May 11, 2018

Whitehouse Bestows Bronze Star on Vietnam Hero

Charlestown resident receives long overdue honor for remarkable bravery during Marine Corps service

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse conferred a Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” device upon William Balzano of Charlestown for his actions in Vietnam as a member of the United States Marine Corps.  The ceremony took place in the Ballroom at the Providence G before dozens of Balzano’s family, friends, and fellow servicemembers.

“I am honored to bestow this long-overdue honor on Lance Corporal Balzano,” said Whitehouse. “His actions in Vietnam are a study in bravery and selflessness, and for far too long those actions went unrecognized.  Today, with his family by his side, we observe his exemplary service and solemn commitment to Corps and country.”

According to an account of Balzano’s service provided to Whitehouse’s staff and the Department of Defense, Lance Corporal Balzano displayed remarkable heroism during his tour in Vietnam, particularly in defending Hill 950 outside the Khe Sahn airfield on June 6, 1967.  An estimated 100 North Vietnamese Army troops attacked a small group of Marines on Hill 950 on the night of June 6, quickly overrunning the position Balzano was charged with defending.  Balzano, suddenly isolated from the rest of his platoon, turned his machine gun to the rear of his position and protected the main avenue of approach for the enemy.  At one point during the fight, a grenade landed in his foxhole but did not explode.  Soon after, his weapon malfunctioned and he was forced to continue the fight with small arms.  Later, a bullet struck his helmet wounding his head and knocking him over, but he fought on nonetheless.  The fighting on Hill 950 continued through the night before support troops could relieve Balzano and what remained of his comrades. 

“Apparently, as was typical of the Marines who served, they did not promote themselves or seek recognition.  But it is now time, while we can, to give the honor due William Balzano,” said Donald Campbell, Balzano’s platoon commander at the time of the attack on Hill 950, in a letter to Whitehouse’s office memorializing the reasons Balzano should be honored for his bravery.  “Bill Balzano was, like so many, a boy who volunteered and did what he thought was right for himself, the United States Marine Corps, and for his country.”

Beginning in June 2015, Whitehouse’s office began working with Balzano to submit an application for military honors.  Although his initial application was rejected, Balzano and Whitehouse compiled additional evidence as recommended by the Marine Corps, including tracking down the last living member of his chain of command, and submitted a second application.  The Marine Corps finally approved Balzano for the Bronze Star this year.


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