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First Name: Humbert

Last Name: Versace

Birthplace: Honolulu, HI, USA

Gender: Male



Branch: Army (1784 - present)



Home of Record: Norfolk, VA
Middle Name: Roque



Date of Birth: 02 July 1937

Date of Death: 26 September 1965 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 29 October 1963

Rank: Captain

Years Served: 1959-1965
Humbert Roque Versace
'Rocky'

   
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1959

Engagements:
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)

Biography:

Humbert Roque 'Rocky' Versace
Captain, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Captain Humbert Roque "Rocky" Versace (2 July 1937 - 26 September 1965) was a U.S. Army officer of Puerto Rican-Italian descent who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions while a prisoner of war (POW) during the Vietnam War. He was the first member of the U.S. Army to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions performed in Southeast Asia while in captivity.

Humbert Roque Versace was born in Honolulu, HI on 2 July 1937. He was the eldest of five children born to Marie Teresa Rios (1917-1999) - the author of three books, including the Fifteenth Pelican, on which The Flying Nun (starring Sally Field), the TV series of the 1960s, was based - and Colonel Humbert Joseph Versace (1911-1972). Versace grew up in Alexandria, VA from 1948-1953 and attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC, during his freshman and sophomore years. With his father's reassignment to U.S. Army, Europe (USAREUR), he attended Frankfurt American High School for his junior year. He graduated from Norfolk Catholic High School in his senior year. He received a Presidential Appointment to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and followed in his father's footsteps (COL Humbert J. Versace, USMA Class of 1933). He entered the Armed Forces from Norfolk, VA. He graduated in 1959 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Armor in the U.S. Army.

Versace was a member of Ranger Class 4-60 and was awarded the Ranger Tab on 18 December 1959. Upon graduation from Ranger School, Capt. Versace attended Airborne School and was awarded the Parachutist Badge. He then served with 3rd Battalion, 40th Armor, 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea as an M-48 tank platoon leader from March 1960 to April 1961. Captain Versace was then assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), where he served as a tank platoon leader in Headquarters and Headquarters Company. After volunteering for duty in Vietnam, he attended the Military Assistance Institute, the Intelligence course at Fort Holabird, MD, and the USACS Vietnamese language Course at the Presidio of Monterey (Defense Language Institute).

Vietnam War

On 12 May 1962, Versace began his first tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an intelligence advisor. In May 1963 he volunteered for a six month's extension of his tour, planning to attend seminary at the conclusion of his service and join the Catholic priesthood, hoping to return to Vietnam as a missionary working with orphans.

Less than two weeks before the end of his tour, on 29 October 1963, while acting as intelligence advisor to Detachment A-23, 5th Special Forces Group in the Mekong Delta, Versace accompanied several companies of South Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense (CIDG) troops who had planned to remove a Viet Cong (VC) command post located in the U Minh Forest, a Viet Cong stronghold. A VC Main Force battalion ambushed and overran Versace's unit, wounding him in the process. He was able to provide enough covering fire so that the CIDG forces could withdraw from the killing zone.

A second government force of about 200 men operating only a few thousand yards from the main fight learned of the disaster too late to help. U.S. authorities said the communist radio jammers had knocked out both the main channel and the alternate channel on all local military radios. Versace was captured and taken to a prison deep in the jungle along with two other Americans, First Lieutenant James N. "Nick" Rowe and Sergeant First Class Dan Pitzer. He tried to escape four times, but failed in his attempts. Versace insulted the Viet Cong during the indoctrination sessions and cited the Geneva Convention treaty time after time. The Viet Cong separated Versace from the other prisoners. The last time the prisoners heard his voice, he was loudly singing "God Bless America." On 26 September 1965, North Vietnam's "Liberation Radio" announced the execution of Captain Humbert Roque Versace. Versace's remains have never been recovered. His headstone at Arlington National Cemetery stands above an empty grave and can be located in the Memorial Section MG-108.

Upon learning of their son's fate, Marie Teresa Rios Versace and her husband, Colonel Versace, tried to find out what they could about the circumstances. She went to Paris in the late 1960s, trying unsuccessfully to see the North Vietnamese delegation as it arrived for peace talks. Rios Versace expressed her frustration and anguish in poems.

