Listen to Medal of Honor Presentation Ceremony
Rank and Organization: Specialist Sixth
Class (then Sp5c), U.S. Army, Headquarters and
Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503d
Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade.
Place and Date: Republic of
Vietnam, 8 November 1965.
Entered Service At: New York
G.O. No.: 15, 5 April 1967.
Born: 22 February
1928, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Citation: For conspicuous
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the
call of duty. Sp6c. Joel demonstrated indomitable courage,
determination, and professional skill when a numerically
superior and well-concealed Viet Cong element launched a
vicious attack which wounded or killed nearly every man in the
lead squad of the company. After treating the men wounded by
the initial burst of gunfire, he bravely moved forward to assist
others who were wounded while proceeding to their objective.
While moving from man to man, he was struck in the right leg
by machinegun fire. Although painfully wounded his desire to
aid his fellow soldiers transcended all personal feeling. He
bandaged his own wound and self-administered morphine to
deaden the pain enabling him to continue his dangerous
undertaking. Through this period of time, he constantly shouted
words of encouragement to all around him. Then, completely
ignoring the warnings of others, and his pain, he continued his
search for wounded, exposing himself to hostile fire; and, as
bullets dug up the dirt around him, he held plasma bottles high
while kneeling completely engrossed in his life saving mission.
Then, after being struck a second time and with a bullet lodged
in his thigh, he dragged himself over the battlefield and
succeeded in treating 13 more men before his medical supplies
ran out. Displaying resourcefulness, he saved the life of 1 man
by placing a plastic bag over a severe chest wound to congeal
the blood. As 1 of the platoons pursued the Viet Cong, an
insurgent force in concealed positions opened fire on the
platoon and wounded many more soldiers. With a new stock
of medical supplies, Sp6c. Joel again shouted words of
encouragement as he crawled through an intense hail of gunfire
to the wounded men. After the 24 hour battle subsided and the
Viet Cong dead numbered 410, snipers continued to harass the
company. Throughout the long battle, Sp6c. Joel never lost
sight of his mission as a medical aidman and continued to
comfort and treat the wounded until his own evacuation was
ordered. His meticulous attention to duty saved a large number
of lives and his unselfish, daring example under most adverse
conditions was an inspiration to all. Sp6c. Joel's profound
concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and
beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S.
Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed
Forces of his country.
Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy.
Black Americans in Defense of Our Nation.
Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1985.
"President Lyndon B. Johnson escorts SP5 Lawrence Joel, Black Medal of Honor winner and
Mrs. Joel to the podium during ceremony held in honor of Specialist Joel. Mrs. Joel and her
children shared this honor. Vice President Humber[sic], Humphrey, for many years a champion
of civil rights for minorities, is shown in the far right. More than 30 Black officers and
enlisted men have won the Medal of Honor."
Source: Johnson, Jesse L. (Ed.) Black Women in the Armed Forces, 1942-1974: A Pictorial History. Hampton, VA: Johnson, c. 1974.
Lantz, Ragni. (June 1967). "Dixie Town Fetes War Hero."
Ebony, p. 27-28, 30, 32, 34, 36.
"Lawrence Joel Army Health and Dental Clinic." Retrieved March 2, 2004 from the
World Wide Web: http://www.mcpherson.army.mil/clinic.
Presentation Ceremony at The White House, March 9, 1967. President Johnson's Remarks
Upon Awarding the Medal of Honor to Specialist 6 Lawrence Joel. Citation for Lawrence
Joel read by Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor.
"President Gives Medal of Honor to Medic."
New York Times, March 10, 1967. P. 20.
Reed, Roy. "Johnson Wrote Last of a Dozen Drafts of Speech."
New York Times, January 18, 1968. P. 17.
"Who Is Lawrence Joel? – Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum Complex."
Retrieved October 3, 2003 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ljvm.com/lawrencejoel.html.