Last Known Activity FN Heriberto S. Hernandez was a native of San Antonio, Texas. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in July 1965 for four years and served on board the Cutter Bering Strait, Loran Station Saipan, Base Galveston and, in the spring of 1968, he deployed for duty in Vietnam. Beginning in May, Fireman Hernandez, known by his shipmates as "Eddie", served on board the 82-foot cutter Point Cypress. Hernandez participated in numerous combat counter-infiltration patrols against the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong along the coast of South Vietnam. He repeatedly volunteered for recon missions in the cutter's 13 1/2 foot outboard powered small boat or "skimmer". The Boston Whaler style of boat was made of fiberglass and offered no protection against enemy fire. The color of the skimmer's hull was white which made it an easy target.
On 5 December 1968 Hernandez volunteered for yet another recon mission. This time he piloted the skimmer up the Rach Nang River, near the southern tip of South Vietnam, to locate Viet Cong waterway escape routes. Two CG Officers were also on board, LTJG Gordon M Gillies and CDR Charles L. Blaha. The countryside along the river seemed peaceful and various structures along the banks appeared to be deserted. However, as the skimmer turned back to return to the cutter, all three men saw a Viet Cong militiaman inside a bunker on shore. Hernandez and the others opened fire on bunker and open the throttle on the outboard to evade enemy fire. It was too late, for automatic gun fire began to riddle the boat and seriously wounding the three Coast Guardsmen. Even though Hernandez was seriously wounded, He managed to steer the boat back to the Cutter, Point Cypress which was waiting at the mouth of the river. As soon as the skimmer arrived , the Point Cypress made way at full speed to the local operations mother ship, USS Washoe County which had medical facilities. Blaha and Gillies had serious wounds but their wounds were not life- threatening---unlike Hernandez's wounds. Hernandez survived the passage from the Rach Nang River to the USS Washoe County, but died just as the Point Cypress approached the naval vessel to moor.
For his heroic service, FN Hernandez posthumously received the Purple Heart Medal and Bronze StarMedal with Combat "V" device. He is the second Hispanic American service member known to have received this honor. In his citation for the Bronze Star Medal, Vice Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt wrote: "Fireman Hernandez's heroic actions under enemy fire were instrumental to the success of friendly forces in harassing and destroying the enemy's morale and feeling of security. Fireman Hernandez's professional skill, courage under enemy fire, and devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself, and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
Personal comments about Eddie Hernandez
By close friend and shipmate Allen Dillenbeck, SN/BM3, POINT CYPRESS, 1967-1968
Eddie's and my deployments overlapped by just a few months. However, working with him made a huge impact on my life. I really don't know why Ed chose to join the Coast Guard; avoiding Viet Nam service certainly was not a factor, as all the enlisted billets were filled by volunteers, and there was often a long waiting list. I suspect Ed, like most of us, went to RONONE(Coast Guard Squadron One) for a variety of reasons. The Coast Guard in the 60's had little minority representation, but I doubt that was a factor. I think he just wanted to be part of our nation's struggle at that time. I don't have a recollection of his boxing experience, but I always felt better when Ed was with me when we were in a Navy Club. He had a formidable presence. There was no one whom I would have felt more comfortable with watching my back.