BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Born in 1943 on Hawaii’s Kona coast, Rodney James Tadashi Yano’s ancestry included Japanese, Hawaiian and Portuguese. He attended Konawaena High in his home town of Kealakekua. In1961, he quit school to join the Army. After his first year in the service, Yano was inclined to make the Army his career. He was in his second tour in Vietnam when he was killed.
Yano joined the Army from Honolulu, Hawaii in 1963. Yano was an exceptional soldier. In only six years he had risen to the rank of Sergeant First Class and was serving in the Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
On January 1, 1969, he was in his second tour near Bien Hoa in the Republic of Vietnam. He was serving as a helicopter crewmember when a white phosphorus grenade exploded inside the aircraft. Yano was mortally wounded. However, despite his wounds, he began to throw the remaining ammunition off the helicopter, as flaming fragments of the grenade were causing it to detonate.
Even though he was covered with white hot burning phosphorus and almost blind in one eye and had the use of only one arm he continued to throw exploding ammunition out of the helicopter.
One man aboard the helicopter was killed, but the remainder of the crew was saved as the chopper returned to the base with a seriously wounded Yano. Rushed to the hospital, Yano died later the same day. He was 25 years old.
Yano was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Sergeant First Class Rodney J. T. Yano is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii section W plot 614.
Rodney J.T. Yano Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
RODNEY JAMES TADASHI YANO
for service as set forth in the following
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to First Sergeant Rodney James Tadashi Yano (ASN: 10116085), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Bien Hoa, Republic of Vietnam, on 1 January 1969. Sergeant First Class Yano was performing the duties of crew chief aboard the troop’s command-and-control helicopter during action against enemy forces entrenched in dense jungle. From an exposed position in the face of intense small arms and anti-aircraft fire he delivered suppressive fire upon the enemy forces and marked their positions with smoke and white phosphorous grenades, thus enabling his troop commander to direct accurate and effective artillery fire against the hostile emplacements. A grenade, exploding prematurely, covered him with burning phosphorous, and left him severely wounded. Flaming fragments within the helicopter caused supplies and ammunition to detonate. Dense white smoke filled the aircraft, obscuring the pilot’s vision and causing him to lose control. Although having the use of only one arm and being partially blinded by the initial explosion, Sergeant First Class Yano completely disregarded his welfare and began hurling blazing ammunition from the helicopter. In so doing he inflicted additional wounds upon himself, yet he persisted until the danger was past. Sergeant First Class Yano’s indomitable courage and profound concern for his comrades averted loss of life and additional injury to the rest of the crew. By his conspicuous gallantry at the cost of his life, in the highest traditions of the military service, Sergeant First Class Yano has reflected great credit on himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
/s/ Richard M. Nixon President
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