Distinguished Service Cross

John E. Darnell, Jr.


Staff Sergeant

Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)

2 January 1968

Republic of Vietnam


For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam:

Staff Sergeant Darnell distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 2 January 1968 as squad leader of an infantry company on a mission to evaluate the results of a friendly air strike in the Que Son Valley. As the company neared the top of a hill, its lead squad was pinned down by savage automatic weapons fire from a North Vietnamese Army unit occupying well concealed rock bunkers. Heedless of the hail of enemy bullets, Sergeant Darnell engaged the bunkers with a heavy and accurate barrage of shotgun fire. His fierce attack enabled the beleaguered troops to withdraw and evacuate their casualties. After carrying one of the wounded to safety, Sergeant Darnell organized a machine gun team and led it in a second assault on the entrenched enemy force. Hurling hand grenades and firing his shotgun, he killed at least two North Vietnamese and captured their weapons. His sudden, furious attack overwhelmed the hostile soldiers, and the team overran and captured the fortified positions. Learning that his company's second platoon was heavily engaged with another portion of the North Vietnamese unit, Sergeant Darnell unhesitantly maneuvered to its location and charged the insurgents, firing his shotgun until his ammunition was expended. He grabbed two automatic rifles from enemy soldiers he had killed and continued his aggressive assault. Raking the hostile positions with devastating fire, he forced most of the North Vietnamese to temporarily withdraw. Sergeant Darnell began to evacuate his wounded comrades, but the enemy quickly resumed his withering fusillade. Sergeant Darnell again picked up his two captured assault rifles and, with bullets striking all around him, charged the enemy bunker complex. He threw grenades and delivered deadly fire on the North Vietnamese until all members of the platoon had successfully withdrawn from the raging battle area. His gallant and determined actions in close combat saved the lives of many fellow soldiers and were responsible for an overwhelming victory. Staff Sergeant Darnell's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

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