Who was Pascal Cleatus Poolaw?

Introduction

Pascal Cleatus Poolaw (29 January 1922 to 07 November 1967) was a Kiowa who served with the United States Army in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

He is the United States’ most decorated Native American, with 42 medals and citations, including four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, as well as three Purple Hearts – one for each war.

Early Life

Pascal Poolaw was born in Apache, Oklahoma, to Ralph Emerson Poolaw and Minnie Monetathchi Bointy. He married Irene Chalepah on 15 March 1940, and had four sons: Lester, Pascal Jr., Lindy, and Donnie.

Military Career

In 1942, Poolaw joined his father and two brothers in World War II. He earned his first Purple Heart when he was wounded in September 1944. He earned his first Silver Star for his actions near Recogne, Belgium, while serving in Company M, 8th Infantry Regiment, when he pushed his unit forward under heavy fire and hurled hand grenades at enemy machine guns until the enemy dispersed.

He continued to serve in the Korean War, where he earned two more Silver Stars, and in July 1950, another Purple Heart, before his return to the United States in 1952. He retired from the Army in 1962.

Poolaw’s son, Pascal Jr., had also joined the army and was serving in the Vietnam War in February 1967, when he was wounded in both legs by a landmine, and had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. Poolaw’s youngest son Lindy was also drafted and set to deploy to Vietnam shortly thereafter.

Poolaw rejoined the Army to prevent Lindy from having to serve, by taking his place. Lindy had already shipped out and Poolaw had hoped to catch up with him in time, but when he arrived on the West Coast, he discovered his son had already left the day before. He decided to follow his son to Vietnam.

Poolaw was deployed on 31 May 1967, as the first sergeant of the 26th Infantry Regiment’s C Company. On 07 November, while on a search and destroy mission during the first battle of Loc Ninh, Poolaw and his unit were ambushed by the Viet Cong. He was killed while attempting to pull a unit casualty to safety, and posthumously awarded a fourth Silver Star.

Legacy

At his funeral his wife stated: “He has followed the trail of the great chiefs.” A building at the US Army base in Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma – where he was stationed prior to his deployment to Vietnam – is named in his honour.

Awards

Poolaw was the recipient of the following military decorations and service medals:

  • Combat Infantryman Badge, with two stars.
  • Distinguished Service Cross.
  • Silver Star Medal with oak leaf clusters.
  • Bronze Star Medal with “V” device and oak leaf clusters.
  • Purple Heart with oak leaf clusters.
  • Air Medal.
  • Army Commendation Medal with “V” device and oak leaf clusters.
  • Good Conduct Medal with good conduct loops.
  • American Campaign Medal.
  • EAME Campaign Medal with arrowhead and service star.
  • World War II Victory Medal.
  • Army of Occupation Medal.
  • National Defence Service Medal with service star.
  • Korean Service Medal with service stars.
  • Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
  • Vietnam Service Medal with service stars.
  • Presidential Unit Citation.
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation.
  • Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
  • Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation.
  • Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation.
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