Pascal Cleatus Poolaw (January 29, 1922 – November 7, 1967) was a Kiowa who served with the United States Army in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He is the United States' most decorated Native American, with 42 medals and citations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, as well as three Purple Hearts – one for each war.[1]

Pascal Poolaw
Poolaw during the Korean War
Birth namePascal Cleatus Poolaw
Born(1922-01-29)January 29, 1922
Apache, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedNovember 7, 1967(1967-11-07) (aged 45)
near Loc Ninh, South Vietnam
AllegianceUnited States
BranchUnited States Army
Years of service1942–1967
RankFirst Sergeant
Service number18131087

Early life edit

Pascal Poolaw was born in Apache, Oklahoma, to Ralph Emerson Poolaw and Minnie Monetathchi Bointy. He married Irene Chalepah on March 15, 1940, and had four sons: Lester, Pascal Jr., Lindy, and Donnie.

Military career edit

In 1942, Poolaw joined his father and two brothers in World War II. He earned his first Purple Heart when he was wounded in September 1944.[2] He earned his first Silver Star for his actions near Recogne, Belgium, while serving in Company M, 8th Infantry Regiment, when he pushed his unit forward under heavy fire and hurled hand grenades at enemy machine guns until the enemy dispersed.[3]

He continued to serve in the Korean War, where he earned two more Silver Stars, and in July 1950, another Purple Heart,[2] before his return to the United States in 1952.[3] He retired from the Army in 1962.

Poolaw's son, Pascal Jr., had also joined the army and was serving in the Vietnam War in February 1967, when he was wounded in both legs by a landmine, and had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. Poolaw's youngest son Lindy was also drafted and set to deploy to Vietnam shortly thereafter.

Poolaw rejoined the Army to prevent Lindy from having to serve, by taking his place. Lindy had already shipped out and Poolaw had hoped to catch up with him in time, but when he arrived on the West Coast, he discovered his son had already left the day before. He decided to follow his son to Vietnam.

Poolaw was deployed on May 31, 1967, as the first sergeant of the 26th Infantry Regiment's C Company. On November 7, while on a search and destroy mission during the first battle of Loc Ninh, Poolaw and his unit were ambushed by the Viet Cong. He was killed while attempting to pull a unit casualty to safety, and posthumously awarded a fourth Silver Star.[3]

Legacy edit

At his funeral his wife stated: "He has followed the trail of the great chiefs."[4] A building at the U.S. Army base in Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma—where he was stationed prior to his deployment to Vietnam—is named in his honor.[5]

Awards edit

Poolaw was the recipient of the following military decorations and service medals:[6]

Badge Combat Infantryman Badge
with two stars
1st row Distinguished Service Cross Silver Star Medal
with oak leaf clusters[3]
Bronze Star Medal
with "V" device and oak leaf clusters
2nd row Purple Heart
with oak leaf clusters
Air Medal Army Commendation Medal
with "V" device and oak leaf clusters
Good Conduct Medal
with good conduct loops
3rd row American Campaign Medal EAME Campaign Medal
with arrowhead and service star
World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal
4th row National Defense Service Medal
with service star
Korean Service Medal
with service stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal
with service stars
5th row Korea Defense Service Medal United Nations Service Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal
with "60–" clasp
Korean War Service Medal
6th row Presidential Unit Citation Meritorious Unit Commendation
7th row Korea Presidential Unit Citation Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ "Pascal C. Poolaw Sr". American Indians in the U.S. Army. Retrieved December 8, 2018. Most decorated American Indian Soldier
  2. ^ a b Meadows 2012, p. 74.
  3. ^ a b c d Hall of Valor 2010.
  4. ^ Ward & Burns 2017, p. 244.
  5. ^ "Kiowa citizen Pascal Cleatus Poolaw considered most decorated Indian soldier". Indianz.Com. November 7, 2017. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  6. ^ Struzinski 2012, p. 9.

Sources edit

  This article incorporates public domain material from Pascal C. Poolaw Sr. United States Army.