Matthew Leonard MOH

b. 26/11/1929 Eutaw, Alabama. d. 28/02/1967 Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 28/02/1967 Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

Matthew Leonard MOH

Leonard was born November 26, 1929, in Eutaw, Alabama. Not a lot has been published about his family or childhood, but Leonard was a Boy Scout who went to the segregated Ullman High School in Birmingham. His wife told a newspaper that as a teen, he worked at a drugstore for $15 a week to help his mother pay the bills. Leonard enlisted in the Army in 1947 when he was in 11th grade. Shortly after that, he married his grade-school sweetheart, Lois. Over the next few years, they had five children, three girls and two boys.

Leonard served in Korea early in his career, and his family got to live with him in Germany for a stint. Back in the U.S., Leonard served as a drill sergeant and trained young recruits at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. But as the war in Vietnam broke out, Leonard’s wife said he struggled to watch those young recruits, who weren’t much older than his sons, go to war and die. So, even though he was close to retirement, he volunteered to deploy in the hope of making a difference.

On February 28, 1967, Leonard was serving as platoon sergeant for Company B of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. They were near Suoi Da when the platoon was suddenly fired on with small arms, automatic weapons and hand grenades by a much larger enemy force. The platoon’s commander and several other key leaders were among some of the first wounded, so Leonard quickly stepped up to lead the response.

He rallied the platoon to push back the initial assault, then organized a defensive perimeter, redistributed ammunition and encouraged the men to hold their ground. As he grabbed a wounded soldier who was outside the perimeter and dragged him to safety, a sniper hit Leonard and shattered his hand. The well-hidden enemy’s assault was picking up, so Leonard refused medical attention and kept fighting. He moved from position to position to direct counterfire against the enemy, which had moved a machine gun into place that could sweep the entire perimeter. Just as that was happening, Leonard’s own platoon’s machine gun malfunctioned, magnifying the threat. So, Leonard crawled to the gun. He was working to help get it functioning again when his gunner and other nearby soldiers were hit by the enemy machine gun’s strafing. Leonard got to his feet and charged the enemy gun. Despite being hit several times, he still managed to take out the enemy machine gun’s crew. Leonard — struggling to continue — then propped himself up on a tree and kept shooting until he finally succumbed to his wounds.

Leonard died just six months short of his retirement. However, his intense bravery, leadership and fighting spirit inspired his platoon to hold the enemy back until help arrived, and his actions posthumously earned him the Medal of Honor. On Dec. 19, 1968, the medal was presented to his family at a Pentagon ceremony by President Lyndon B. Johnson and Army Secretary Stanley R. Resor.

Leonard was initially buried at Shadow Lawn Cemetery in Birmingham. When the cemetery fell into disrepair, he was reinterred at Fort Mitchell National Cemetery on Fort Mitchell, Alabama, in November 2000. A road on Fort Riley, Kansas, was scheduled to be renamed for Leonard in February 2021.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. His platoon was suddenly attacked by a large enemy force employing small-arms, automatic weapons, and hand grenades. Although the platoon leader and several other key leaders were among the first wounded, P/Sgt. Leonard quickly rallied his men to throw back the initial enemy assaults. During the short pause that followed, he organized a defensive perimeter, redistributed ammunition, and inspired his comrades through his forceful leadership and words of encouragement. Noticing a wounded companion outside the perimeter, he dragged the man to safety but was struck by a sniper’s bullet which shattered his left hand. Refusing medical attention and continuously exposing himself to the increasing fire as the enemy again assaulted the perimeter, P/Sgt. Leonard moved from position to position to direct the fire of his men against the well-camouflaged foe. Under the cover of the main attack, the enemy moved a machine gun into a location where it could sweep the entire perimeter. This threat was magnified when the platoon machine gun in this area malfunctioned. P/Sgt. Leonard quickly crawled to the gun position and was helping to clear the malfunction when the gunner and other men in the vicinity were wounded by fire from the enemy machine gun. P/Sgt. Leonard rose to his feet, charged the enemy gun, and destroyed the hostile crew despite being hit several times by enemy fire. He moved to a tree, propped himself against it, and continued to engage the enemy until he succumbed to his many wounds. His fighting spirit, heroic leadership, and valiant acts inspired the remaining members of his platoon to hold back the enemy until assistance arrived. P/Sgt. Leonard’s profound courage and devotion to his men are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and his gallant actions reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.