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Joe Hooper (Medal of Honor)

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Title: Joe Hooper (Medal of Honor)  
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Subject: Purple Heart, List of Medal of Honor recipients for the Vietnam War, Burials at Arlington National Cemetery, Recipients of the Purple Heart medal, 1979 deaths
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Joe Hooper (Medal of Honor)

Joe Ronnie Hooper
Born (1938-08-08)August 8, 1938
Piedmont, South Carolina
Died May 6, 1979(1979-05-06) (aged 40)
Louisville, Kentucky
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the United States Navy United States Navy
United States Army seal United States Army
Years of service 1956 - 1959 (US Navy)
1960 - 1978 (US Army)
Rank Petty Officer 3rd Class (Navy)
Captain (Army)
Unit 2nd Battalion,
501st Airborne Infantry,
101st Airborne Division
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Medal of Honor
Silver Star (2)
Bronze Star (6)
Air Medal
Purple Heart (8)
Vietnamese Gallantry Cross (Palm)
Combat Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge

Captain Joe Ronnie Hooper (August 8, 1938 – May 6, 1979) was a Vietnam veteran who was awarded 37 awards and decorations, second to Audie Murphy who won 38 decorations.[1][2] He was the recipient of the Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration for valor in combat.

During two tours of duty with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 501st Airborne Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, he received the Medal of Honor (February 21, 1968 outside of Hue), two Silver Stars for gallantry, 6 Bronze Stars for heroism, 8 Purple Hearts, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

He is credited with 115 enemy kills in ground combat, 22 of which occurred on February 21, 1968.


  • Biography 1
  • Awards and decorations 2
  • Medal of Honor citation 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6


Joe Ronnie Hooper was born on August 8, 1938 in Piedmont, South Carolina. His family moved when he was a child to Moses Lake, Washington where he attended Moses Lake High School.

Hooper enlisted in the United States Navy in December 1956. After graduation from boot camp at San Diego, California he served as an Airman aboard USS Wasp (CV-18) and USS Hancock (CV-19). He was discharged in July 1959, shortly after being promoted to Petty Officer 3rd Class.

Hooper reenlisted in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was promoted to corporal during his assignment. He then served a tour of duty in Korea with the 20th Infantry in October 1961 and shortly after arriving he was promoted to sergeant and was made a Squad Leader. He left Korea in November 1963 and was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas for a year as a Squad Leader and then became a Squad Leader with Company D, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He was promoted to staff sergeant in September 1966 and volunteered for service in Vietnam. Instead he was assigned as Platoon Sergeant in Panama with the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry, first with HQ Company and later with Company B.

Hooper couldn’t stay out of trouble and suffered several Article 15 hearings, being reduced to Corporal in July 1967. He was promoted once again to Sergeant in October 1967 and was assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell and deployed with the division to Vietnam in December as a Squad Leader. He returned from Vietnam and was discharged in June 1968. He reenlisted in the Army in September and served as a Public Relations Specialist. From July 1969 to August 1970 he served as a Platoon Sergeant with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry in Panama. He managed to finagle a second tour in Vietnam. From April to June 1970 he served as a Pathfinder with the 101st Aviation Group, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) and from June to December 1970 he served as a Platoon Sergeant with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). In December 1970 he received a direct commission to Second Lieutenant and served as a Platoon Leader with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) until April 1971. Upon his return to the United States he attended the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning and was then assigned as an instructor at Fort Polk, Louisiana

Despite wanting to serve twenty years Hooper was forcibly retired in February 1974 as a First Lieutenant, mainly because he barely had a GED and had taken only a handful of college courses. As soon as he was released from active duty he joined a unit of the Army Reserve's 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Washington state, as a Company Executive Officer. In February 1976 he transferred to the 104th Division (Training), also based in Washington. He was promoted to Captain in March 1977. He attended drills only intermittently and was separated from the service in September 1978.

Rumors persist that he became distressed by the anti-war politics of the time and took to excessive drinking which contributed to his death.[3] He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Louisville, Kentucky May 6, 1979 at the age of 40.

Captain Joe R. Hooper holds a place with SGT Alvin York, MAJ Audie Murphy, and COL Robert L. Howard as one of the most decorated soldiers in US Military history. Captain Hooper is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 46, adjacent to the Memorial Amphitheater.

Awards and decorations

During the course of his 17 years of military service, Hooper received 37 citations.

  Medal of Honor
  Silver Star with one bronze oak leaf cluster
  Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and one silver oak leaf cluster
  Purple Heart x8
  Air Medal
  Army Commendation Medal
  Army Good Conduct Medal
  Navy Good Conduct Medal
  National Defense Service Medal
  Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal
  Vietnam Service Medal
  Vietnam Gallantry Cross
  Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  Army & Air Force Presidential Unit Citation
  Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation
  Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
  Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation
  Combat Infantryman Badge
  Master Parachutist Badge

Medal of Honor citation

Medal of Honor

See also


  1. ^ "Audie Murphy American Soldier" by Col. Harold Simpson 1975- Hill Junior Press and "The Decorations and awards of Audie Murphy and Alvin C. York" by Eric Caubarreaux, Create Space press 2010.
  2. ^ Joe Hooper at Arlington
  3. ^ Anderson, Rick (April 10, 2003). "A Crippled Home Front". Seattle Weekly.  Article posted on Captain Hooper's Arlington National Cemetery profile. Accessed on 2006-07-10.
  4. ^ "Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipients". Medal of Honor citations.  


  • "Joe Ronnie Hooper, Captain, United States Army". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2006-07-09. 
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