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.
The Toughest Thing He’s Ever Done: SP5 Clarence Eugene Sasser
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Specialist 5th Class Clarence Eugene Sasser served in Vietnam as an Army Medic. Through numerous wounds and excruciating pain, he continuously administered aid to fellow soldiers for 20 hours as his company was attacked in Vietnam.
To hear more of Sasser's story listen to his episode on our other show; Warrior In Their Own Words.
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.
Clarence Eugene Sasser was born on September 12th, 1947 in Rosharon Texas. After graduating high school, Sasser began studying Chemistry at the University of Houston, but was forced to switch to part-time so he could work to pay for classes. Doing so caused him to become eligible for the draft, and in June of 1967, Sasser was drafted into the US Army as a medic. Three short months later, he was deployed to Vietnam at the age of 20.
On January 10th, 1968, four months into his deployment, then Private 1st Class Sasser was sent with Company A to investigate reports of enemy activity in the Mekong River Delta. The company arrived at their landing zone at 10am in about 12 helicopters, but as they began trying to land in the rice patties below, they were attacked.
In minutes, 30 men were killed and a helicopter was taken out as well-entrenched enemy forces laid down heavy rocket, machine gun, and small arms fire from three sides. The platoons were immediately scattered, and a bullet grazed Sasser’s leg as he was dumped out of his helicopter into the paddy below. He rushed to the side of nearby injured soldiers, and began administering aid to everyone within reach. Continuous shouts for help came from every direction.
As enemy snipers set up their positions, it became impossible for Sasser to run across the open rice paddy to help fellow soldiers due to the lack of cover, and how much the mud and water slowed his movement. Sasser said “If you stood up, you were dead.” He quickly realized that the best way to maneuver from soldier to soldier was by laying down in the water and using the rice to drag himself over the mud at the bottom of the rice paddy.
Suddenly he heard someone shout, and he quickly turned his back. A mortar shell landed nearly three feet away from Sasser, sending hot shrapnel into his shoulder. Thankfully the water slowed the velocity of the shrapnel, and the immense heat cauterized wounds after impact, so the damage was lessened.
Even through two more injuries that immobilized his legs, Sasser ignored his wounds and continued administering aid. In excruciating pain and faint from the loss of blood, he crawled 100 meters to reach an injured soldier, and after treating him, rallied other nearby soldiers to crawl an additional 200 meters in order to get them to a safer position.
There, they spent the night, continuing to come under fire as Sasser treated their wounds. He later said getting through the night was the toughest thing he ever did. Quote “The tough part wasn’t enemy fire, it was listening to guys call for their mama, and you can't do anything. Listening to them beg all night. And then you don’t hear them anymore in the morning, so you know they died.”
At around 4am, Sasser and the rest of Company A were evacuated by helicopters. Of the 120 soldiers that landed the day before, Sasser estimates that 40 died and another 75 were wounded. Out of three medics, Sasser was the only one to make it out alive.
A year later on March 7th, 1969, Specialist 5th Class Clarence Euguene Sasser was presented the Medal of Honor for his heroism.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our executive producer and mixing engineer, Declan Rohrs is our associate producer, scriptwriter, and recording engineer, 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.