A former Green Beret who was one of the first black officers to helm a Special Forces team received the nation’s highest military honor Friday — nearly 60 years after his movie-worthy Vietnam War heroics.
Then-Capt. Paris Davis, 83, was so badly injured when his team became overwhelmed by Viet Cong on June 18, 1965, that he resorted to firing his weapon with his pinkie — and was still able to save three comrades from capture.
“When you’re fighting, you’re not thinking about this moment,’’ Paris said of his wartime heroics, the day before President Biden awarded him the Medal of Honor at the White House.
Biden noted during the ceremony that Davis, who retired as a colonel, ensured that all of the soldiers under his command survived the 20 hours of combat that left him with part of his trigger finger blown off, some teeth knocked out by grenade fragments and a shot arm and leg.
Davis “rallied his team to fight back” when it was swarmed and outnumbered by the enemy, Biden said during the ceremony, as Davis’s proud children looked on.
The captain engaged in hand-to-hand combat for 10 hours, killing several enemy soldiers, before hearing his team sergeant calling for help.
“I’m coming for you!” Davis yelled back, Biden recounted.
Davis, who is originally from Cleveland, was thwarted from rescuing the sergeant two times because of enemy fire, which left the captain shot in the arm.
“He didn’t give up, though, that’s not the Green Beret way,” Biden said of Davis. “He ran out, freed his teammate sergeant, threw him over the shoulder and ran to safety.”
During his eventual rescue of the sergeant, Davis was shot in the leg, Biden said.
But that still didn’t stop the brave military man.
Davis then rescued a trapped and wounded medic — who had found out the day before that his son was born, Biden said.
The medic asked Davis “Am I going to die?” to which the hero replied “Not before me,” Biden said.
Davis also saved a third man from the enemy, which had surrounded the soldiers in a rice paddy.
The captain refused to leave to save himself throughout the fighting, instead staying on the battlefield to help coordinate air and artillery strikes.
“Nearly 20 hours later, Capt. Davis had saved each one of his fellow Americans,” Biden said. “Every single one.”
Biden said he was presenting the medal to Davis “at long last,” explaining that the exemplary soldier wasn’t recognized for his heroism at the time as a black soldier in a post-segregated America.
Davis’s commanding officer was the one who recommended him for the ultimate military honor. But over the years, the paperwork disappeared, was resubmitted and then supposedly lost again.
In 2016, a volunteer group finally dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s again, and the award was approved.
“It heightens the thing, if you’ve got to wait that long,’’ Davis said of his honor.
“It’s like someone promised you an ice cream cone. You know what it looks like, what it smells like. You just haven’t licked it.”
With Post wires
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