STEPHEN J SALUGA - SP5
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- December 24, 1946
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- October 19, 1968
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Stephen J. Saluga III was born on December 24, 1946. His home of record is Medford, NJ. He was the oldest of six children. He wasn't much for school but liked working on cars, engines, etc. Stephen graduated from Lenape High School in 1966. Two weeks before he left for Vietnam, he married his high school sweetheart.
Saluga entered the US Army in 1967. He attained the rank of Specialist 5 (E5) and was assigned to the 82nd Medical Detachment, 44th Medical Brigade. He was a crew chief. He arrived in Vietnam on January 15, 1968. He was wounded during the Tet offensive when the Viet Cong attacked his base camp in Sac Trang.
On October 19, 1968, he had a call to pick up wounded on a "hot side" of the Bassac River. In the Delta, they flew to the 92nd Evacuation Hospital and unloaded the wounded. As they were going back to the river, the helicopter malfunctioned. They tried to drop the helicopter into the river, but it exploded when it hit the water. It took several days to retrieve the bodies. All the bodies were burnt. Saluga was killed in action in Phong Dinh Province. He was 21 years old.
Saluga was awarded three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, two Air Medals with nine clusters and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
There is a street, Saluga Trail, and a ballfield named for Saluga. He is the only resident of Medford to be killed in action.
Saluga's Bronze Star citation reads:
For heroism while participating in aerial flight. Specialist Saluga distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions while serving as crew chief aboard a medical evacuation helicopter. On 06 March 1968, Specialist Saluga accompanied the rest of the crew of Dustoff 87 on an urgent medevac request. Upon reaching the area it was learned that there were more patients to be evacuated than the original request had stated. Specialist Saluga immediately began to assist the medic in preparing the ship for receiving the additional patients. A first attempt to land had to be aborted due to enemy fire received on short final. When the ground troops had moved to another location, a second attempt to land was made; this time with no resistance encountered. As soon as the ship touched the ground Specialist Saluga immediately left the aircraft and ran to the location of the wounded. He then, quickly, with the aid of his medic, began to load patients aboard the aircraft. The urgency of the situation was suddenly magnified as Viet Cong forces took the aircraft under fire. Despite the extreme hazard, Specialist Saluga continued to work diligently at getting all the wounded aboard. Finally his actions were slowed as a round found its mark, striking him in the leg. Despite his wound he continued to load the remaining patients aboard. Once airborne he refused medical treatment and aided the medic in administering aid and comfort to the more seriously wounded until a medical facility was reached. Specialist Saluga displayed profound courage and dedication to this mission under the most extreme conditions. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States.
Sources: Sophia Saluga (mother), Salvatore Saluga (brother) and NJVVMF.
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