Lewis (Luigi) Albanese receives the Medal of Honor posthumously on February 16, 1968.

  • By Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.
  • Posted 1/30/2015
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 11022
See Additional Media
On February 16, 1968, Private First Class Lewis Albanese (1946-1968) receives the Medal of Honor posthumously. He had been in Vietnam for three months when his unit, Company B, Fifth Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, First Cavalry Division, engaged in a major battle. On December 1, 1966, his platoon advanced through heavy forest to establish a blocking position, and came under withering fire. The troops had advanced into an ambush. The platoon attacked the enemy position while Private First Class Albanese covered its left flank. As he laid down covering fire, he came under new attack from a well-concealed position. This enemy position and sniper fire were to the rear of his platoon, which was moving toward another enemy location. The platoon was in danger of being trapped. Private First Class Albanese identified the enemy position, attacked the ditch, and killed the enemy there. He also shot the sniper and in hand-to-hand combat destroyed another enemy position. During the battle Lewis Albanese was shot, and he died the next day. His actions saved his platoon. 

Early Years 

Lewis (Luigi) Albanese was born in Cornedo Vicentino, Vicenza, Italy. When he was 2 years old, his mother, Giannina Albanese (b. 1927), brought him to the United States. They joined Ralph Albanese (1927-2002), Lewis's father, who owned a Seattle pizza parlor.

Lewis grew up in Seattle and attended Franklin High School. At Franklin High School he especially excelled in wood shop and volunteered to create stage sets for plays. He graduated in June 1964 and went to work at Boeing Aircraft.

He was drafted in October 1965 and took basic training at Fort Carson, Colorado. On August 2, 1966, he flew to Vietnam. His unit soon entered the battle.  

Lewis Albanese's Vietnam War

After only three months in Vietnam, on December 1, 1966, Albanese's unit was moving through the forest to establish a defensive position. As the troops neared their objective, they came under intense enemy machine-gun fire from a well-concealed position. Private First Class Albanese was moved to cover the unit's left flank. This brought him under withering enemy fire. When his platoon was in danger of being overrun, Albanese attacked the enemy position and neutralized it. He was wounded in this action and died the next day. 

On February 16, 1968, in an award ceremony held at the Pentagon, Secretary of the Army Stanley Rogers Resor (1917-2012) presented the Medal of Honor to Private First Class Albanese posthumously. Resor spoke of the lives that Private First Class Albanese had saved. His mother received the medal and his sister Rosita (b. 1952) was in the audience. 

Remembering Lewis Albanese

On Joint Base Lewis McChord is Albanese Hall, a training center, which honors the Medal of Honor recipient. In his birth city of Vicenza a street is named in his honor. An Italian author, Franco Lovato, published a biography of Lewis Albanese. He described him as the only Italian-born soldier to receive the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. In Lewis, A Man, A Hero, Lovato recounts Private First Class Albanese giving his life to save others.

Another Albanese from Seattle also died in Vietnam. Sergeant Luigi Frank Albanese (1948-1968), not a relative, was killed in action on January 27, 1968.

Sources: Donald K. and Helen L. Ross, Washington State Men of Valor (Burley, Washington: Coffee Break Press, 1980); "PFC Lewis Albanese Funeral," The Seattle Daily Times, December 11, 1966, p. 54; "Seattle Soldier To Be Awarded Medal of Honor," Ibid., February 15, 1968, p. 1; "Albanese Was Ordinary Good Citizen-Teacher," Ibid., February 15, 1968, p. 32.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You