Vietnam War-era letter: 'Buddy tells of GI’s heroism'

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Orange County Register during the Vietnam War. Sound Publishing classified department representative Priscilla Wakefield, daughter of Sgt. Felix O. Mendoza, shared it with Veterans Life.

SANTA ANA, California — Four months ago, a brief incident took place on a nameless hill in Vietnam — a scene repeated so often it normally no longer makes headlines.

Such was the case with an action involving a U.S. Army sergeant from Santa Ana — that is until a New York GI felt so proud he had to write to the Register about it.

Even the parents of Sgt. Felix O. Mendoza didn’t know he had been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, two Purple Hearts and an Air Medal for heroism in combat. He said he chose to tell no one of his deeds.

The story begins on the morning of Jan. 2 near An Khe, South Vietnam. Spec. 4 David Huns of New York City was cooking his morning chow in a shell hole. Then he and his fellow GIs were hit hard.

“All of a sudden, one of our buddies hit the ground,” said Huns. “An AK round hit him. Before we knew it, we were getting hit with small-arms fire. We started to engage in a battle with a battalion-size outfit of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).

“After three hours of fighting these animals we were getting tired and were losing guys bad. Three machine guns had us pinned down. That’s when I decided to make my move. I hadn’t gone a foot when I got hit in the chest and legs. I had a sucking chest wound and was losing a lot of blood.

“When Sgt. Mendoza saw me hit the ground, I thought he’d gone crazy. What I started to do, he finished. He blew up the machine-gun positions. Then he started giving his men first aid.

“He saved my life and those of at least two other men. He alone killed nine NVA men.

“I have seen this young man in action a few times and every time we’d had contact, he’d get up and charge the enemy. He has been shot twice, but never gives up. He merely shakes it off and continues to fulfill his job.”

Huns said he will never forget Sgt. Mendoza. “He is an idol to his men,” the New York soldier said. “They look up to him and say the Army needs more men like him.”

Sgt. Mendoza, of 2225 W. Seventh St., Santa Ana, who will remain in Vietnam until Aug. 29 when he gets a 45-day leave, described the incident by saying, “There were only four of us who could move around without being noticed. I made a break for it and fortunately made it all the way to the enemy’s machine-gun position. In that time, I got hit in the back but never paid any attention to it.

“To me, the machine gun was doing all the hurt and had to be wiped out. I took out two hand grenades and made it all the way, blowing the machine gun out. The medic and I then gave aid to the men that were really hurting the most. I gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to three men. Later they said I saved their lives by doing so.”