Louisville, Kentucky, May 6, 1979, at age 40. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. (then Sgt.) Hooper, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as squad leader with Company D. Company D was assaulting a heavily defended enemy position along a river bank when it encountered a withering hail of fire from rockets, machine guns, and automatic weapons. S/Sgt. Hooper rallied several men and stormed across the river, overrunning several bunkers on the opposite shore. Thus inspired, the rest of the company moved to the attack. With utter disregard for his own safety, he moved out under the intense fire again and pulled back the wounded, moving them to safety. During this act S/Sgt. Hooper was seriously wounded, but he refused medical aid and returned to his men. With the relentless enemy fire disrupting the attack, he single-handedly stormed three enemy bunkers, destroying them with hand grenades and rifle fire, and shot two enemy soldiers who had attacked and wounded the chaplain. Leading his men forward in a sweep of the area, S/Sgt. Hooper destroyed three buildings housing enemy riflemen. At this point he was attacked by a North Vietnamese officer whom he fatally wounded with his bayonet. Finding his men under heavy fire from a house to the front, he proceeded alone to the building, killing its occupants with rifle fire and grenades. By now his initial body wound had been compounded by grenade fragments, yet despite the multiple wounds and loss of blood, he continued to lead his men against the intense enemy fire. As his squad reached the final line of enemy resistance, it received devastating fire from four bunkers in line on its left flank. S/Sgt. Hooper gathered several hand grenades and raced down a small trench which ran the length of the bunker line, tossing grenades into each bunker as he passed by, killing all but two of the occupants. With these positions destroyed, he concentrated on the last bunkers facing his men, destroying the first with an incendiary grenade and neutralizing two more by rifle fire. He then raced across an open field, still under enemy fire, to rescue a wounded man who was trapped in a trench. Upon reaching the man, he was faced by an armed enemy soldier whom he killed with a pistol. Moving his comrade to safety and returning to his men, he neutralized the final pocket of enemy resistance by fatally wounding three North Vietnamese officers with rifle fire. S/Sgt. Hooper then established a final line and reorganized his men, not accepting treatment until this was accomplished and not consenting to evacuation until the following morning. His supreme valor, inspiring leadership, and heroic self-sacrifice were directly responsible for the company’s success and provided a lasting example in personal courage for every man on the field. S/Sgt. Hooper’s actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
SECTION 46, GRAVE 656-17.