Roger H.C. Donlon, an Army Green Beret who in 1964 was the first Medal of Honor recipient in the Vietnam War, for leading the defense of a jungle outpost in a ferocious nighttime attack despite being wounded by shrapnel from mortars and a grenade, died on Jan. 25 in Leavenworth, Kan., where he lived. He was 89.
The cause was Parkinson’s disease, which his family said resulted from exposure to Agent Orange, the toxic chemical sprayed by American aircraft as a defoliant in Vietnam.
Mr. Donlon was a career soldier who spent 33 years in the Army, rising to colonel. Before that he attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, though he dropped out after two years, and became a Green Beret in 1963 after training at Fort Bragg, N.C., now Fort Liberty.
The battle in which he earned the Medal of Honor loosely inspired the climactic scene in “The Green Berets,” a 1968 movie starring John Wayne.
Mr. Donlon was a 30-year-old Special Forces captain when he arrived in South Vietnam to command an outpost at Nam Dong, north of Da Nang not far from the Laotian border. The mountainous region in the Central Highlands was populated by Montagnard villagers, whom Army advisers — and before them, C.I.A. officers — tried to shape into a bulwark against the Vietcong, the Communist insurgency aligned with North Vietnam.
Ringed in barbed wire, Camp Nam Dong was defended by a dozen U.S. Special Forces and about 300 Vietnamese. In the early hours of July 6, 1964, a force of 800 to 900 Vietcong and North Vietnamese regulars launched a surprise attack, seeking to overrun the camp.