A nomination to award Versace the Medal of Honor by his fellow POW, (now) Major Nick Rowe, were initiated in 1969 following Rowe's personal meeting with President Nixon, but the nomination failed and the Army posthumously awarded Rocky the Silver Star instead. The quest for a Medal of Honor for Versace languished until the "Friends of Rocky Versace" reinitiated the crusade once more in 1999. Language added by Congress in the 2002 Defense Authorization Act ended the standoff and authorized the award of the nation's highest military decoration for combat valor to Versace.

On 8 July 2002, in a ceremony in the White House East Room, Versace was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush for his heroism, the first time an Army POW had been awarded the nation's highest honor for actions in captivity. Present were his surviving siblings, Dr. Stephen Versace, Richard (former coach of the Indiana Pacers) and Michael Versace. On 7 November 2008, the Department of the Army announced that the Silver Star awarded to Versace was revoked.

HEADQUARTERS

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

WASHINGTON, DC, 29 December 2009

IV-SILVER STAR-REVOKE. So much of Department of the Army General Orders, No. 31, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., dated 1 July 1971, pertaining to the award of the Silver Star to Captain Humbert R. Versace, United States Army, is herein revoked; as announced in United States Human Resources Command, Permanent Orders 312-07, dated 7 November 2008.

Medal of Honor

Humbert Roque Versace

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Intelligence Advisor, Special Operations

Place: Republic of Vietnam

Entered service at: Norfolk, VA

Born: Honolulu, HI

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while a prisoner of war during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965 in the Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Republic of Vietnam on 29 October 1963, Captain Versace and the CIDG assault force were caught in an ambush from intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a reinforced enemy Main Force battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace fought valiantly and encouraged his CIDG patrol to return fire against overwhelming enemy forces. He provided covering fire from an exposed position to enable friendly forces to withdraw from the killing zone when it was apparent that their position would be overrun, and was severely wounded in the knee and back from automatic weapons fire and shrapnel. He stubbornly resisted capture with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he demonstrated exceptional leadership and resolute adherence to the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into a prisoner of war status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American prisoners, and despite being kept locked in irons in an isolation box, raised their morale by singing messages to popular songs of the day, and leaving inspiring messages at the latrine. Within three weeks of captivity, and despite the severity of his untreated wounds, he attempted the first of four escape attempts by dragging himself on his hands and knees out of the camp through dense swamp and forbidding vegetation to freedom. Crawling at a very slow pace due to his weakened condition, the guards quickly discovered him outside the camp and recaptured him. Captain Versace scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and inspired his fellow prisoners to resist to the best of their ability. When he used his Vietnamese language skills to protest improper treatment of the American prisoners by the guards, he was put into leg irons and gagged to keep his protestations out of earshot of the other American prisoners in the camp. The last time that any of his fellow prisoners heard from him, Captain Versace was singing God Bless America at the top of his voice from his isolation box. Unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America and his fellow prisoners, Captain Versace was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life above and beyond the call of duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army, and reflect great credit to himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The name Humbert R. Versace is inscribed on Panel 01E, Row 033.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
POW Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Combat Infantryman Badge
Parachutist Badge

Special Forces Tab
Ranger Tab

Honors

On 6 July 2002, The Captain Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Alexandria, VA, was dedicated in honor of Humbert R. Versace. There is a statue with the likeness of Versace in the Plaza, which was made possible with the contribution of $175,000 from Rocky's boyhood friend, Michael Heisley, and donations totaling $125,000 raised by the citizens of Alexandria.

On 9 July 2002, the day after the White House Medal of Honor ceremony, Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki inducted Versace into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes.

Captain Humbert Roque "Rocky" Versace was inducted into the following:

1st Special Forces Regiment
USSOCOM Hall of Heroes
Army Ranger Hall of Fame
The Third U.S. Army Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

The name of Humbert Roque Versace was engraved in "El Monumento de la Recordacion" (Monument of Remembrance), dedicated to Puerto Rico's fallen military members and situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and unveiled by Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock and PR National Guard Adjutant General Col. David CarriĆ³n on Memorial Day, 2007.

Death

Captain Humbert Roque "Rocky" Versace was executed by the Viet Cong while a Prisoner of War on 26 September 1965 and his remains have never been recovered. A memorial headstone for Captain Versace at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, stands above an empty grave and is located in the Memorial section, MG-108.



Origin of Nickname/Handle:
Rocky is a different way of spelling his actual middle name: Roque.

Honoree ID: 1102   Created by: FoRV59

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