David C. Dolby, 64

Medal of Honor recipient David C. Dolby dies at 64; had troubled post-military career

David C. Dolby enlisted in the Army at 18 and became an Army Ranger and Green Beret.
David C. Dolby enlisted in the Army at 18 and became an Army Ranger and Green Beret. (Courtesy Of Daniel Dolby)
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By T. Rees Shapiro
Friday, August 13, 2010

David C. Dolby, 64, who received the Medal of Honor for saving his Army platoon in Vietnam but had a troubled post-military career that included a conviction for cashing fraudulent checks, died Aug. 6 in Spirit Lake, Idaho. He lived in Royersford, Pa.

His brother, Daniel Dolby, said Mr. Dolby had been visiting fellow Vietnam veterans in Idaho, but he did not know the cause of death.

Mr. Dolby -- "Mad Dog," as he was known to his Army comrades -- was a solid 6-footer who wrestled and played football in high school. He enlisted in the Army at 18 and became an Army Ranger and a member of the Green Berets. He was known to scout the jungle ahead of the other men, toting his heavy M60 machine gun like a rifle.

On May 21, 1966, then-Spec. 4th Class Dolby was in the middle of his first tour in Vietnam. He was part of a 1st Cavalry Division platoon on a mission near An Khe when the men walked into an ambush.

Six soldiers were immediately killed by machine-gun fire.

Several others were wounded, including the platoon's officer, 2nd Lt. Robert H. Crum Jr. Within an hour of the ambush's first shots, the lieutenant, drenched in blood from bullet wounds, sat against a tree and relinquished command of his men to Spec. Dolby.

In Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall's 1967 book about Vietnam, "Battles in the Monsoon," an entire chapter is dedicated to Spec. Dolby's rescue efforts. Marshall said Spec. Dolby was "one of the rarest of warriors -- a man with keen imagination who at the same time, when under fire, seems to be wholly without fear."

While fully exposed to enemy fire, Spec. Dolby launched his own assault on the enemy machine gun bunkers until he'd expended all of his ammunition.

"I prayed in the beginning and then I didn't have time to pray," Spec. Dolby later said of the action on the ridge that day, noting that "bullets were going by -- under my arms, between my legs, past my head."

After reloading, he single-handedly killed three enemy machine gunners, according to his Medal of Honor citation. Spotting a wounded comrade, Spec. Dolby picked the man up and carried him over his shoulder to safety for medical treatment. He then crawled through gunfire to within 50 meters of the enemy positions, which were concealed within the ridge by camouflage mats covered with jungle fronds. He lobbed several smoke grenades at the face of the bunkers to mark them for air strikes.

After a four-hour battle, Spec. Dolby organized the withdrawal of his troops while artillery fire and air strikes obliterated the Vietcong redoubt. The platoon lost eight men, and 14 were wounded, including Sgt. Alonzo Peoples.

"The bravest man I ever knew, maybe the bravest that ever lived," Peoples later called Spec. Dolby. "He saved all of us."

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