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Brigade Seeks Top Honor for a Fallen Hero

Smith and Campbell rushed to help evacuate the wounded, one of whom had to be carried on a stretcher. Another M-113 was then hit by a grenade, and Campbell helped evacuate its four crew members. As he was doing so, Smith got a hand grenade from a Scout vehicle, ran up to the wall by the gate and threw the grenade over the wall to help cover the evacuation.

Then Smith jumped into the M-113 and started to back it across the courtyard to a more central position where he could fire at the guard tower.


Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith helped clear a building near the southern city of Najaf during the Army's race to Baghdad. (Courtesy Of Harry Delauter -- U.s. Army)


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 I N   T H E   F I E L D  
William Branigin is a reporter on the Virginia desk of the Washington Post. He was embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division.

Audio From the Field:
On the Scene in Baghdad (April 14)
The Fall of Baghdad (April 9)
Troops Move North From Karbala (April 2)


The M-113's machine gun was damaged, but Smith told Campbell he could make it work. Campbell sent two soldiers to help him, one to drive the M-113 and the other to feed Smith ammunition. Smith told them to stay down while he fired at the tower, the gate and a place along a wall where the Iraqis were trying to climb over.

"They were trying to gain control [of the courtyard] to kill engineers, who were the biggest threat to them," Campbell said. If successful, "they would be unimpeded. They had the terrain. They had the proper size and type of weapons to defeat all the targets around there. . . . So they would have . . . created chaos, and they could have done quite a bit of damage."

As Smith provided covering fire, Campbell and three soldiers set some brush on fire to create a smoke screen and maneuvered around one side of the guard tower. When Campbell's team was about 20 yards from the tower, Smith paused to reload. Moments after he had resumed firing, his machine gun suddenly fell silent.

By then, however, Campbell and his team were in position to shoot the Iraqis in the guard tower. At almost the same instant that Smith stopped firing, Campbell's team opened up on the tower and killed the Iraqis inside. At the M-113, they found Smith mortally wounded. He was carried on a stretcher to the aid station but never regained consciousness.

Within minutes, the Iraqi counterattack, which had been directed from the guard tower, subsided, and the shooting tapered off.

Smith "put himself in harm's way and wouldn't let anybody help him," Campbell said. "Had he let that position be overrun, [the Iraqis] could have killed all of our medical support. They probably would have killed our command and control. And they would have killed anything that was not suspecting that someone could come up behind them."

Out of the 600-member task force, "it's hard to tell how many they would have killed," Campbell said.

"He saved everybody out there," said Pvt. Michael Seaman, 21, of St. Clair, Mich., the soldier who fed Smith ammunition as he fired more than 300 rounds from the machine gun.

According to Campbell, a tape recorder that had been accidentally left running in his Humvee -- he planned to record a message for his wife -- captured the intensity of the fight, including the whoosh of at least 21 rocket-propelled grenades.

"You hear an RPG every few seconds on that tape," he said. "They were firing at everything they could find."

During the fight, bullets or shrapnel shattered the ceramic breast plate of Smith's flak jacket and shredded its shoulder piece.

"Sgt. 1st Class Smith inspired Bravo Company . . . to fight ferociously to repel the enemy attack," says a citation submitted to support the Medal of Honor nomination. "Sgt. 1st Class Smith's heroic actions directly ensured Task Force 2-7 Infantry's rear flank was not engaged."

It said the Bulldogs, as the Bravo Company engineers are known, killed or wounded as many as 50 Iraqis in the battle. On the U.S. side, Smith was the only one killed, and three soldiers were wounded.


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