FINNIS DAWSON McCLEERY (1927 ~ 2002). Medal of Honor Recipient Finnis D. McCleery was born on December 25, 1927, in Stephenville, Texas. He entered the Army in San Angelo, Texas. McCleery was deployed to Vietnam as a Sergeant First Class with the First Platoon of Company A, First Battalion, Sixth U.S. Infantry, Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division).
On May 14, 1968, McCleery's unit was ordered to attack a well-fortified company of the North Vietnamese Army on Hill 352, near Tam Ky, Republic of Vietnam. McCleery led his men up the hill and came under intense enemy fire which pinned down the advance. He realized the enemy could inflict serious damage to the exposed Americans from their fortifications, and left his sheltered position to charge the enemy single handedly.
McCleery ran across open ground through heavy fire to attack the enemy with grenades. He was wounded by shrapnel from an exploding enemy rocket, but attacked a key bunker until all of the enemy soldiers inside it were dead. McCleery then climbed on top of the bunker, and in full view of the enemy, shouted for his men to follow. He attacked another nearby bunker despite heavy enemy fire. McCleery was wounded again in the attack, and was eventually given credit for destroying several important enemy positions and inspiring the charge which took Hill 352.
McCleery was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on March 2, 1971, by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House. He was also awarded the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Silver Star, and the Bronze Star for his actions in Vietnam.
After retiring from the Army, McCleery and his wife lived in San Angelo, Texas. McCleery died on July 11, 2002, and is buried at Belvadier Cemetery in San Angelo. He was survived by six of his seven children.
Bibliography: "Above and Beyond: The Medal of Honor in Texas," Capitol Visitors Center, State Preservation Board of Texas. Gunfighter Photo Collections, Company A, 1/6th Infantry, http://a-1-6.smugbug.com/keyword/mccleery/1/16813573, June 19, 2006. "Medal of Honor for Platoon Sergeant Finnis D. McCleery, 14 May 1968," Old 1 6 Infantry group, http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/old16inf/MoHmccleery.html, May 1, 2006.