The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the
Navy Cross Medal (Posthumously) to
Major Donald Joseph Reilly
United States Marine Corps
For extraordinary heroism as a Helicopter Pilot in Marine Observation Squadron 2 (VMO-2), Marine Aircraft Group 16, First Marine Aircraft Wing, in the Republic of Vietnam on 9 December 1965. With his squadron engaged in air support operations for Task Force Delta in Quang Tin Province, Major Reilly was designated as Tactical Aircraft Coordinator (Airborne). Reporting on station about 1800, he immediately answered an emergency request for support from a Marine company which was part of a mobile alert force that had been helicopter-lifted into a hostile area where it was heavily engaged by the Viet Cong using mortars, automatic weapons, and small arms. Although exposed to hostile rifle and machine-gun fire, he, with selfless determination and skill, fearlessly delivered devastating fire from low altitudes upon the Viet Cong who were encircling the company. Later, in response to a request for evacuation of eleven of the company wounded, he prepared to land. In darkness and under a 1200 foot overcast with three miles visibility he arranged for the company to guide him on the final approach with a flashlight. Directing his wingman to remain aloft and assist only if he were successful, he turned off aircraft lights and resolutely commenced his approach. Although encountering intense small-arms fire, he pressed on with determination and while slowing for landing, received a severe bullet wound. His copilot was unable to take over in time and the aircraft crashed on landing in the friendly zone. No further evacuations could be attempted due to enemy resistance until several hours later that night and by that time Major Reilly had succumbed to his grievous wound. His self-sacrificing action in the face of overwhelming odds sustained and enhanced the finest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.