Pascal Cleatus Poolaw, Sr.
The most decorated Native American soldier in US history
4 Silver Stars
5 Bronze Stars
3 Purple Hearts
He earned a total of 42 medals and citations.
Born on January 29, 1922, in Apache, Oklahoma, Poolaw, a full-blooded Kiowa, served with the United States Army in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Poolaw, his father and two brothers joined the Armed forces in 1942 during World War II.
He earned his first Purple Heart when he was wounded in September 1944. While serving with the 8th Infantry Regiment’s M Company near Recogne, Belgium, Poolaw’s unit was engaging fire with the Germans. He pushed his unit forward under heavy fire and hurled hand grenades at enemy machine guns, causing numerous enemy casualties and as a result of his heroic actions, many of his comrades’ lives were saved and the company was able to continue the attack and capture strongly defended enemy positions.
Poolaw’s military career did not end in Belgium now with Germans. During the Korean War, Poolaw saw combat and was wounded again and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, a second Purple Heart, and two more Silver Stars.
He returned to the U.S. in 1952 and retired from the Army ten years later. This is not where his military career ends.
During the Vietnam War, all four of the Poolaw’s sons were in the military. In February 1967, his son, Pascal Jr., was injured by a landmine in Vietnam. This injury resulted in amputation of his right leg below the knee.
Poolaw’s youngest son, Lindy, was also drafted. Afraid of what could happen to his sons as the war progressed, Poolaw rejoined the Army at the age of 45. Giving up his rank as a 2nd Lieutenant with the intentions of serving in direct combat, Poolaw hoped to keep his youngest son away from the front lines by taking his place. Regulations prohibited two members of the same family from serving in combat at the same time without their consent. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived on the West Coast, Lindy had left for Vietnam the day before.
Poolaw was deployed on May 31, 1967 as a first sergeant of the 26th Infantry Regiment’s C Company. His last Silver Star was for an event that occurred a few months later. On November 7, 1967, Poolaw’s unit was part of a search and destroy mission near the village of Loc Ninh. Poolaw and his unit were ambushed by the Viet Cong force with intensive claymore mine, rocket, small arms, and automatic weapons fire. While wounded, he continued moving among his squad making sure everyone was positioned properly while pulling casualties back.
As Poolaw was carrying a wounded soldier to safety, he was struck by a rocket propelled grenade and killed. For his heroic actions Poolaw was awarded a Silver Star and a third Purple Heart posthumously. ” He has followed the trail of the great chiefs,” his wife Irene said at Poolaw’s funeral. His people hold him in honor and highest esteem. He has given his life for the people and the country he loved so much.
Hiram Figueroa Jr. is a USMC Vietnam Veteran who is now a Program Analyst in Corona, California. He has a passion for sharing the stories of those men and women who serve to keep America free. To discover more about Hiram, please visit his website.
Feature Photo by Wallpaper Safari