b. 21/04/1943 Omaha, Nebraska. d. 05/03/1966 Don Dien Lo Ke, Vietnam.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 05/03/1966 Don Dien Lo Ke, Vietnam.
Robert J. Hibbs was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 24, 1943. As a child, he missed school frequently due to sore tonsils. This is when his love for creating model military miniatures began. He spent hours painting these model soldiers and accumulated about 1000 miniatures during his brief life. While Hibbs was still a boy, his family moved first to Cedar Rapids and then to Cedar Falls, where Robert attended high school. While at Cedar Falls High School he participated in the student forum. After graduating from high school, Hibbs enrolled at the State Teachers’ College of Iowa, now the University of Northern Iowa, where he majored in history. He graduated three years later in 1964 with a G.P.A. of 3.2. A few months later he had a chance to fulfill his dreams for the military after he enlisted in the army in August 1964.
After training camp, Hibbs became a second lieutenant of the 2nd battalion of the 28th infantry of the 1st Infantry Division. He participated in numerous military excursions during the war but none quite so memorable as the day of March 5, 1966. Near Don Dien Lo Re, Hibbs and his 15 men were on ambush patrol when he spotted a company of Viet Cong maneuvering along a road towards them. After radioing his command post, he placed two mines in the enemy’s path. As the Viet Cong arrived, he set off the mines killing and wounding half of the enemy force. While Hibbs’ men were withdrawing he remained behind to hurl grenades and fire upon the enemy, who still numbered about 50 men. Amazingly, Hibbs survived to return to his defense perimeter, only to find another Viet Cong band in the midst of attacking his men. He then decided to surprise attack the enemy forces with the help of his men. After nearly reaching safety returning from this attempt, Hibbs noticed that one of his men lay wounded between the two enemy forces. Though already wounded in the leg, he took a fellow sergeant and went back to rescue the wounded solider. Eluding machine gunfire, the sergeant dragged the wounded soldier to safety as Hibbs provided cover fire. Armed with only a M16 and a rifle, he charged the Viet Cong machine guns. This time Hibbs fell, mortally wounded.
On Saturday, March 5, 1966 at 4:30 P.M., Hibbs’s parents heard a knock at their door. Lieut. Col. Calvin Kusler spoke with a somber voice as he informed them of their son’s death. Soon afterwards Robert’s father remembered his son with pride: “I’m not sad — I’m proud…It seems as if this was his destiny…All his life he wanted to be a soldier — He had toy soldiers which he put through tactical maneuvers…”. Mrs. Hibbs took solace in her son’s reputation in the army: “A colonel told me he had been in the service 20 years and ‘your son is the bravest man I ever saw’.” Robert Hibbs’s life was cut short by war, destroying his dreams of law school and marriage to his fiancée, Lynne Larson. Nevertheless, Hibbs’s memory lives on in his hometown. He is remembered as the first casualty of the Vietnam War from Cedar Falls. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only Iowan involved in the Vietnam War to obtain such an honor. Hibbs’s parents received the award at ceremonies at Fort Meyer, Virginia, on January 26, 1967 from the Secretary of the Army, Stanley R. Resor. A plaque hangs in the Maucker Union at UNI in memory of Hibbs and his attainment of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Inscripted on it are the words spoken by President Lyndon B. Johnson:
“Lt. Hibbs’ conspicuous gallantry, his profound concern for his fellow soldiers, and his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty is in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflects great credit upon himself and the armed forces of his country.”
The new Main Street bridge in Cedar Falls was named after Hibbs in 1994. AMVETS, American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars led the effort to name the bridge after him. On December 27, 1994, the bridge was dedicated the Lt. Robert J. Hibbs Medal of Honor Bridge in memory of Hibbs and other Cedar Falls men who sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 2d Lt. Hibbs was in command of a 15-man ambush patrol of the 2d Battalion, when his unit observed a company of Viet Cong advancing along the road toward the 2d Battalion’s position. Informing his command post by radio of the impending attack, he prepared his men for the oncoming Viet Cong, emplaced two mines in their path, and, when the insurgents were within 20 feet of the patrol’s position, he fired the two antipersonnel mines, wounding or killing half of the enemy company. Then, to cover the withdrawal of his patrol, he threw hand grenades, stepped onto the open road, and opened fire on the remainder of the Viet Cong force of approximately 50 men. Having rejoined his men, he was leading them toward the battalion perimeter when the patrol encountered the rear elements of another Viet Cong company deployed to attack the battalion. With the advantage of surprise, he directed a charge against the Viet Cong, which carried the patrol through the insurgent force, completely disrupting its attack. Learning that a wounded patrol member was wandering in the area between the two opposing forces and although moments from safety and wounded in the leg himself, he and a sergeant went back to the battlefield to recover the stricken man. After they maneuvered through the withering fire of two Viet Cong machine guns, the sergeant grabbed the dazed soldier and dragged him back toward the friendly lines while 2d Lt. Hibbs remained behind to provide covering fire. Armed only with a M-16 rifle and a pistol, but determined to destroy the enemy positions, he then charged the two machine-gun emplacements and was struck down. Before succumbing to his mortal wounds, he destroyed the starlight telescopic sight attached to his rifle to prevent its capture and use by the Viet Cong. 2d Lt. Hibbs’ profound concern for his fellow soldiers and his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
BURIAL LOCATION: GREENWOOD CEMETERY, CEDAR FALLS, IOWA.
BLOCK B, LOT 42.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: 1ST INFANTRY DIVISION MUSEUM AT CANTIGNY, WHEATON, ILLINOIS.