Kenneth Stumpf, Medal of Honor recipient from Vietnam War, dies at 77
Kenneth E. Stumpf was working the late shift at a Wisconsin printing factory in 1965, the year he turned 21, and the year he hoped that maybe – just maybe – he might be drafted to play professional baseball. When he wasn’t at the factory, Stumpf played for a minor league team in Menasha that a scout had been eyeing for some time.
Stumpf was heading to bed after work, he recalled years later to the Hawaii Reporter, when he half-jokingly told his mother to wake him if any draft letters came in the mail. Not long after he had fallen asleep, his mother roused him. He had received a draft letter – not from a Major League Baseball team, but rather from the Selective Service. He had been drafted into the Army.
Stumpf volunteered to go to Vietnam, where his service would coincide with a massive buildup of U.S. troops and the height of fighting in the war. He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, for his actions seven months into his first tour, when he rescued three wounded American soldiers and, under unremitting fire, led a successful assault on enemy bunkers in Quang Ngai province.
Stumpf returned for a second tour of duty in Vietnam, was wounded and then went back for a third, serving in the Army until his retirement in 1994 at the rank of sergeant major.
Stumpf died April 23 at his home in Tomah, Wis. He was 77 and had pancreatic cancer, according to his family.
“It was patriotism,” Stumpf once told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, explaining why he volunteered for service in Vietnam. “At that time I was gung-ho. I couldn’t wait to see my first action. When it happened, my whole mouth dried up and my rifle jammed on me.”