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First Sgt. Pascal Cleatus Poolaw Sr. served this country through three wars, and gave up his life in Vietnam.
Poolaw has been called America's most decorated American Indian Soldier with 42 medals and citations. Among his medals are four Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. He also earned three Purple Hearts, one for each of the wars in which he fought - World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
The fourth Silver Star was awarded posthumously after Poolaw died during action in Vietnam. On Nov. 7, 1967, Poolaw's unit, Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, was part of a search and destroy mission near the village of Loc Ninh.
The unit was attacked by numerically superior Viet Cong force. Under a hail of fire, Poolaw raced to the lead squad, exposed all the way, and deployed the squad there to lay down a base of fire, the citation read. This action saved countless lives, but Poolaw wasn't finished.
Poolaw continued moving among the troops, making sure they were positioned properly pulling casualties back to the lines despite being wounded himself. He was mortally wounded as he pulled another casualty back to the lines.
His devotion to his Soldiers was exceeded only by the love of his Family. Poolaw served in Vietnam trying to spare his son the horrors of war.
When his son, Lindy, received orders for Vietnam, Poolaw volunteered for the combat zone with the hope of serving there in place of his son. Regulations prohibit two members of the same Family from serving in combat at the same time without their consent.
Another of Poolaw's sons had already been in Vietnam, which added to his wanting to spare Lindy. His son, Pascal Cleatus Poolaw Jr., a Spc. 4, had been wounded in Vietnam in February 1967. The younger Poolaw was hit by a mine and received metal fragments in the legs. His right leg had to be amputated below the knee.
When the senior Poolaw finally reached the port of departure on the West Coast, he discovered Lindy had left for Vietnam the day before. He decided to follow his son.
Having the father and son of the Family serving in combat at the same time was nothing new to Poolaw. He had served in World War II with his dad, Ralph Poolaw Sr., and his two brothers.
Poolaw served almost four months in Vietnam before the fatal combat operation. In a letter he wrote just before his death, Poolaw said he rated his job as being more important than his life.
In her eulogy at Poolaw's funeral at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery, his wife, Irene, echoed those sentiments. “He has followed the trail of the great chiefs,” she said. “His people hold him in honor and highest esteem. He has given his life for the people and the country he loved so much.”
The example of Poolaw's bravery and devotion lives on at Fort Sill, where he served for a year before going to Vietnam. Poolaw Hall at Sheridan Road was named after him and contains an exhibit dedicated to the American Indian Soldier.
The most decorated Native American soldier in U.S. history - 4 Silver Stars, 5 Bronze Stars, 3 Purple Hearts. He earned a total of 42 medals and citations. - Pascal Cleatus Poolaw Sr
Died on the battlefield in the Republic of Vietnam on 7 November 1967, while serving with Company C, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Posthumously awarded his 4th Silver Star on a "Search and Destroy mission" near Loc Ninh. Pascal Cleatus Poolaw Sr.
Poolaw a full blooded Kiowa, was born on January 22, 1922 in Apache, Oklahoma. Poolaw served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
In 1942, Poolaw, his father, and his two brothers joined the armed forces. While serving with the 8th Infantry Regiment’s M Company near Recogne, Belgium on September 8, 1944, he earned his first Purple Heart and Silver Star. On that day, Poolaw’s unit was engaging fire with the Germans. He pushed his company forward while facing heavy machine gun fire for give minutes as he hurled hand grenades, causing numerous enemy casualties. According to his Silver Star citation, ” Due to Sergeant Poolaw’s actions, many of his comrades’ lives were saved and the company was able to continue the attack and capture strongly defended enemy positions. Sergeant Poolaw’s display of courage, aggressive spirit and complete disregard for personal safety are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service. “
Poolaw’s military career did not end in Belgium or with the Germans. During the Korean War, Poolaw saw combat and was wounded again and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, a second Purple Heart and two more Silver Stars. His first Silver Star for that war was for his heroic actions on September 1950 when his company met still enemy resistance. Poolaw volunteered to lead his squad in an assault, charging up a slop to hit the perimeter of the North Korean’s position. His squad engaged in fierce hand-to-hand combat and Poolaw’s persistence encouraged his squad to keep going until they were able to seize their objective.
The second Silver Star during this war came on April 4, 1951 near Chongong-ni where Poolaw and his platoon was pinned down by a automatic weapons and mortar barrage. He exposed himself to the enemy and slowly advanced across the open terrain, firing his weapon as he went. By keeping the North Koreans’ eyes on him, his platoon maneuvered to a better position and were able to carry on the mission at hand.
He returned to the U.S. in 1952 and retired from the Army ten years later. This is not where is story – or military career – ends. During the Vietnam War, all four of the Poolaws sons were in the military. In February 1967, his son, Pascal Jr., was injured by a landmine in Vietnam. This injury resulted in amputation of his right leg below the knee. Poolaw’s youngest son, Lindy, was drafted. Afraid of what could happen to his sons as the war progressed, Poolaw rejoined the Army at the age of 45. Giving up his rank as a 2nd Lieutenant (a promotion he earned in Korea), with the intentions of serving in direct combat, Poolaw hoped to keep his youngest son away from the front lines by taking his place. Regulations prohibited two members of the same family from serving in combat at the same time without their consent. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived on the West Coast, Lindy had left for Vietnam the day before.
