Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
After immigrating from Austria, Specialist Sabo served his new home by joining the US Army and deploying to Vietnam and Cambodia in 1970. On a mission to interdict enemy supply lines, Sabo fought off an ambush, saved a wounded soldier, and sacrificed his life to destroy an enemy bunker. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor 42 years later.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Leslie H. Sabo Jr. was born on February 22nd, 1948 in Kufstein, Austria. When Leslie was two years old, his family immigrated to the United States. They settled in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, where Leslie Sabo Sr. worked as an engineer.
In 1966, Sabo graduated high school. He briefly attended college and worked at a steel mill.
In 1969, Sabo was drafted into the US Army and was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.
A year later, Sabo’s unit deployed to Vietnam to fight the North Vietnamese Army (or NVA) where they were tasked with reinforcing the 4th Infantry Division. At the time, the 4th ID was covertly operating in Cambodia, interdicting the NVA along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a network of supply routes outside Vietnam that North Vietnam used.
On May 10th 1970, Sabo’s platoon was tasked with making contact with an NVA force in Se San, Cambodia. The NVA used the area to stage attacks, including during the Tet Offensive. Sabo’s platoon was ambushed by the numerically superior NVA. Immediately, Sabo attacked an enemy position, then repelled a group of flanking NVA. He went to recover a wounded soldier as the NVA retreated, but arrived just as an enemy grenade landed. Sabo picked it up and threw it back, then covered his fellow soldier’s body. The grenade exploded and severely wounded Sabo, but he saved his comrade from further harm. Sabo kept moving, rushing an enemy bunker alone. Before reaching the bunker, Sabo was mortally wounded by automatic fire. However, he pushed on, crawling closer to the enemy and throwing a grenade into the bunker. The blast neutralized the threat to his platoon but killed Sabo. Seven of his fellow soldiers were also killed in the ambush.
Shortly after his death, Sabo was posthumously promoted to Sergeant and was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but no action was taken. After another Vietnam veteran from the 101st Airborne, Alton Mabb, found accounts of Sabo’s valor in the National Archives, the push to award Sabo the Medal of Honor resurfaced. On April 16th, 2012, Sabo’s widow Rose received the Medal of Honor on his behalf
Sabo’s other awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, the Air Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal with two stars.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our producer and engineer, León Pescador is our associate producer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.