Background. Military awards and decorations are awarded to soldiers for valor in combat, for valor not in combat, for service, and for achievement. The purpose of an awards and decorations (A&D) program is to recognize the dedicated work that soldiers perform.
One legacy of the Vietnam War is the awards and decorations presented to people who served there and one of the most decorated is retired Army Lieutenant Colonel James "Bo" Gritz. On his website one can find a photo of Gritz with all (I assume it's all) his medals.
In 1968, Gritz was recommended to his unit, the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) (5th SFGA) for a second award of the Legion of Merit (LOM) The LOM is a prestigious award and for a major to be recommended for a second LOM, and for the recommendation to cover only six months of service, was somewhat unusual. The Executive Officer of the 5th SFGA asked the Group adjutant to look into Gritz's awards history and make a recommendation as to the approval of this second LOM.
The results of that investigation are contained in a memorandum dated 15 October 1968 from the Adjutant of the 5th SFGA to the Executive Officer. In early 1998, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request to the Department of Defense regarding an unrelated POW-MIA matter. In the material that was sent to me in response to my request was a copy of this memo on Gritz's awards. I had seen this memo while on active duty but, frankly, had forgotten about it. In view of the claims now being circulated by several MIA "activists" about Gritz's exploits, specifically about his claims to have run POW "rescue" operations into Laos after the end of the war, I think some purpose might be served in putting Gritz's record in perspective.
Conventions. The copy of the memorandum that I received in response to my FOIA request is not the best copy. I have posted a scanned copy of the document at this link but the copy that I received was poor quality; take a look if you wish. For ease of reading, I have re-typed the memo below. The reproduced memo is separated from my own text by two green lines, one at the front, one at the end.
All the text between the two green lines is copied directly from the 5th SFGA memorandum. Nothing has been omitted except the name of the officer who conducted the investigation. I do not know this man so I have omitted his name for privacy purposes.
In the body of the memorandum there is text that appears in (small type size, is colored green, and is contained in parentheses. This small, green type is my comments inserted into the memo. I did this to explain abbreviations and acronyms.)
Also in the text will be an occasion letter or word that is in purple text. This indicates that the letter or word is not entirely legible on my copy of the memo but I have made a best guess as to what the letter or word is.
The rest of the text is exactly as it appears in the memo.
A word about the subject of the memorandum: "...Award of the Legion of Merit, 1st OLC..." The Legion of Merit is a very high level award that is awarded for exceptional service, not for valor. If an individual receives a second award of the same type he/she has already received, what is awarded is an Oak Leaf Cluster; in fact, the OLC is a tiny, brass cluster of oak leaves. The next time you see someone wearing military awards, look at the ribbons. On some of these ribbons will be attached one or more OLC(s). For example, I have three Army Commendation Medals (ARCOM). I wear one ARCOM ribbon with two OLC affixed to it, signifying three awards. This memorandum deals with a recommendation the MAJ Gritz be awarded the 1st OLC to a Legion of Merit; the second award of the LOM, a bit unusual for a Major.
Begin quote from 5th SFGA memorandum, AVGB-RR, dated 15 October 1968, Subject: Recommendation for Award of the Legion of Merit, 1st OLC for Service to Major JAMES G. GRITZ . Remember, black is original text, green is my comments inserted into the original.
1. BACKGROUND. a. Major Gritz had been recommended for the 1st Oak Leaf Cluster to the LOM for a period of six months service. (TAB A) (Tab A was not included in the FOIA response.)
b. Because the period of service is generally considered inadequate for an award of this ranking and the recommendation did not meet the submission date requirements of the 5th SFGA Reg 672-1, the Group XO requested that the recommendations be reviewed. (5th SFGA Reg 672-1 is 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Regulation 672-1, the regulation governing awards and decorations. XO is the group Executive Officer.)
c. Initial review revealed that failure to meet submission date requirements had occurred in twelve (12) previous award recommendations. (TAB C) (Tab C is was included in the FOIA response and is included in this reproduction.)
d. The Group XO then ordered a more thorough review be made of the A&D file of Major Gritz. ("A&D" stands for "Awards and Recommendations.")
2. FACTS. a. During 36 months of service with the 5th SFGA, Major Gritz has received the following awards: (TAB B) (Tab B was not included in the FOIA response.)
b. Service Awards:
(1) On 2 April 1966, MAJ GRITZ was awarded the BSM for service for the period 20 March 1965 to 13 March 1966. During this same period of service he was also awarded one BSM for achievement, one ARCOM for achievement, two BSM's for Valor and 5 AMs.
(2) On 29 July 1968, MAJ GRITZ was awarded the LOM for service for the period 4 October 1966 to 6 October 1967. This award was submitted 6 months after the period of service in contravention of 5th SFGA Reg 672-1. No required explaination (sic) accompanied the recommendation. During his same period of service he was also awarded two BSMs for achievement, one BSM for VAlor, two SSs, one SM, one ARCOM for Valor, and 10 additional AMs.
