Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins has passed away after a weeks-long fight against the novel coronavirus, according to a foundation started in his name to help soldiers transition from military to civilian life.
Adkins, 86, was hospitalized at East Alabama Medical Center in late March and placed in an intensive care unit before ultimately passing away this week.
“We are deeply saddened to notify you that after a courageous battle with COVID-19, Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins departed this life today, with beloved family at his bedside,” the Bennie Adkins Foundation said in a statement published Friday evening.
Adkins served more than 20 years in the Army, about 13 of which were as a Green Beret in 7th, 3rd, 6th and 5th Special Forces Groups, according to his biography. His actions in Vietnam between March 9-12, 1966, led to him receiving the Medal of Honor in 2014 by the Barrack Obama administration.
Then-Sgt 1st Class Adkins survived 38 hours of close-combat against North Vietnamese forces while serving as an intelligence sergeant with 5th Special Forces Group at Camp A Shau, in South Vietnam. Adkins served three Vietnam tours in total.
“During the 38-hour battle and 48-hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, killing an estimated 135-175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds," according to the Medal of Honor citation.
Adkins was credited with running through exploding mortar rounds to drag several comrades wounded in the center of the camp to saftey. He later exposed himself to sniper fire to carry wounded comrades to a more secure position, and once more to bring a wounded casualty to an airstrip for evacuation.
Later, within a communications bunker, Adkins single-handedly eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire, nearly exhausting his own ammunition. Ultimately, the camp was overwhelmed by waves of North Vietnamese troops and the order was given to evacuate.
“Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp,” the citation reads.
But because of Adkins’ efforts to carry a wounded soldier to an extraction point, he and his group were unable to reach the last evacuation helicopter.
“Adkins then rallied the remaining survivors and led the group into the jungle — evading the enemy for 48 hours until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966,” the citation added.
Adkins’ career started after being drafted into the Army in 1956 at the age of 22 from Waurika, Oklahoma. He initially served as a clerk and typist for a garrison in Giessen, Germany, and at Fort Benning, Georgia. After attending jump school, he volunteered for Special Forces in 1961.
He retired in 1978 and attended Troy State University, where he would earn two master’s degrees in education and mangement. He established Adkins Accounting Service, Inc., in Auburn, Alabama, and taught night classes at Alabama’s Southern Union Junior College and Auburn University for a number of years.
Adkins is preceded in death by his wife, Mary Adkins, according to his foundation. He is survived by a daughter, two sons and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the foundation said in its statement.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.