BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. John Noble Holcomb was a native of Baker Oregon. Holcomb is a native son that the residents of Baker can be proud of. His inspiring leadership and fighting spirit, in an action that was to cost him his life, displayed the mark of a man with true grit.
Holcomb was 20 years old when he joined the Army at Corvallis Oregon. Within two short years he was promoted to sergeant and was a squad leader with company D, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division.
On the 3rd of December 1968 Holcomb and his squad were inserted into a hot LZ
near the hamlet of Quan Loi, Republic of Vietnam, in order to organize a reconnaissance-in-force mission. They were immediately attacked on three sides by a battalion-size enemy force.
Holcomb’s squad had been inadvertently dropped directly in the path of the main enemy attack. Holcomb with total disregard for his own safety began moving among his men directing their fire on the quickly advancing enemy. Holcomb’s presence and attitude encouraged his men to continue fighting even though almost all of them had been wounded. When his machine gunner was knocked out, Holcomb seized the weapon, and moved to a forward position where he brought the enemy under a hail of fire. His fire was so intense that the enemy quickly withdrew. Holcomb used the brief break in enemy fire to treat and move his wounded to a safer position. He did this is spite of a fierce grass fire that had been started by the enemy’s mortars.
As the enemy began their second attack Holcomb again manned the machine gun, once again forcing the enemy to withdraw. During this second withdrawal Holcomb’s position was hit by an enemy rocket destroying the machine gun and mortally wounding him. Despite his wounds Holcomb crawled through the grass fire and exploding mortar and rocket rounds to move the members of his squad to safety. Although mortally wounded and continuing only because of his resilient will and courage, Holcomb as the last living leader of his platoon organized his men to resist the enemy. Holcomb was able to crawl to the platoon radio and report the third enemy assault on his position. It was this report that brought friendly supporting fires on the charging enemy and broke the enemy attack. Sergeant Holcomb’s inspiring leadership, fighting spirit, in action at the cost of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
His Medal of Honor was presented to his family at the White House by President Richard M. Nixon on February 16, 1971. His name can be found on Panel 37W, Row 032 of the Viet Nam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.
Medal of Honor
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Sergeant John Noble Holcomb (ASN: 18801905), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company D, 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Quan Loi, Republic of Vietnam, on 3 December 1968. Sergeant Holcomb distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader in Company D during a combat assault mission. Sergeant Holcomb’s company assault had landed by helicopter and deployed into a hasty defensive position to organize for a reconnaissance-in-force mission when it was attacked from three sides by an estimated battalion-size enemy force. Sergeant Holcomb’s squad was directly in the path of the main enemy attack. With complete disregard for the heavy fire, Sergeant Holcomb moved among his men giving encouragement and directing fire on the assaulting enemy. When his machine gunner was knocked out, Sergeant Holcomb seized the weapon, ran to a forward edge of the position, and placed withering fire on the enemy. His gallant actions caused the enemy to withdraw. Sergeant Holcomb treated and carried his wounded to a position of safety and reorganized his defensive sector despite a raging grass fire ignited by the incoming enemy mortar and rocket rounds. When the enemy assaulted the position a second time, Sergeant Holcomb again manned the forward machinegun, devastating the enemy attack and forcing the enemy to again break contact and withdraw. During the enemy withdrawal an enemy rocket hit Sergeant Holcomb’s position, destroying his machinegun and severely wounding him. Despite his painful wounds, Sergeant Holcomb crawled through the grass fire and exploding mortar and rocket rounds to move the members of his squad, everyone of whom had been wounded, to more secure positions. Although grievously wounded and sustained solely by his indomitable will and courage, Sergeant Holcomb as the last surviving leader of his platoon organized his men to repel the enemy, crawled to the platoon radio and reported the third enemy assault on his position. His report brought friendly supporting fires on the charging enemy and broke the enemy attack. Sergeant Holcomb’s inspiring leadership, fighting spirit, in action at the cost of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 9 (March 9, 1971)
Action Date: 3-Dec-68
Company: Company D
Battalion: 2d Battalion
Regiment: 7th Cavalry Regiment
Division: 1st Cavalry Division
Sergeant John Noble Holcomb is buried at the Eagle Valley Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.