Sammy L. Davis – The Real Forrest Gump

Medals of America salutes another Medal of Honor recipient this month, focusing this time on Sergeant Sammy L. Davis. Davis was born in Dayton, Ohio, on November 1, 1946, and came from a long line of service members. After graduating high school in 1966, Sammy joined the Army and volunteered as an artilleryman, following in his father’s footsteps. While deployed in Vietnam, Davis’ team was besieged by enemy forces, with their only barricade being the river between them and the enemy battalion. Taking mortar fire, Davis retaliated with his machine gun and 105mm Howitzer and operated the device despite advancing troops to cover the heavily outmanned U.S. soldiers. Sergeant Davis remained with the Howitzer even after taking damage from an enemy mortar round and fired any remaining ammunition, including a propaganda shell filled with patriotic leaflets.

Hearing struggling American soldiers across the river, Sammy, who could not swim, constructed a raft out of an air mattress from camp, paddled along the river to cover and carry several wounded soldiers to safety. Davis then aided another artillery crew after refusing medical assistance for his burns and extensive injuries. Sammy later served as a cook for his team in order to stay with his unit after hearing he was to be medically discharged and was later presented the Medal of Honor by Lyndon B. Johnson on Nov. 19, 1968. Footage of his ceremony and elements of Davis’ citation were used in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” with lead actor Tom Hanks’ face superimposed on top of Sammy’s.