Sergeant First Class Eugene Ashley, Jr. was born in Wilmington North Carolina on 12 October 1931. Not long a er his birth, his family moved to New York City where Ashley attended Alexander Hamilton High School. Ashley joined the Army from New York City in 1950 and served in the Korean War with the 187th Regimental Combat Team.
Joining Special Forces, SFC Eugene Ashley Jr. was assigned to Company C, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Prior to volunteering for Special Forces, he had been assigned in a variety of positions including infantryman, ambulance driver, anti- aircra ammunition handler, and specialist in heavy weapons and parachute repair. He served as a cavalry and an armored battle group squad leaders and company sergeant with an airborne battalion.
e Lang Vei Special Forces camp, located in the northwestern corner of South Vietnam a mile and a half from the Laotian border, was established in late December 1966 as a result of the Special Forces Detachment A-101 having been displaced out of Khe Sanh by the arrival of Marines. roughout 1967 and into the beginning of 1968, Lang Vei
and the surrounding area was constantly battered by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong artillery re. e camp’s population was swelled, holding 24 Special Forces as well as 14 South Vietnamese military, 161 man Mobile Strike Force commanded by Lieutenant Paul Longgrear, 282 CIDG (Bru Montagnards and Vietnamese) members, 6 interpreters and 520 Laotian military and civilians belonging to the 33rd Laotian Volunteer Battalion who had streamed across the border. Shortly a er midnight on February 7, 1968, a combined NVA infantry-tank assault drove into Lang Vei. Although the team radioed for help,
they could not convince anyone in Khe Sanh, the Marine base nearby that tanks were indeed “in the wire.” is was the rst use of tanks by the North Vietnamese in the war. Additionally, the Laotians refused to participate in the defense of the camp until a er daybreak.
SFC Eugene Ashley, Jr., a Special Forces intelligence sergeant in Khe Sanh, volunteered to help relieve the camp. Assisted by two assistant medical specialists, their rst assault failed when a NVA machine gun crew opened re on them. Ashley, however, was not deterred, leading ve aggressive assaults to free the camp. Joined by SFC William T. Craig and SSG Tiroch who escaped from the Lang Vei, as well as others who were eeing from the surrounding area, he began counter attacks, supporting the camp with high explosives and illumination mortar rounds. Between the second, third and fourth assaults, Ashley directed airstrikes on the NVA defensive line and his own position. Simultaneously, he continued to direct the other Special Forces soldiers and Montagnards for yet another attempt. On this h counterattack, Ashley was mortally wounded only thirty yards from the command bunker. Without this steadfast commitment to ght to rescue his fellow Special Forces comrades, it is agreed, there would have been no survivors.
When comrades were asked to describe Ashley, they responded that he was “a professional noncommissioned o cer who took care of his troops and exuded a fatherly image.”
His family received the Medal of Honor posthumously. In 2001, the Eugene Ashley Jr. High School, located south of Wilmington near Carolina Beach was dedicated in his honor.
His official Medal of Honor citation reads:
SFC Ashley, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving with Detachment A-101, Company C. SFC Ashley was the senior Special Forces Advisor of a hastily organized assault force whose mission was to rescue entrapped U.S. Special Forces advisors at Camp Lang Vei. During the initial attack on the Special Forces camp by North Vietnamese army forces, SFC Ashley supported the camp with high explosive and illumination mortar rounds. When communications were lost with the main camp, he assumed the additional responsibility of directing air strikes and artillery support. SFC Ashley organized and equipped a small assault force composed of local friendly personnel. During the ensuing battle, SFC Ashley led a total of 5 vigorous assaults against the enemy, continuously exposing himself to a voluminous hail of enemy grenades, machine gun and automatic weapons fire. Throughout these assaults, he was plagued by numerous booby-trapped satchel charges in all bunkers on his avenue of approach. During his fifth and final assault, he adjusted air strikes nearly on top of his assault element, forcing the enemy to withdraw and resulting in friendly control of the summit of the hill. While exposing himself to intense enemy fire, he was seriously wounded by machine gun fire but continued his mission without regard for his personal safety. After the fifth assault he lost consciousness and was carried from the summit by his comrades only to suffer a fatal wound when an enemy artillery round landed in the area. SFC Ashley displayed extraordinary heroism in risking his life in an attempt to save the lives of his entrapped comrades and commanding officer. His total disregard for his personal safety while exposed to enemy observation and automatic weapons fire was an inspiration to all men committed to the assault. The resolute valor with which he led 5 gallant charges placed critical diversionary pressure on the attacking enemy and his valiant efforts carved a channel in the overpowering enemy forces and weapons positions through which the survivors of Camp Lang Vei eventually escaped to freedom. SFC Ashley's bravery at the cost of his life was in the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.