Apr. 23, 1962 - An American sergeant wounded in the leg by Communist fire has been denied the Purple Heart. Although the incident was two months ago and although the sergeant was the first casualty among U.S. Army helicopter personnel, the episode was hushed up by the military command in Vietnam. The only explanation advanced by military sources in Saigon is that Purple Hearts and combat medals cannot be awarded in Vietnam because Washington does not recognize this as a combat zone for Americans. Eight of twenty planes of the U.S. Army Light Helicopter Company have holes from Communist bullets. The crews cannot follow the subtlety of Washington thinking and are indignant. “A Purple Heart means a great deal to a soldier’s family,” one crewman said. “It shows them their Government appreciates that the soldier has done something heroic for his country. It means as much to them as a Medal of Honor.” Other crewmen recalled that Korea was never officially a war, yet troops got combat medals, special pay, and educational benefits. Present Pentagon policy holds that U.S. troops are in South Vietnam at the invitation of the Government, acting as advisors. The Purple Heart is normally awarded automatically to a serviceman injured in combat.
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