Staff Sergeant Billy M. Donaldson

For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Team Leader with the First Force Reconnaissance Company, Third Reconnaissance Battalion, Third Marine Division, during operations against the enemy sixteen miles west of Dong Ha, Vietnam, on 8 August 1966. Deep in enemy controlled territory, Staff Sergeant Donaldson was leading a four-man reconnaissance team when he observed fifteen Viet Cong. Realizing the valuable opportunity to capture a prisoner, he suggested that a platoon reaction force be landed in the area. The platoon landed, made a fruitless search and commenced helilifting the force and the reconnaissance team out of the area. Staff Sergeant Donaldson declined to be withdrawn with the initial helilift, as he felt he could assist the Platoon Commander in the evacuation of the remainder of the force. All but twenty-four of the Marines had been flown out when an estimated two companies of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched a vicious rocket, machine gun fire and grenade attack. The attacks continued late into the night, killing four Marines and wounding numerous others. The casualties were moved to foxholes within the defensive perimeter. Subsequently, while under heavy grenade attack from thirty or forty North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, Staff Sergeant Donaldson saw a grenade land in a foxhole containing a wounded man. With complete disregard for his own safety, he leaped into the foxhole, picked up the grenade, and threw it back toward the Viet Cong. As the grenade left his hand, it exploded, wounding him severely in the arm and head. By his heroic actions, initiative, and loyal devotion to duty at great personal risk, Staff Sergeant Donaldson undoubtedly saved the wounded Marine's life, reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.