Navy Cross

Panian, Thomas C.

For extraordinary heroism as Platoon Sergeant, First Platoon, Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in the Republic of Vietnam on 6 September 1967.  During Operation Swift the company was engaged in search and destroy operations against the communist insurgent forces in Quang Tin Province.   When the company came under heavy small-arms fire, automatic weapons and accurate mortar fire from a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force of battalion size, the first platoon position on the left flank was hit by a devastating impact of eight automatic weapons, resulting in the death of the platoon commander; and half of the platoon were dead or wounded within the first five minutes of contact.  Displaying outstanding professional ability, Sergeant Panian unhesitatingly deployed his platoon, organized a defense, and directed effective and accurate fire upon the enemy.  Under his inspiring leadership, his platoon, during the subsequent eight hours of heavy contact, repulsed three more attacks on his position by an aggressive enemy, determined to overrun his defensive flank position.  During this period, although wounded three times by enemy fire, he was able to evacuate his dead and wounded and reorganize his platoon with the rest of the company.  After the company reconsolidated, Sergeant Panian was again successful in defending his flank position against another attack by an enemy of overwhelming odds.  The following morning, despite his own wounds, he personally accounted for every man of his platoon, insured that the wounded were cared for, and then allowed himself to be evacuated.  Sergeant Panian's bold initiative, valiant fighting spirit, and selfless devotion to duty were an inspiration to all who observed him and upheld the highest tradition of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.