The True Story Of The Vietnam Soldier Whose Incredible Exploits Inspired Forrest Gump

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Image: via The Unwritten Record / Pritzker Military Museum & Library / Sergeant Jim Greenhill

On November 18, 1967 Private Sammy Davis was dug in with his unit near the South Vietnamese city of Cai Lay. Their position, Firebase Cudgel, was bounded by waterways, jungle and rice paddies. Then the peace of the night was shattered by a deadly fusillade of small arms and mortar fire from three companies of North Vietnamese troops. In the fierce battle that ensued, Davis would display courage of the most extraordinary kind.

Image: Nyttend

Sammy Lee Davis came into the world in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1946, although he spent his early years in French Camp, California. He attended the nearby Manteca High School until his family relocated to Indiana; he finished his schooling there at Mooresville High School.

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Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Considering his family background, it came as no surprise when Davis went on to join the U.S. Army. His grandfather had seen active service during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Robert Davis, his father, had served his country during World War Two.

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