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Disclaimer: Information in the Registry is unofficial and not intended as a substitute for any official government record of military service.

Kenneth Lee Olson

Born May 26, 1945, Willmar, Minnesota
Gender Male
Schools Attended

Paynesville HS, BA (Agriculture and Business) University of Minnesota

Branch of Service Army
Additional Identifiers Killed in Action
Wounded in Service
Service Timeframe 1967 - 1968
War/Conflict Vietnam War 1964-1975
Principal Units and Locations

Co. A, 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Infantry Brigade (Sep)

Military Awards and Decorations

Medal of Honor, Purple Heart

Kenneth L. Olson


SP4 Olson was a posthumous recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. He received the award for sacrificing his own life on June 13, 1968, by throwing himself over an activated hand grenade, saving the lives of fellow soldiers around him.

Official citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Spec. Olson distinguished himself at the cost of his life while serving as a team leader with Company A. Spec. Olson was participating in a mission to reinforce a reconnaissance platoon which was heavily engaged with a well-entrenched Viet Cong force. When his platoon moved into the area of contact and had overrun the first line of enemy bunkers, Spec. Olson and a fellow soldier moved forward of the platoon to investigate another suspected line of bunkers. As the two men advanced they were pinned down by intense automatic weapons fire from an enemy position 10 meters to their front. With complete disregard for his safety, Spec. Olson exposed himself and hurled a hand grenade into the Viet Cong position. Failing to silence the hostile fire, he again exposed himself to the intense fire in preparation to assault the enemy position. As he prepared to hurl the grenade, he was wounded, causing him to drop the activated device within his own position. Realizing that it would explode immediately, Spec. Olson threw himself upon the grenade and pulled it in to his body to take the full force of the explosion. By this unselfish action Spec. Olson sacrificed his own life to save the lives of his fellow comrades-in-arms. His extraordinary heroism inspired his fellow soldiers to renew their efforts and totally defeat the enemy force. Spec. Olson's profound courage and intrepidity were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.