2022 // Distinguished Service Cross

Private First Class Herbert S. Bechtel

Department of the Army, General Orders No. 15 (April 8, 1968):


The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Private First Class Herbert Stephen Bechtel, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force during the Battle of Bong Trang, Binh Duong Province in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company B, 1st Battalion, 2d Infantry, 1st Infantry Division on 25 August 1966.

 Private Bechtel, serving as a machine gunner during Operation AMARILLO, moved with his unit through a dense jungle area in an attempt to drive heavily reinforced Viet Cong units from their sanctuaries along Route 16.  A 16-man patrol from the Battalion had stumbled across a well-camouflaged enemy base camp and was being heavily engaged by a numerically superior Viet Cong force.  Private Bechtel’s company joined with other elements of the Battalion and quickly moved to assist the beleaguered patrol.  His platoon maneuvered between the patrol and the Viet Cong, allowing sufficient time to move the dead and wounded to the rear. The Viet Cong then struck Bechtel’s platoon with every weapon at their command causing many casualties. Artillery and air strikes could not be used against the Viet Cong because of the platoon’s proximity to them.  Private Bechtel realized the platoon urgently needed covering fire to enable them to withdraw. Unhesitatingly, he ordered his gun crew to follow him as he moved to a forward position.  He directed extremely heavy fire on the insurgent bunkers and emplacements, enabling most of the platoon to move to less exposed areas.  There were many wounded left behind, and Private Bechtel was all that stood between them and the enemy.  His steady, intensive fire enabled aidmen to start evacuating the wounded.  The Viet Cong concentrated their firepower on Private Bechtel’s position.  An enemy grenade concussion lifted him from the foxhole and shrapnel wounded him in his arms and hands.  He ignored the pain and crawled back to his position to resume firing on the Viet Cong.  The assistant machine gunner had taken over the weapon.  Although he was severely wounded and there was someone else to man the weapon, Private Bechtel refused to go to the rear for medical attention.  Instead, he painfully crawled 30 meters through a hail of enemy fire to retrieve three boxes of ammunition.  Upon returning, he found that his assistant gunner had been killed and that the ammunition bearer had manned the position. 

As their ammunition supply became critically low, Private Bechtel defied a furious volume of hostile fire a second time as he crawled to another demolished machinegun position and returned with a large quantity of ammunition.  Soon, the ammunition bearer was severely wounded, and moved to the rear as Private Bechtel covered his withdrawal.  He was now alone in his isolated forward position.  He was aware that he was low on ammunition, and carefully placed short bursts of fire onto the Viet Cong emplacements.  Again, a well-placed enemy grenade exploded near his position, and Private Bechtel was struck in the shoulder and hip by fragments.  His platoon Sergeant shouted to him to return to the rear to get his wounds treated, but he replied that he would remain in position and continue covering the evacuation of the wounded.  Under extremely intense enemy fire, Private Bechtel continued covering the extraction of the casualties.  Then his weapon was silenced.  Later the American forces completely routed the Viet Cong from the base camp.  Private Bechtel was found dead behind his weapon with his finger still on the trigger and all the ammunition expended.  He had decided that, if necessary, he would sacrifice his own life to enable his comrades to live.  His conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, at the cost of his own life, provided the covering fire that enabled his platoon to withdraw from an extremely dangerous situation and allowed his wounded comrades to be carried from the battlefield.  Not only did his actions save many of his comrades’ lives, but also provided them with the inspiration to continue the battle and resoundingly defeat the enemy.  Private Bechtel’s actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division and the United States Army.