October 22nd in African American History – Milton Lee Olive, III

Milton Lee Olive, III

Milton Lee Olive, III

October 22, 1965, Milton Lee Olive, III, the first African American Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War, was killed in action.

Olive was born November 7, 1946 in Chicago, Illinois. He enlisted in the United States Army at 17 and by 1965 was serving as a private first class in Vietnam. On October 22, his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads: “Pfc. Olive was a member of the 3rd Platoon of Company B, as it moved through the jungle to find the Viet Cong operating in the area. Although the platoon was subjected to a heavy volume of enemy gunfire and pinned down temporarily, it retaliated by assaulting the Viet Cong positions, causing the enemy to flee.

As the platoon pursued the insurgents, Pfc. Olive and four other soldiers were moving through the jungle together when a grenade was thrown into their midst. Pfc. Olive saw the grenade, and then saved the lives of his fellow soldiers at the sacrifice of his own by grabbing the grenade in his hand and falling on it to absorb the blast with his body. Through his bravery, unhesitating actions, and complete disregard for his safety, he prevented additional loss of life or injury to the members of his platoon.” On April 21, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the medal to Olive’s father. In 1979, the City of Chicago recognized him by naming Olive Park on Lake Michigan in his honor. The Milton L. Olive Middle School in Long Island, New York is also named in his honor.

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