February 23rd in African American History – Oscar Palmer Austin

Oscar Palmer AustinFebruary 23, 1969 Oscar Palmer Austin, Medal of Honor recipient, was killed in action.

Austin was born January 15, 1949 in Nacogdoches, Texas and joined the United States Marine Corps in April, 1968. He was promoted to private first class in October, 1968 and deployed to the Republic of Vietnam where he served as ammunitions man with Company E, 2nd Battalion 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

On February 23, 1969, Austin’s observation post came under attack by a large North Vietnamese Army force. Seeing that one of his wounded companions had fallen unconscious in a position exposed to enemy fire, Austin unhesitatingly left the relative security of his fighting hole and, with complete disregard for his own safety, raced across the fire swept terrain to assist the Marine to safety. As he neared his companion, he saw an enemy grenade land nearby. Austin leaped between the grenade and the injured Marine and took the full force of the explosion.

Although he was badly injured, Austin turned to help his fallen companion and saw a North Vietnamese soldier aiming a weapon at the unconscious man. Austin threw himself between the injured Marine and the hostile soldier and was mortally wounded. In recognition of his actions, Austin was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration.

The destroyer USS Oscar Austin, which was commissioned in 2000, is named in his honor.


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