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Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell talks with Capt. Allison Anderson on May 12, 2017, during a tour of the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Lago Padria, Italy.
Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell talks with Capt. Allison Anderson on May 12, 2017, during a tour of the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Lago Padria, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell talks with Capt. Allison Anderson on May 12, 2017, during a tour of the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Lago Padria, Italy.
Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell talks with Capt. Allison Anderson on May 12, 2017, during a tour of the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Lago Padria, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers give Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell rapt attention during his May 15, 2017, visit to the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Lago Padria, Italy.
Soldiers give Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell rapt attention during his May 15, 2017, visit to the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Lago Padria, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert Martin, right, asks Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell on May 12, 2017, what he thinks of the toughness of today's military. Littrell replied, "I'm jealous. I wish I'd had the caliber of servicemembers we have today."
Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert Martin, right, asks Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell on May 12, 2017, what he thinks of the toughness of today's military. Littrell replied, "I'm jealous. I wish I'd had the caliber of servicemembers we have today." (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell talks to sailors at the Navy base in Naples, Italy, on May 12, 2017.
Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell talks to sailors at the Navy base in Naples, Italy, on May 12, 2017. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Gary Littrell wears his Medal of Honor on May 12, 2017, while he talks to servicemembers and ROTC students at the military bases in Naples, Italy.
Gary Littrell wears his Medal of Honor on May 12, 2017, while he talks to servicemembers and ROTC students at the military bases in Naples, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell talks to soldiers at NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Lago Padria, Italy, on May 12, 2017.
Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell talks to soldiers at NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Lago Padria, Italy, on May 12, 2017. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)

To hear Gary Littrell recount the relentless four-day enemy assault on his battalion in Vietnam is to understand why the Medal of Honor recipient earned the military’s most prestigious award. And why many recipients don't live to talk about it.

Littrell, 72, a retired command sergeant major, told his story Friday to servicemembers and ROTC students during a tour of military bases in Naples, Italy, as part of a Navy Exchange-sponsored tour.

Littrell’s award citation says he showed “superhuman endurance” and little regard for his own life.

As a young sergeant first class, Littrell, an Army Ranger, was an adviser to a Vietnamese ranger battalion when it came under heavy attack on April 4, 1970. Mortar fire killed or severely wounded the battalion’s commanders and other advisers, leaving Littrell in charge.

Littrell came under enemy fire as he crawled and ran from position to position, carrying and dispensing ammunition, girding defenses that had faltered, caring for the wounded, shouting encouragement to Vietnamese troops and calling in airstrikes within 50 yards of their position.

After he led the surviving soldiers off the besieged hill, he helped them fend off repeated ambushes and march 5 miles to safety.

Littrell expressed humility about the medal he wore Friday, saying he doesn’t believe he did anything exceptional.

“I was a noncommissioned officer doing my job,” he said.

wyland.scott@stripes.com Twitter: @wylandstripes

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