May 16 memorial planned at Petersen's gravesite
Remembering the heroic actions of an area native who sacrificed himself to save his fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War is the focus of a memorial event set for Saturday, May 16 at the Netawaka Cemetery.
Danny J. Petersen, a soldier in the U.S. Army and a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest decoration, for his actions in Vietnam, will be remembered during the memorial, set to begin at 10 a.m. that day. The Samuel Linscott Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution of Holton is hosting the event.
Petersen, a 20-year-old native of Horton, was killed in action on Jan. 9, 1970, in the Tay Ninh Provice in southern Vietnam. At the time of his death, he was a specialist four in Company B, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, and was driving an armored personnel carrier with Company B during a battle with North Vietnamese Army forces.
According to Petersen’s official Medal of Honor citation, another armored personnel carrier was disabled “and the crewmen were pinned down by the heavy onslaught of enemy small arms, automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire.” He moved his own personnel carrier in between the disabled carrier and the NVA, placing “suppressive fire” on the enemy army and enabling crew members of the disabled carrier to repair their vehicle.
Petersen then moved his vehicle to within 10 feet of the NVA, even while still under heavy hostile fire, according to the citation. His vehicle then received a direct hit, and the driver was wounded as a result.
“With extraordinary courage and selfless disregard for his own safety, Spec. Petersen carried his wounded comrade 45 meters across the bullet-swept field to a secure area,” the citation stated. “He then voluntarily returned to his disabled armored personnel carrier to provide covering fire for both the other vehicles and the dismounted personnel of his platoon as they withdrew.”
Although he was taking heavy fire on three sides, Petersen remained with his disabled vehicle, “alone and completely exposed,” the citation said. He stood on top of the vehicle and continued to provide covering fire until he was mortally wounded.
“His heroic and selfless actions prevented further loss of life in his platoon. Spec. Petersen's conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary heroism are in the highest traditions of the service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army,” the citation said.
Petersen was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery by President Richard Nixon, it was reported. His other medals include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster.
Petersen is buried in the Netawaka Cemetery, where the May 16 memorial will take place. His name also graces a stretch of U.S. Highway 75 between Kansas Highways 9 and 16, which was recognized as the Danny J. Petersen Memorial Highway in 1994.
The public is invited to attend the memorial event.