Veterans Voice: James M. Sprayberry
James M. Sprayberry graduated from OCS (Officer Candidate School) from Fort Knox, KY.
He earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, and a Purple Heart in April of 1968 for actions in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam.
Sprayberry served as a 1st Lieutenant and platoon leader with Company D, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
Elements of Company D were assaulted by a superior force of North Vietnamese. They took many casualties including many wounded, and were surrounded by the NVA forces.
Lieutenant Sprayberry and his platoon attempted a daylight rescue, but were repelled by enemy fire. That night Sprayberry organized a volunteer night patrol in an effort to neutralize entrenched enemy bunkers.
They soon came under intense enemy machine gun fire. Sprayberry moved his men to protective cover and set up a perimeter. He then left his men and crawled toward an enemy bunker and destroyed it with a grenade. In the process he identified a number of enemy positions and used grenades to eliminate them, although one surviving enemy attacked him. Sprayberry killed him with his handgun.
He subsequently located another bunker and used a grenade to wipe out that bunker, killing the men inside. He returned to his men, gathered more grenades, and headed back to the enemy position, exposing himself to enemy fire in the process.
He wiped out 3 more enemy bunkers with grenades and was able to make contact with the remaining men of Company D who were still surrounded. He guided them to his position and organized litter parties to carry the wounded, eventually moving them to safety. While doing so he came across another enemy machine gun bunker which he destroyed.
Once reunited with this platoon, he led the remainder of Company D to a friendly position. The entire night patrol lasted more than 7 hours. Sprayberry was credited with personally killing 12 enemy troops, destroying 2 machine guns, and “numerous” enemy bunkers.
Sprayberry intended to leave military life after Vietnam. However, when he returned home to see anti-Vietnam war protesters, he was so angered that he reenlisted and became a career officer.
Following Vietnam he was the Executive Officer & Commander of the Air Calvary in Germany and was later was a Senior Academic Instructor at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He retired from the Army as a Lieutenant-Colonel.