A legendary Green Beret added another honor to his distinguished resume on May 12 when he was inducted as a distinguished member of the Special Forces Regiment.
Retired Col. Paris Davis, who received the Medal of Honor last year for his actions leading a Special Forces team in 1965 during the Vietnam War, was recognized at a Special Forces Association event held at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia.
Then a captain, Davis was leading a pre-dawn raid on an enemy camp near Bong Son, on June 18 of that year when all hell broke loose. In what became a 19-hour battle, every member of his team was wounded. But Davis disobeyed an order to withdraw and leave behind some of his troops — he instead sprinted repeatedly into a flooded rice paddy, working his trigger with the pinky of a grenade-shattered hand, and rescued them one at a time.
Retired sergeant major and future CIA operator Billy Waugh, whose April New York Times obituary lauded him as “Godfather of the Green Berets,” would have been captured that day had Davis not hauled him off the battlefield on his shoulders.
Davis retired from the Army in 1985 after commanding the 10th Special Forces Group, then-headquartered at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. But he left the service without its highest award for valor, partially because the paperwork recommending the Black officer for the medal was lost at least twice.
After receiving a Silver Star for the battle, Davis always told reporters that he’d forgotten about the misplaced nomination. But his soldiers never did — they were the ones who pushed for the officer to be reconsidered for the medal in recent years.
“I only have to close my eyes to vividly recall the gallantry [of Davis],” Waugh said in a 2016 statement supporting the upgrade petition, according to the New York Times.
The final upgrade approval came around nearly two years after former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller wrote a 2021 opinion article in USA Today to say he feared that bureaucratic requirements could keep Davis from receiving the deserved honor. Davis was awarded the Medal of Honor on March 3 at the White House by President Joe Biden.
The Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School — commonly known as SWCS — runs the Distinguished Member of the Regiment program to recognize major achievements and contributions to the service’s special operations community by special forces, civil affairs or psychological operations troops.
The SWCS commander, Brig. Gen. Will Beaurpere, lauded Davis’ achievements in a speech marking his formal induction.
The event also honored members of Thailand’s special forces units and the Americans of the 46th Special Forces Company, where Davis served a tour, that trained them throughout the Cold War. The southeast Asian country’s ambassador to the U.S., Tanee Sangrat, was in attendance.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.