A Story of Comraderie
Rank and organization: Petty Officer, U.S.
Navy, Navy Advisory Group. Place and date: Republic
of Vietnam, 31 October 1972.
Entered service at: Spartanburg, S.C. Born:
23 March 1949, Greenville, S.C. Citation: For
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the
risk of his life above and beyond the call of
duty while participating in a daring operation
against enemy forces.
PO Thornton, as Assistant U.S. Navy Advisor,
along with a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as
Senior Advisor, accompanied a 3-man Vietnamese
Navy SEAL patrol on an intelligence gathering
and prisoner capture operation against an enemy-occupied
naval river base.
Launched from a Vietnamese Navy junk in a rubber
boat, the patrol reached land and was continuing
on foot toward its objective when it suddenly
came under heavy fire from a numerically superior
force. The patrol called in naval gunfire support
and then engaged the enemy in a fierce firefight,
accounting for many enemy casualties before
moving back to the waterline to prevent encirclement.
Upon learning that the Senior Advisor had been
hit by enemy fire and was believed to be dead,
PO Thornton returned through a hail of fire
to the lieutenant's last position; quickly disposed
of 2 enemy soldiers about to overrun the position,
and succeeded in removing the seriously wounded
and unconscious Senior Naval Advisor to the
water's edge. He then inflated the lieutenant's
lifejacket and towed him seaward for approximately
2 hours until picked up by support craft.
By his extraordinary courage and perseverance,
PO Thornton was directly responsible for saving
the life of his superior officer and enabling
the safe extraction of all patrol members, thereby
upholding the highest traditions of the U.S.