A Congressional Medal of Honor Account
Extraordinary Valor is the story of Special Forces Major John Duffy’s Medal of Honor gallantry at Firebase Charlie, and the heroism of South Vietnamese paratrooper, Major Lê Văn Mễ, who fought by his side. It is the true story of their battle to defend Charlie Hill, a key to holding Vietnam's Central Highlands during North Vietnam's 1972 Easter Offensive.
John Joseph Duffy was born in New York City; Le Van Mễ in a small village outside the old imperial capital of Hue in South Vietnam. Living on opposite sides of the globe, they come together in the heat of war in Southeast Asia when Major Duffy is assigned as the American advisor to the elite South Vietnamese 11th Airborne Battalion where Mễ is second in command.
The battalion receives the order to "Fight to the death" on Charlie Hill. After two weeks of intense combat, hundreds lay dead and those still standing are out of food, water, and medical supplies. Their ammunition is nearly gone. Duffy and Mễ draw on their bond of friendship and trust to make a selfless two-man last stand against the final North Vietnamese human wave assault. Both are badly wounded, Duffy multiple times. Their heroic action allows 36 members of the 471-man battalion to escape and be rescued. The rest are killed, captured, or missing in action.
This is their story.
William Reeder is a retired U.S. Army colonel, highly decorated with extensive combat experience (Silver Star for gallantry, Valorous Unit Award, two Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism, three Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat). In Vietnam, he was an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter pilot. Later in his career, he flew the AH-64 Apache advanced attack helicopter. He is also a former prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam. In 2014, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Aviation Hall of Fame.
Reeder holds a Ph.D. in history and does training and leadership development consulting with NATO Special Operations forces.
He is a frequent speaker for veterans and other military and civic organizations.
He lives in Seabeck, WA.
Riveting, raw, and insightful account of a South Vietnamese airborne battalion and the leaders who took it through one of the most horrendous clashes of the Vietnam War. William Reeder’s brilliant writing took me right back into the heart of battle. It is real. Focusing on two heroes and one battalion’s desperate fight, it is the forgotten story of South Vietnam’s most elite forces and how they fought with extraordinary courage and sacrifice. It is also the story of the gallant young American paratroop advisors who served beside them.
Duffy’s story and that of the acting South Vietnamese battalion commander, Maj. Le Van Me, during the North Vietnamese Army’s Easter Offensive are described with riveting detail in retired Col. William “Bill” Reeder’s book, Extraordinary Valor: The Fight for Charlie Hill in Vietnam. The author conducted multiple interviews and listened to hours of tapes between Duffy, forward air controllers and pilots dropping ordnance near Firebase Charlie…. [The narrative] has a ring of authenticity unmatched in many Vietnam War books.
“William Reeder Jr.’s book Extraordinary Valor: The Fight for Charlie Hill is indeed extraordinary. It is lucidly written, smoothly flowing, brilliantly researched and a paean to the extraordinary valor of leaders in the most trying of circumstances…. The deep research and biographical description of Duffy and the Vietnamese leadership provide a rare insight into what brought them all together on the battlefield…. Unlike most books by Vietnam veterans, Reeder uses the lives and relationships of both the Vietnamese and Duffy to explain their performance on Charlie Hill as the ultimate demonstration of combat competency. It is deeper than the typical Vietnam tale.”—Association of the United States Army (AUSA)
“This is the gripping story of one of many desperate battles fought during the North Vietnamese Army’s Easter Offensive in 1972. The author is a retired Army colonel, Vietnam veteran, and inductee into the U.S. Army Aviation Hall of Fame. He tells the story of Charlie Hill with unvarnished candor and vivid narrative. As an attack helicopter pilot, he flew missions in support of that fight.” —Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)
[This] is an extremely readable account of men in desperate battle. It is particularly valuable for its depiction of the bitter fighting that characterized the 1972 North Vietnamese offensive in a time when very few Americans were directly involved in the fighting on the ground. It is also a testament to the bravery of the South Vietnamese who fought and died on that bloody hill in 1972.