USMC 1st Lt. Philip Sauer — Silver Star 51 Years Later
USMC 1st Lt. Philip Sauer died 51 years ago yesterday after giving his own life in exchange for the life of one of his five man patrol. The paperwork for his award was lost somewhere in the Vietnam War… but on April 24, 2018, the long deserved Silver Star was awarded to Sauer’s family.
Philip Sauer reportedly wanted to be a Marine after he graduated from Westminster College in Missouri. He strongly believed in the United States being involved in the Vietnam War.
“He really believed the cause there was right. He wanted to be a part of it. He really thought he’d be helping to defeat communism and he was gung ho about it.” Tom Sauer,70, one of Phil’s brothers
April 24, 1967 on a cliff near Khe San, Vietnam
1st Lt Phil Sauer was platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, a Company of the 3rd Anti-Tank Battalion. There were five men in his patrol. On April 24, 1967, that patrol walked into an ambush by North Vietnamese at around 11 a.m.. William Marks, then a Private was the sole survivor of the ambush.
According to Military.com, (more about his medal award is at the link):
Marks met the 25-year-old Lt. Sauer, who grew up in Coronado and St. Louis, only hours before they hiked into an ambush sprung by an entrenched platoon of North Vietnamese Army soldiers around 11 a.m. on April 24, 1967.
“All hell broke loose,” Marks recalled.
The point man died screaming but the lieutenant and Marks dove into a hole. Sauer, the commander of 2nd Platoon, A Company of the 3rd Anti-Tank Battalion, stood up and began firing with his Colt .45 pistol as North Vietnamese bullets and grenades tore through the dirt and trees around him.
He ordered the patrol to flee, pledging to cover them.
“I’m listening for Sauer’s pistol, and I don’t hear it anymore. That stops,” Marks said. “I kinda figured he’s not here anymore. He’s gone.”
Marks reached his buddy, Private 1st Class Bradley Nelson, and spotted an ominous hole in his radio. He lifted up his face saw he was dead, too.
Marks slid down the rain-slicked Hill 861 to safety, never dreaming that nearly a half-century later he’d emerge as a key piece in Lt. Sauer’s long forgotten valor award.
Marks stated that if it hadn’t been for Sauer’s actions, he wouldn’t be a father of two, grandfather of four.
Sauer’s bravery will now not be forgotten. In the Silver Star, his family will understand that he cared about his men to the exclusion of his own life. Military Medals are made for such. Valor, honor, duty. R.I.P., 1st Lt Philip Sauer.
Featured photo: USMC photo by Ryan Kirkegard
Maj. Gen. Eric M. Smith,commander of 1st Marine Division presents the Silver Star to Tom Sauer, 70, Mary Schoelch, 72, of Minnesota; Coulter Winn, 66, of Monrovia in Los Angeles County; and Nick Sauer, 77, also of La Jolla.
“Senior Marines take care of junior Marines, and Lt. Sauer was senior,” Smith said. “It was his responsibility to take care of that patrol and he did that, at the cost of his own life. That is what Marines do.”