Robert J Modrzejewski
Robert was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on the 3rd of July, 1934. After graduating from Casimir Pulaski High School in 1953, he went on to Wisconsin State Teachers College and then on to the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Here, Robert earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Education, but not before joining the US Marine Corps Reserve in 1955. He was a part of Platoon Leaders Class while at the University of Wisconsin and when he graduated in 1957, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Robert went on to Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, where he would also be an instructor until May of 1959.
Robert was the platoon leader of H&S Company and Company I of the 3rdBattalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division, as well as the S-2 Officer for Company M. From 1960 until 1966, Robert served as an Equipment Officer, a Pathfinder Team Leader, a Parachute Pathfinder Team Leader, an Assistant Officer in Charge, and an Executive Officer, all with various units and was promoted to Captain in May of 1962. He was then ordered to the West Coast before deploying to the Republic of Vietnam as the Commanding Officer of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. It was his actions during the four day battle during Operation Hastings that would earn him the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Commanding Officer, Company K, Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, Third Marines, Third Marine Division, in the Republic of Vietnam from 15 to July 18, 1966. On July 15, during Operation HASTINGS, Company K was landed in an enemy infested jungle area to establish a blocking position at a major enemy trail network. Shortly after landing, the company encountered a reinforced enemy platoon in a well organized, defensive position. Major (then Captain) Modrzejewski led his men in the successful seizure of the enemy redoubt, which contained large quantities of ammunition and supplies. That evening a numerically superior enemy force counterattacked in an effort to retake the vital supply area, thus setting the pattern of activity for the next two and one-half days. In the first series of attacks, the enemy assaulted repeatedly in overwhelming numbers but each time was repulsed by the gallant Marines. The second night the enemy struck in battalion strength, and Major Modrzejewski was wounded in this intensive action which was fought at close quarters. Although exposed to enemy fire, and despite his painful wounds, he crawled 200 meters to provide critically needed ammunition to an exposed element of his command and was constantly present wherever the fighting was heaviest. Despite numerous casualties, a dwindling supply of ammunition and the knowledge that they were surrounded, he skillfully directed artillery fire to within a few meters of his position and courageously inspired the efforts of his company in repelling the aggressive enemy attack. On July 18, Company K was attacked by a regimental size enemy force. Although his unit was outnumbered and weakened by the previous fighting, Major Modrzejewski reorganized his men and calmly moved among them to encourage and direct their efforts to heroic limits as they fought to overcome the vicious enemy onslaught. Again he called in air and artillery strikes at close range with devastating effect on the enemy, which together with the bold and determined fighting of the men of Company K, repulsed the fanatical attack of the larger North Vietnamese force. His unparalleled personal heroism and indomitable leadership inspired his men to a significant victory over the enemy force and reflected great credit upon himself, the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Robert received his Medal of Honor from President Johnson on the 12th of March, 1968, in a ceremony at the White House. He was one of two Marines that received it that day, the other being John J McGinty III, whose story will be told on the next episode. Robert went from being the commanding officer of the Marine Barracks at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, to attending the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, in January of 1970. Once completed in June, he was sent to Marine Air Station, Kaneohe, Hawaii. Robert earned his Master's degree in Education from Pepperdine University in 1976 and ten years later, Robert retired from the Marine Corps as a Colonel and went on to teach Naval Junior ROTC classes for the San Diego Unified School District. Robert Joseph Modrzejewski still lives in San Diego and as of this recording is 84 years old.