08:50 AM

Medal of Honor Recipient's Life of Service Began in Puerto Rico Wing

Civil Air Patrol recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month with a profile of U.S. Army Capt. Euripides Rubio Jr., a Medal of Honor recipient who served in CAP's Puerto Rico Wing as a cadet.

Col. Frank A. Blazich
Col. Louisa S. Morse Center for CAP History

U.S. Army Capt. Euripides Rubio Jr., a former Puerto Rico Wing cadet, is one of the three recipients of the Medal of Honor – the nation’s highest award for military heroism – to have served in Civil Air Patrol before entering the armed forces.

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on March 1, 1938, Rubio joined the Ponce High School Cadet Squadron in 1952 and excelled at drill. He rose quickly to the rank of cadet first sergeant in his first year of membership.

He helped lead the Puerto Rico Wing drill team to CAP’s National Drill Competition in July 1954. He subsequently earned a place on the 40-member national cadet drill team, which in August 1954 defeated a Canadian air cadet team to win the International Drill Competition.

After high school, Rubio enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and enrolled in ROTC. Upon graduation he was commissioned in the Military Police Corps as a second lieutenant. After several domestic assignments, the Army promoted Rubio to captain in March 1963.

With American involvement in combat operations in Vietnam increasing, Rubio volunteered for an overseas assignment. He arrived in Vietnam on July 10, 1966, as a member of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.

The acts of heroism for which Rubio was honored occurred early in November 1966 during Operation Attleboro, a large-scale operation northwest of Saigon in Tây Ninh Province –.the first field test of the Army’s new search and destroy doctrine. Extremely hard fighting ensued between American troops and the soldiers of the Viet Cong 9th Division and the People’s Army of Vietnam’s101st Regiment.

Rubio was serving as battalion communications officer Nov. 8 as enemy fire erupted at dawn. Repeated attacks resulting in heavy losses in killed and wounded. As the fighting intensified, Rubio moved to the front lines. He distributed ammunition to the riflemen, re-established firing positions and aided wounded troops.

Hit twice himself in the chest and neck, he ignored the pain and assumed command of one of the three rifle companies when its commander was flown out for medical treatment. He was wounded again a third time while moving along his men and encouraging them.

As Air Force fighter-bombers dropped napalm and cluster bombs on the enemy positions, medevac helicopters shuttled in to and out of the battlefield to transport 1st Battalion’s wounded to hospitals. While helping carry the wounded, Rubio spied a smoke grenade, intended to mark the enemy’s position for an air strike, lying perilously close.

He ran to the grenade but was knocked to his knees by enemy fire. He rose to his feet, grabbed the burning projectile with his bare hand, and surged forward into heavy fire.

Reaching a point 20 meters from the enemy position, Rubio hurled the smoke grenade to mark the air strike just before enemy fire struck him down for the last time.

With the enemy position marked, air strikes succeeded in destroying the Viet Cong force, and the firing ended just before noon. The American victory Nov. 8, 1966, in the Battle of Ap Cha Do resulted in the capture and destruction of a huge supply complex supporting enemy operations in the province.

In a ceremony July 11, 1968, at the Pentagon, Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor presented Ileana Rubio with her husband’s posthumous Medal of Honor.

“No man more deserves to be called a hero,” Resor said as he handed the tearful widow the cased decoration. The citation concluded that Rubio’s “singularly heroic act turned the tide of battle, and his extraordinary leadership and valor were a magnificent inspiration to his men.”