US Army First Sgt. David H. McNerny, (MOH) dies at age 79
(Oct. 12, 2010) Houston, Texas. McNerney was born on June 2, 1931, in Lowell, Massachusetts, died Oct. 10, 2010. His father was a decorated World War I veteran, having received the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts. Two of his siblings served in World War II and a third was a fighter pilot in Vietnam.
McNerney’s family moved to Houston, Texas, and he graduated from St. Thomas High School there in 1949. He soon enlisted in the United States Navy and served two tours in Korea during the Korean War before his 1952 discharge. Briefly attending the University of Houston, McNerney disliked school and decided to join the Army after seeing a recruiting poster on campus.
In 1961, McNerney married Parmelia Marie Moeckel; the couple had no children. Parmelia died in 2003.
After enlisting in the Army in 1953 at Fort Bliss, Texas, McNerney was stationed overseas in Korea and Okinawa. In 1962, he volunteered for special warfare training and was among the first 500 U.S. military advisers sent to Vietnam. He was deployed to that country a second time in 1964.
In late 1966, McNerney began his third tour of duty in Vietnam. By March 21, 1967, he was stationed in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border as a first sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. On that afternoon, he and his company were dropped by helicopter into Polei Doc to search for a missing reconnaissance team. After camping for the night, the unit advanced on the morning on March 22 and came under attack by a North Vietnamese force three times their size. McNerney moved to the front to assess the situation and was wounded by a grenade. When the company commander and forward observer were killed, he assumed command of the unit and began organizing the defense. He called in air strikes to within 65 feet of his own position and marked the unit’s location by climbing a tree, in full view of the hostile soldiers, and tying an identification marker to the upper branches. Braving heavy fire to collect demolition equipment which had been dropped early in the battle, he blew up trees in order to clear a landing site for a helicopter extraction. Despite his wounds, he refused to be evacuated himself and stayed with the company until a new commander arrived the next day. For his actions during the battle, McNerney was awarded the Medal of Honor.
McNerney returned to the United States in August 1967 and worked as a training instructor at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During a ceremony at the White House on September 19, 1968, he was formally presented with the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He volunteered for a fourth tour in Vietnam before retiring as a first sergeant in December 1969.
1. United States Army Center of Military History.
2. Collier, Peter (2006). Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. New York: Workman Publishing Company. p. 176.
3. Dulai, Shaminder (May 12, 2010). “Soldiers reunite to give Houston war hero final salute”. Houston Chronicle.
This video is of President Lyndon Johnson bestowing the Medal of Honor to 1st Sgt. David McNerney in a 1968 ceremony at the White House.