Poolaw was deployed on May 31, 1967 as a first sergeant of the 26th Infantry Regiment’s C Company. His last Silver Star was for an event that occurred a few months later. On November 7, 1967, Poolaw’s unit were part of a search and destroy mission near the village of Loc Ninh. Their unit was ambushed by a Viet Cong force with intensive claymore mine, rocket, small arms, and automatic weapons fire. Through a hail of bullets, Poolaw raced to the lead squad position to lay down a base of fire – saving countless lives. While wounded, he continued moving among his squad making sure everyone was positioned properly while pulling casualties back.
As Poolaw was carrying a wounded soldier to safety, he was struck by a rocket propelled grenade and killed. For his heroic actions Poolaw was awarded a Silver Star and a third Purple Heart posthumously. “He has followed the trail of the great chiefs,” his wife Irene said at Poolaw’s funeral. “His people hold him in honor and highest esteem. He has given his life for the people and the country he loved so much.”
The citation reads as follows; “The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Staff Sergeant Pascal Cleatus Poolaw (ASN: 18131087), United States Army, for gallantry in action against the enemy while serving with Company M, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, near Recogne, Belgium, on 8 September 1944. While attacking in support of a rifle company, Sergeant Poolaw displaced his machine gun squad forward across an open field under heavy mortar and small arms fire in such a manner as to affect a minimum number of casualties among his squad. After reaching his new position, Sergeant Poolaw saw the enemy advance in a strong counterattack. Standing unflinchingly in the face of withering machine gun fire for five minutes, he hurled hand grenades until the enemy force sustained numerous casualties and was dispersed. Due to Sergeant Poolaw’s actions, many of his comrades’ lives were saved and the company was able to continue the attack and capture strongly defended enemy positions. Sergeant Poolaw’s display of courage, aggressive spirit and complete disregard for personal safety are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.”
His 2nd Silver Star was awarded to him for his bravery under fire and his disregard for his own safety while assisting his brothers in arms. The citation for his second Silver Star, earned in Korea, is as follows; “The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Sergeant First Class Pascal Cleatus Poolaw (ASN: 18131087), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company C, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. On 19 September 1950 when the company attack on an enemy position was halted by stiff enemy resistance, Sergeant First Class Poolaw volunteered to lead his squad in an assault. Courageously leading his men in a charge up the slope to penetrate the enemy perimeter and engage the numerically superior enemy in fierce hand-to-hand combat, Sergeant First Class Poolaw inspired his men to hold their position until the remainder of the company was able to seize the objective. Sergeant First Class Poolaw’s outstanding leadership reflects great credit upon himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the American Soldier.”
On April 4, 1951, once again, Sergeant Poolaw honored his people and the warriors creed by serving the calling of America. For his actions on that day, Master Sergeant Poolaw received his 3rd Silver Star. The third citation reads as follows:
“The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Silver Star to Master Sergeant Pascal Cleatus Poolaw (ASN: 18131087), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company C, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. On 4 April 1951 near Chongong-ni, Korea, while attacking strong hostile positions, one squad of Master Sergeant Poolaw’s platoon was immobilized by a devastating automatic weapons and mortar barrage. Exposing himself to the deadly fire, he slowly advanced across open terrain, firing his rifle as he progressed. By deliberately diverting the attention of the foe to himself, he enabled his men to maneuver to more advantageous positions. Master Sergeant Poolaw’s valorous actions were instrumental in the fulfillment of the unit mission and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the American Soldier.” The citation for First Sergeant Poolaw’s 4th Silver Star, awarded posthumously for action in Vietnam, reads as follows; “The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 8, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting a Third Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Fourth Award of the Silver Star (Posthumously) to First Sergeant Pascal Cleatus Poolaw (ASN: 18131087), United States Army, for gallantry in action against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam on 7 November 1967, while serving with Company C, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. On this date, during Operation SHENANDOAH II, First Sergeant Poolaw was accompanying his unit on a two-company search and destroy mission near Loc Ninh. As the patrol was moving through a rubber plantation, they were subjected to sniper fire. Within minutes, the area was raked with intensive claymore mine, rocket, small arms, and automatic weapons fire from a numerically superior Viet Cong force. First Sergeant Poolaw unhesitatingly ran to the lead squad which was receiving the brunt of the enemy fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he exposed himself to assist in deploying the men and establishing an effective base of fire. Although wounded, he continued to move about the area encouraging his men and pulling casualties to cover. He was assisting a wounded man to safety when he was mortally wounded by Viet Cong fire.
His dynamic leadership and exemplary courage contributed significantly to the successful deployment of the lead squad and undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers. First Sergeant Poolaw’s unquestionable valor in close combat against numerically superior hostile forces is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army. It should be noted that in the ferocious fighting at the Battle of Loc Ninh where he earned his 4th Silver Star and 3rd Purple Heart, it also resulted in the awards of 1 Medal of Honor, 2 Distinguished Service Crosses and one other Silver Star. 14 other US Army soldiers also lost their lives in that engagement.”
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