Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame to induct Birdwell

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/15/2017 08:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Dwight W. Birdwell
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Dwight W. Birdwell
NORMAN, Okla. – Dwight W. Birdwell, a former chief justice of the Cherokee Nation’s Judicial Appeals Tribunal, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites.

Birdwell, a Specialist 5 while in Vietnam, was awarded two Silver Stars for gallantry and two Purple Hearts for wounds received during battles.

Now a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City, Birdwell will be inducted with 10 other honorees.

Birdwell was born Jan. 19, 1948, in Amarillo, Texas, but grew up in Bell in Adair County.

After graduating Stilwell High School in 1966, he entered the Army.

In Vietnam, he was assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, and 25th Infantry Division.

Birdwell received the Silver Star for heroism on Jan. 31, 1968, when his unit rushed to defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which came under attack during the Tet Offensive.

Cavalry Troop C was the first American ground unit from outside the airbase to respond to the attack.

Unknown at the time, the attack by Troop C split the North Vietnamese regiment into two elements of about 300 enemy troops on one side of the American force and about 700 enemy troops on the other side.

Heavy anti-tank fire from both enemy elements caused significant casualties among the American force.

The C Troop tank commander and many of its other leaders were killed or wounded.

Birdwell took command and placed intense fire on the enemy causing heavy Viet Cong losses and forcing them to seek protection.

His Silver Star citation states Birdwell placed heavy fire on the enemy until his machine gun ran out of ammunition. He then retrieved an M-60 machine gun and continued to place fire on the enemy until his weapon was damaged by enemy fire, which wounded him, according to the Silver Star citation.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, he then ran through the hail of enemy fire to get ammunition from other damaged vehicles and distributed it to his comrades,” the citation states.

Birdwell then aided in the evacuation of wounded men, the citation states.

He would earn a second Silver Star on July 4, 1968, when he risked his life to rescue more Americans, some of them who were wounded and stranded in a battle zone. Seeing a damaged American vehicle, Birdwell, with complete disregard for his safety, exposed himself to a heavy fire to maneuver his vehicle to the stricken vehicle. He loaded all the wounded aboard and evacuated them to safety, according to his Silver Star citation.

Learning a second vehicle was damaged and stranded in the killing zone, Birdwell again exposed himself to hostile fire to evacuate the crew of a besieged vehicle, his second Silver Star citation states.

After returning from Army service, Birdwell attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, graduating with distinction in 1972.

Birdwell then attended the University of Oklahoma School of Law and graduated with honors in 1976.
He has practiced law in Oklahoma City since 1976.

Birdwell was a member of the tribe’s JAT, which is now called the Supreme Court, from 1987-99, serving as chief justice from 1995-96.

To obtain a reservation for the banquet, visit www.okmhf.org or email info@okmhf.org or call 405-424-5313. The deadline for reservations is Oct. 11.

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