Captain, U.S. Marine Corps
Company E, 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division (Rein.) FMF
Date of Action: May 28, 1968

The Navy Cross is presented to William E. Russell, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Commanding Officer of Company E, Second Battalion, Third Marines, Third Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 28 May 1968, Captain Russell was assigned the mission of leading his company and a tank platoon to a ridgeline position in Quang Tri Province to relieve a unit which had been heavily engaged with the enemy the previous night. Under his superb leadership, his unit maneuvered to the ridgeline and killed sixty-five enemy soldiers while advancing under fire. Upon arriving at the besieged Marines' position and despite strong enemy resistance, Captain Russell rallied his forces and, after evacuating the casualties, consolidated the perimeter and coordinated his units' defensive actions. On the night of 30 May when his position was attacked by a reinforced North Vietnamese battalion, he directed well coordinated and highly accurate air strikes and artillery fire around his perimeter, killing ninety-six enemy soldiers and forcing the hostile force to discontinue the attack and withdraw from the area. Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the enemy mortar fire, Captain Russell refused medical assistance and continued to direct supporting fire against the retreating enemy throughout the night. Early the following morning, a relief force maneuvering along the ridgeline to his position came under heavy enemy fire and was pinned down. Disregarding his own safety, he quickly adjusted fire on the enemy positions, killing forty-four North Vietnamese soldiers and enabling the Marines to reach the relative safety of the company perimeter. Assuming command of the relieving company when its commanding officer was wounded, Captain Russell, even though wounded a second time, continued to direct the actions of his men throughout the night. He accepted medical evacuation the following day only when assured that the vital position was secure. His sustained heroism in the face of a numerically superior, determined enemy force inspired all who observed him and contributed immeasurably to the accomplishment of his unit's mission. By his intrepid fighting spirit, superb leadership, and selfless devotion to duty at great personal risk, Captain Russell upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Authority: Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals

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