He went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky with orders to select and train a company of soldiers for service in Vietnam. Like most young company commanders, the 23 year old Paul Bucha was meticulous in his selections; however, for Bucha's company of "clerks and jerks", only the least promising candidates need apply.
An All-American swimmer in high school, Bucha was recruited by several universities for his athletic abilities, but decided to attend West Point instead. In 1967, his company of eighty-nine "clerks and jerks" arrived in Vietnam as part of the 101st Airborne Division. At Fort Campbell, they had been nobody's idea of ideal soldiers. Many, in fact, had flunked infantry training, either for bad attitude or sheer ineptitude. However, Bucha found ways to make use of their talents; under his rigorous leadership, Company D was transformed into a tight, effective unit.
After the Tet Offensive in early 1968, Bucha led his company into a suspected North Vietnamese stronghold near Phuoc Vinh, as part of an effort to push the enemy back from Saigon. For two days, the operation went well, and they met only scattered resistance. On the third day, however, the mission took a dramatic turn. The twelve men in Company D's lead element stumbled upon the camp of a North Vietnamese battalion, bivouacked for the night. Without hesitation, Bucha led the rest of the company in to support them and establish a defense. Though vastly outnumbered, Company D held together in the face of heavy enemy fire. Through the night, Bucha raced back and forth across his company's position, using timed gunfire, grenades, and flashlights to trick the North Vietnamese into thinking they were facing a much larger force. By daybreak, his ruse had worked; the North Vietnamese battalion withdrew, leaving behind more than 150 casualties.
In 1970, Paul Bucha received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Phuoc Vinh. After resigning his commission, he embarked on a successful career in international finance, real estate, and exports. Among his many professional affiliations, he has served as President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. In 1997, another of his many talents was recognized with the Gold Medallion Award of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
DVD 2009-02-26: Medal of Honor with Ed Tracy
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