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The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

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Medal of Honor: Paul W. Bucha

MohbookEvery weekday for 110 straight days we will feature a different living recipient of the Medal of Honor. These are the men who have received their nation's highest military honor. Brian is a board member of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. The words and photos are courtesy of Artisan Books, publishers of "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier with photographs by Nick Del Calzo.

Captain, U.S. Army  Company D, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division

BuchaA high school all-American swimmer in the early 1960s, Paul Bucha was offered athletic scholarships from schools such as Yale and Indiana University, but he chose West Point instead. After graduation, he got an MBA from Stanford University, then reported to Fort Campbell. In 1967, he arrived in Vietnam with the 187th Infantry as a captain in charge of an infantry company.

On March 16, 1968, as part of the U.S. forces’ effort to push the enemy away from Saigon after the Tet Offensive, Bucha’s 89-man company was inserted by helicopter into a suspected North Vietnamese stronghold southwest of Phuoc Vinh. For the next two days, the unit destroyed enemy fortifications and base camps and eliminated scattered resistance. Late in the afternoon of March 18, the lead element of the company, about 12 men, exchanged fire with enemy soldiers. Then suddenly the entire area exploded with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and claymore mines, and the 12 men were immediately pinned down.

Realizing that his company had stumbled upon an entire North Vietnamese Army battalion bivouacked for the night, Bucha began to organize a defense to protect the men who were cut off. Crawling toward them through heavy fire, he spotted an enemy soldier whose machine gun was perched in the Y of a tree. He killed the soldier with his rifle and destroyed the bunker behind him with a grenade. As the North Vietnamese attacked repeatedly, he ordered a withdrawal and called for a platoon to evacuate the wounded. But the platoon was cut off as it was heading to a medevac landing zone.

As darkness fell, a grim thought passed through Bucha’s mind: I don’t even know the name of this place. What a godforsaken place to die. Just then one of his men ran by, calling out enthusiastically, “We’re really kicking some tail, aren’t we, captain?” The comment was so out of sync with what he had been thinking that Bucha laughed out loud and refocused on the struggle ahead.

Over the next few hours, everything unfolded in slow motion. Bucha was constantly on the move, encouraging his men, and shoring up the line of defense while directing artillery and helicopter gunship fire on the North Vietnamese. He did everything he could think of to make the enemy believe that his vastly outnumbered force was larger than it was — lobbing grenades at set times from different positions, spreading the firing patterns along the edges of his perimeter. At one point, with sniper fire whizzing around him and North Vietnamese soldiers so close that he could hear their conversation, he used flashlights to direct the evacuation of three air-ambulance loads of wounded, despite the fact that this illuminated him in the dark. At daybreak, he was able to lead a rescue party to the men who had been cut off from the company all night.

By then, the North Vietnamese had melted away. They took most of their dead with them, but more than 150 bodies remained behind on the battlefield. After Bucha’s dead and wounded had been medevaced out, he loaded the rest of his company, about 40 men, onto helicopters and returned to Phuoc Vinh.

In April 1970, at the end of his Vietnam tour, Bucha returned to West Point to teach an accounting course he had designed. After one of his classes, he found a telephone message from Washington. Returning the phone call, he was informed that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. He received it on May 14 from President Richard Nixon.

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Speaking your mind and opposing bad policy, in this case the wars in Viet Nam and Iraq, does not make one a traitor. My step-dad did two tours in Viet Nam, the second so his younger brother would not have to go. I have great respect for these heroes and thank all vets immensely for their sacrifices and willingness to go. It is not the soldier's fault that policymakers in Washington make decisions I feel are foolish. I support the troops in the field, but think they should never have been sent to Viet Nam or Iraq. It is, of course, just my opinion and I am entitled to it. So is J O'Connor. That does not make me or J. O'Connor a traitor.

Was J. O'Connor the guy that spit on me when i got off the plane in Newark, NJ from the far east. I hope i punched the right guy. Mr. Bucha doesn't need any praise from a traitor. Mr Bucha knows what he did, and did it with courage people like O,Connor will never know.

Capt. Buca showed that being inventive is always a great strategy. I appreciate his actions that saved so many and earned him this high honor. Thank you.

Captain Paul W. Bucha another great leader in our military. He certainly served bravely under dangerous conditions of battle. Even managing to evacuate the wounded out of the area. One to be admired and honored for his service. I must thank you again Mr. Williams for these postings. These men are true heroes and should always be remembered with honor and distinction. God Bless all these men.

Thank you Colonel Bucha for your service. You ARE what makes this country strong and respected. That respect is more important from our enemies than our "friends" Thank you again for my freedom!!

There is something to be said for getting your commander out of a fix...but at what cost? For every theater congress allocated funds. Is there a monetary award to go with the medal?

Mr. Bucha is to be commended. I wonder how many of us in a similar situation would respond accordingly. He knew his responsibilities and tended to them. I applaud and admire him. While I despised the Viet Nam war and the current mess called Iraq, heroism is always to be admired. I wish our political leaders would also accept responsibility instead of giving us pap. I applaud your stories on heroism and thank you.

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