[Marxism] Charlie Liteky, 85, Dies; Returned Medal of Honor in Protest

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 24 09:32:31 MST 2017

NY Times, Jan. 24 2017
Charlie Liteky, 85, Dies; Returned Medal of Honor in Protest

Charlie Liteky, a former Army chaplain who received the Medal of Honor 
for bravery in Vietnam, only to return the medal two decades later as a 
protest of American foreign policy in Central America, died on Friday in 
San Francisco. He was 85.

His death was confirmed by a friend, Richard Olive, who said Mr. Liteky 
had suffered a stroke several weeks ago.

Mr. Liteky, who was a Roman Catholic priest when he was given the award, 
is believed to be the only one of nearly 3,500 recipients of the medal 
since the Civil War to have returned it in a demonstration of political 
dissent, Victoria Kueck, the operations director of the Congressional 
Medal of Honor Society, said on Monday.

He acted out of opposition to the Reagan administration’s support for 
Central American dictators accused of brutally suppressing leftist 

In 1986, Mr. Liteky (pronounced LIT-key) left the medal in an envelope 
addressed to President Ronald Reagan at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 
Washington. He also renounced the lifetime tax-free monthly pension — 
then about $600, now about $1,300 — that went with it.

Mr. Liteky, who later served two federal prison terms for civil 
disobedience as a war protester, said he was motivated in his political 
dissent by the commitment that had inspired his bravery on the 
battlefield in Vietnam.

“The reason I do what I do now is basically the same,” he told The San 
Francisco Chronicle in 2000 as he faced a second prison sentence. “It’s 
to save lives.”

On Dec. 6, 1967, Mr. Liteky, the son of a career Navy petty officer, 
repeatedly neglected his own shrapnel wounds and, without a weapon, 
helmet or flak jacket, exposed himself to mortars, land mines and 
machine guns to rescue 23 wounded colleagues who had been ambushed by a 
Vietcong battalion. He evacuated the injured soldiers and administered 
last rites to the dying.

Before that firefight, Mr. Liteky had never been in combat.

He was one of three chaplains who earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. 
The other two were awarded posthumously.

Mr. Liteky once recalled that when he went to Vietnam, “I was 100 
percent behind going over there and putting those Communists in their 

“I had no problems with that,” he added. “I thought I was going there 
doing God’s work.”

After he volunteered for another six-month tour, Mr. Liteky returned 
home from the war as an Army captain. Troubled by the celibacy 
requirement, he left the priesthood in 1975.

In the late 1970s, he was introduced by Judy Balch, a former nun, to 
refugees from El Salvador, “teenagers, whose fathers had been killed and 
tortured,” he recalled. He evolved into a vigorous opponent of American 
support for right-wing factions there and in Nicaragua and Guatemala.

In 1983, he married Ms. Balch in San Francisco. She died last year. No 
immediate family members survive.

In 1986, Mr. Liteky mounted a debilitating 47-day hunger strike near the 
Capitol against American involvement in Nicaragua. He later served two 
terms for trespassing at the Army’s School of the Americas (now the 
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) at Fort Benning, 
Ga., which trains soldiers from Latin America.

He was sentenced to six months in federal prison in 1990 for squirting 
blood on portraits at the school, and to the maximum one year in 2000 
for a similar protest.

In 2002 and 2003, he visited Baghdad to protest the impending American 

“I am in deep sympathy with all of those young men that are over there 
now doing what they think is their patriotic duty,” Mr. Liteky told NPR 
in 2004. “I think it is more of a patriotic duty of citizens of this 
country to stand up and say that this is wrong, that this is immoral.”

He had recently completed a memoir, “Renunciation,” which friends of his 
plan to publish this year.

Charles James Liteky was born in Washington on Feb. 14, 1931, to Charles 
Liteky and the former Gertrude Diggs. (His father had enlisted in the 
Navy when he was 15, lying about his age.)

He was raised mostly in Jacksonville, Fla., where he was a high school 

After attending the University of Florida for two years, he entered a 
seminary and was ordained a priest in 1960 as Angelo J. Liteky (the name 
under which he also received the medal) and joined the Missionary 
Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, a clerical organization based in 
Silver Spring, Md.

He volunteered as an Army chaplain in 1966 and served with the 199th 
Infantry Brigade.

According to his official medal citation, during the firefight, in Bien 
Hoa Province, “through his indomitable inspiration and heroic actions, 
Chaplain Liteky saved the lives of a number of his comrades and enabled 
the company to repulse the enemy.”

He was the fifth military chaplain since the Civil War to receive the award.

After he left the medal at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it was 
retrieved by the National Park Service and placed in the collection of 
the National Museum of American History.

His very public protest in 1986 got mixed reviews from fellow medal 
recipients. While some criticized his action as unpatriotic, others 
described it as courageous.

“When I look at Liteky, I have respect for the courage of his views,” 
Paul Bucha, a medal recipient and a past president of the Medal of Honor 
Society, said in 2000.

“It’s difficult to be an iconoclast,” Mr. Bucha continued. “It’s much 
easier to go along. Men like Liteky are people who should force us to 
pause and think; they should not be ostracized and criticized. They are 
entitled to their views, and perhaps if we listened we’d be better off.”

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