A Final Valiant Act

The Story of Doug Dickey, Medal of Honor

Lt Col John B Lang USMC (Ret)

The story of Doug Dickey, a young Marine in Vietnam who acted when a grenade landed nearby and saved the lives of his comrades.
Date Published :
April 2020
Publisher :
Illustration :
35 black and white and 16 color photographs, 11 maps, 5 diagrams
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612007571
Pages : 296
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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The story of Doug Dickey, a young Marine in Vietnam who acted when a grenade landed nearby and saved the lives of his comrades.

Silver Medal, Memoir/Biography, 2021 Military Writers Society of America Awards

Doug Dickey was an unlikely Marine hero. He was a gentle soul who sang in the school’s chorus and struggled to make it through boot camp. However, in the terrible seconds that passed after a grenade landed in the middle of his platoon’s command element, Doug chose to sacrifice his life to save his comrades. For this Final Valiant Act, Doug received the Medal of Honor.

Doug grew up on a farm in Ohio and enlisted in the Marine Corps with four of his friends from high school. Arriving in Vietnam, he was assigned to “Blackjack” Westerman’s 1st Battalion, 4th Marines—one of the few Marine units to make amphibious assaults during the Vietnam War.

As part of 2nd Platoon, Company C, Doug took part in Operation Deckhouse VI, to rout the Viet Cong from Quang Ngai; and Operation Beacon Hill, which culminated in the desperate battle on March 26, 1967. That afternoon, the platoon became engaged with a much larger NVA unit just south of the DMZ. In the midst of that fierce battle, with casualties mounting rapidly, an enemy grenade landed in the middle of the platoon’s command group. Doug dove on the grenade—saving his friends and comrades. Second Platoon was ultimately victorious, but at a high cost: more than 40 men had gone into battle that day; only 12 walked out the next morning.

Doug’s comrades in 2nd Platoon never forgot him. Easter Sunday 1967 was seared into their memories. In 1997, they began holding yearly reunions. They decided to honor Doug by holding their first reunion in his hometown. Harold and Leona Dickey were finally able to meet the men their son had saved 30 years earlier.

A Final Valiant Act is the result of over 14 years of research— drawing on Doug’s letters home, and more than 50 interviews.

The personal stories are woven into a meticulously researched battle history, sourced from dozens of declassified combat reports—yielding the most detailed account of Operation Beacon Hill yet written.

About The Author

Lieutenant Colonel John B. Lang, USMC (Ret.) is a decorated combat veteran of Operation Desert Storm; the United Nations operation in Somalia; and the war in Iraq, retiring with more than 22 years of commissioned service.

He was honored as the Marine Corps’ intelligence officer of the year in 1996 with the Donald G. Cook Award.

Lt Col Lang is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he majored in military history. He also has an MA in International Relations from Creighton University.

Additionally, he is a graduate of the Air War College and Naval War College courses, and the Armed Forces Staff College. Lt Col Lang has always admired the Vietnam veterans who were his leaders, mentors, and friends throughout his career. He has attended 2nd Platoon’s annual reunions since 2006 and Doug’s comrades made him an honorary member of 2nd Platoon in 2009. John Lang is a native of Monterey, California.


1. Introduction: No Words; 2. An American Family; 3. A Distant War; 4. The Buddy Program; 5. I Corps: "Marineland"; 6. Platoon 394; 7. 1st Battalion, 4th Marines: God, Country, Duty, Corps; 8. Okinawa; 9. The Special Landing Force (SLF); 10. HMM 363: The Lucky Red Lions; 11. Soldiers of the Sea; 12. Operation Deckhouse VI; 13. Subic; 14. A Purple Heart; 15. Operation Beacon Hill; 16. Easter Sunday; 17. The Gold Star; 18. The Medal of Honor; 19. A Marine Hero is Honored; 20. Veterans; 21. Rally Point; 22. A Brotherhood; 23. The Legacy


"Lang takes readers to the platoon's annual postwar reunions, moving reminders of the courage and sacrifice exhibited by Dickey and his fellow fallen Marines. The author also provides an excellent 'snapshot' of the Marine Corps in northernmost South Vietnam in 1967….Importantly, this book provides the best insight into the life and experiences of a Medal of Honor recipient since the acclaimed autobiographies of World War II Army hero Audie Murphy, To Hell and Back, and U.S. Special Forces officer, Roger H.C. Donlon, the Vietnam War’s first recipient and author of Beyond Nam Dong.”

- Vietnam Magazine

“…leaves the reader with a definitive image of Doug Dickey: A selfless young man who loved his family, respected other people, and felt great responsibility toward his country.”

- The VVA Veteran

"[Lang's] emphasis on how these young men saved and lost many of their own was provocative and educational. He also shared how these boys-turned-men in the horrors of Vietnam saved many in future generations."

- Military Writers Society of America

"...reminds the readers that heroism, whether recognized with a medal or not, is the province of all those who serve their country in tough campaigns and endure the physical and mental toll of battle."

- Marine Corps Gazette

"...stands as testimony that honor, duty and solid values always endure. Lang’s book deserves a prominent place on the shelves of homes, libraries and schools. He reminds us the worst of times bring out the best in heroes like Doug Dickey."

- The Daily Advocate

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