(TB&P) — Caraway native Nick Bacon was fascinated by his uncle’s tales from World War II.
Those tales and his father contracting polio inspired Bacon to quit school after the ninth grade and forge his mother’s signature so he could join the Army at the tender age of 17. Little did he know that someday he would stand at the White House as President Richard Nixon gave him the Medal of Honor, and he would go down as the most decorated soldier from Arkansas during the Vietnam War.
Bacon passed away on July 17, 2010, but the story about what he did one steamy day in the Vietnamese countryside still resonates.
He was born Nov. 25, 1945, in Caraway (Craighead County). A bad economy forced the Bacon family, with their eight children, to move to Arizona in the early 1950s. Bacon quit school after the ninth grade to help support his family, but his dream was to join the Army. His mother refused to sign for him, so at the age of 17 he forged her signature and joined the Arizona National Guard, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
About a year later, he joined the U.S. Army, and by 1966 he was serving his first tour in Vietnam. During his first tour, Bacon was injured three times.
Once, the helicopter he was flying in crashed with another helicopter. Bacon and one other soldier were the lone survivors of the crash. Bacon volunteered for a second tour, and it would lead up to the events that defined his life.
The Vietnam War has remained one of the most enigmatic wars fought by Americans. It started in 1964 and ended in 1973. During the war 8,744,000 Americans served in the theater and about 47,000 died in actual battle, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Another 10,000 or so died in the theater of battle, in addition to those lost directly in battle. About 153,000 were wounded, and Bacon was just one of 238 soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor during the war.
Bacon was sent to Hawaii after his first tour to train soldiers, and he decided to return with them. On Aug. 26, 1968, Bacon’s company had been ordered to aid the First Calvary Division near the city of Tam Ky in South Vietnam. As the company moved through the countryside, North Vietnamese units began to assail them from a nearby village.
Bombs exploded. Bullets whirled. Men began to die.
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