(3) On 12 September 1968, MAJ GRITZ was recommended for the 1st OLC to the LOM for the 6 month period of service from 5 October 1967 to 4 April 1968. This recommendation was also forwarded six months after the recommended period of award. Additionally, it was forwarded within 30 days of his current DEROS (Date of Expected Return from Overseas; the date one is scheduled to return to the US.) of 4 October 1968 and does not include the latter 6 months of his current period of service.
3. DISCUSSION. a. Administratively, the attached recommendation for LOM, 1st OLC does not meet the provisions of 5th SFGA Reg 672-1 on two accounts, i.e., submission within 30 days of the close date of the award period, and failure to include the entire period of 12 months vice only the first 6 months of service period.
b. Review and study of all awards presented to MAJ GRITZ, comparing the content of each with all others, the time-frame covered by each, and their general trends of acceptance under the criterion (sic) used by the current A&D board; (sic) reveals the following factors that are not considered totally within the spirit of the A&D program:
(1) Many award recommendations, whether for service/achievement or valor were consistently several months late in submission. This is not only in contravention of Group policy but evidence that some awards were initiated as a second thought plan either suggested or actively submitted by the recipient, rather than sincerely submitted by a witness or superior in reaction to a specific accomplishment. TAB C provides 12 examples of recommendations submitted from 3 to 7 months after the close of the recommended period of time.
(2) There is considerable similarity between the descriptive patterns of all the award recommendation whether written many months ago or just recently. Each award is written in a voluminous manner describing minute details, often extraneous to the award. The constant factor over the three year period has been MAJOR GRITZ.
(3) As suggested in paragraphs 2b(1), (2), and (3) above, MAJOR GRITZ has received numerous awards within the time-frame of separate service awards. This has created considerable duplication of recognition for the same action or period of time. For example, by content, at least 50% of the attached recommendation for LOM, 1st OLC has been written in previous award recommendations. Additionally awards for service are requested to be submitted 30-60 days prior to DEROS, to cover the period of service. Because the attached award was submitted outside the proper time-frame and cut-off 6 months early, this opens the door for an additional service award for the latter six months of service.
(4) A&D personnel report that MAJ GRITZ has on numerous occassions (sic) visited that office to check on and assure the progress of his personal award recommendations. An act normally performed thru channels by those responsible for submitting the recommendations. (sic)
(5) MAJOR GRITZ is reported to be an outstanding infantry combat leader who has performed in a valorous and meritorious manner. While this report is not intended to discredit him as an officer or his manner of performance, it must be pointed out that he was assigned to A Company during an era when medals rained from the heavens. It would therefore hold that his point of reference with regard to what acts merit recognition has become distorted from reality.
(6) Partial blame for permitting the situation to evade practical limits must be assumed by this and the intermediate headquarters. Heretofore that indiscriminate manner of dishing out awards without practical guidelines has created a program permeated with no values. Only during the past two months have standards been established to control the evaluation process of award recommendations.
4. RECOMMENDATIONS. It is recommended that:
a. The attached recommendation for award of the LOM, 1st OLC be returned without action to the originator, citing the failure to comply with the administrative requirements of the 5th SFGA Reg 672-1 as listed in paragraph 3a above. It may be further stated that there is a duplication between this and previous awards and that the LOM being the second highest service award attainable it will be tendered only to those individuals in the most difficult and responsible positions for a period of time normally in excess of 6 months.
b. It is not considered advisable to
question the authenticity of previously presented awards even though there is a gray area
of doubt whether they were earned within the spirit of the A&D program.
(Name of 5th SFGA Adjutant)
Following are examples of the lapse of time between event and initiation of recommendation:
ARCOM - V 4 Dec 65 12 Mar 66 3 Months
BS - V 28 Aug 65 13 Jan 66 5 Months
22OCt66-11Feb67 27 Dec
DFC 16 Sep 67 23 Feb 68 5 Months
SS 8Jan-13Feb67 29 May 67 3 Months
SS 26 Feb 68 14 Jun 68 4 Months
LOM Oct66-Oct67 20 Mar 68 6 Months
LOM Oct67-Apr68 12Sep68 5 Months
End quoted material from 5th SFGA memorandum, AVGB-RR, dated 15 October 1968, Subject: Recommendation for Award of the Legion of Merit, 1st OLC for Service to Major JAMES G. GRITZ
And there you have it, folks. Remember, the material above is a reproduction of the memo. Green type is my notes, purple type is letters or words that are not legible. The indication (sic) means that there is a spelling or grammatical error in the original document that was not corrected in reproduction.
Now, for a real treat . . . follow this link to see a photo of Bo with a chest full of medals. Warning: This
photo will have you rolling on the floor laughing your a** off ! !
Update (21 April 2002)
The Bo Gritz website has been up for a few months now and is it ever a piece of work! Check it out: www.bogritz.com . Bo is preaching the gospel -- exactly what gospel I cannot figure out -- and, of course, he's still running his scams -- "SPIKE" training and the like. And, he still has the huge photo of himself in his green uniform with the full-sized medals displayed. Gritz has a biography of himself posted on his website -- the bio contains at least one lie -- click on the link below to "A Legend In His Own Mind;" at the bottom of that article is the exposure of Bo's fib.