Charles C. Hagemeister, Medal of Honor Recipient, passed away Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at the age of 74 in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Then-Specialist Fourth Class Hagemeister was assigned as a medic to Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), U.S. Army, in Vietnam’s Binh Dinh Province when the enemy attacked at night on March 20, 1967. His platoon was sent to secure the village of Tan An and prevent the escape of North Vietnamese regulars. While they moved through the village’s graveyard, the enemy surrounded them on three sides and initiated intense fire. His platoon quickly suffered heavy casualties. For the next seven and a half hours, Hagemeister unhesitatingly faced the heavy fire several times to reach the wounded, offering medical aid and encouragement.
Prevented from evacuating the wounded by the hostile fire, he seized a rifle and eliminated a sniper, an enemy machine gun, and three enemy soldiers trying to encircle his position. With his men pinned down, Hagemeister ran to secure help from nearby platoon and positioned them so that he could more safely remove the wounded. He continued to evacuate the wounded as the enemy continued firing.
For all the lives he saved on that day, Hagemeister was presented the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson on May 14, 1968, in a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. In a July 1968 interview with Army Digest, Hagemeister said, “The pressure of a crisis situation makes you realize what you’re made of. If you do your job and a little bit for somebody else, you’ll usually come through.”
Hagemeister was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on August 21, 1946, youngest of 4 siblings. He graduated from Lincoln’s Southeast High School and was drafted into the Army in May 1966 while on a break from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He retired from active duty as a lieutenant colonel in June 1990. He served on the board of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara, two children, and two grandchildren. Burial arrangements are pending.
Rank: Specialist Fourth Class (Highest Rank: Lieutenant Colonel)
Conflict/Era: Vietnam War
Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry,
1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)
Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Action Date: March 20, 1967
Medal of Honor Action Place: Binh Dinh Province, Republic of Vietnam
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While conducting combat operations against a hostile force, Sp5c. Hagemeister’s platoon suddenly came under heavy attack from three sides by an enemy force occupying well-concealed, fortified positions and supported by machine guns and mortars. Seeing two of his comrades seriously wounded in the initial action, Sp5c. Hagemeister, unhesitatingly and with total disregard for his safety, raced through the deadly hail of enemy fire to provide them medical aid. Upon learning that the platoon leader and several other soldiers had been wounded, Sp5c. Hagemeister continued to brave the withering enemy fire and crawled forward to render lifesaving treatment and to offer words of encouragement. Attempting to evacuate the seriously wounded soldiers, Sp5c. Hagemeister was taken under fire at close range by an enemy sniper. Realizing that the lives of his fellow soldiers depended on his actions, Sp5c. Hagemeister seized a rifle from a fallen comrade, killed the sniper, three other enemy soldiers who were attempting to encircle his position, and silenced an enemy machine gun that covered the area with deadly fire. Unable to remove the wounded to a less exposed location and aware of the enemy efforts to isolate his unit, he dashed through the fusillade of fire to secure help from a nearby platoon. Returning with help, he placed men in positions to cover his advance as he moved to evacuate the wounded forward of his location. These efforts successfully completed, he then moved to the other flank and evacuated additional wounded men despite the fact that his every move drew fire from the enemy. Sp5c. Hagemeister’s repeated heroic and selfless actions at the risk of his life saved the lives of many of his comrades and inspired their actions in repelling the enemy assault. Sp5c. Hagemeister’s indomitable courage was in the highest traditions of the Armed Forces and reflect great credit upon himself.