Sprayberry, James Michael

James Michael “Mike” Sprayberry was born in 1947 in La Grange, Georgia and grew up on his family farm in Alabama. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 and graduated from Armor Officer Candidate School in Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1967. He arrived in Vietnam in October, 1967 to serve with 5/7th Cavalry, 1st Air Cav Division. Areas of operation were I Corps, Hoi An, Khe Sanh, the A Shau Valley. Mike served as Platoon Leader, Company XO, Company Commander, and Brigade Staff. 

On an combat operation on 25 April 1968, Captain Sprayberry's company commander and a great number of the men were wounded and separated from the main body of the company. A daylight attempt to rescue them was driven back by the well entrenched enemy's heavy fire. Captain Sprayberry then organized and led a volunteer night patrol to eliminate the intervening enemy bunkers and to relieve the surrounded element. The patrol soon began receiving enemy machinegun fire. Captain Sprayberry quickly moved the men to protective cover and without regard for his own safety, crawled within close range of the bunker from which the fire was coming. He silenced the machinegun with a hand grenade. Identifying several one-man enemy positions nearby, Captain Sprayberry immediately attacked them with the rest of his grenades. He crawled back for more grenades and when two grenades were thrown at his men from a position to the front, Captain Sprayberry, without hesitation, again exposed himself and charged the enemy-held bunker killing its occupants with a grenade. Placing two men to cover his advance, he crawled forward and neutralized three more bunkers with grenades. Immediately thereafter, Captain Sprayberry was surprised by an enemy soldier who charged from a concealed position. He killed the soldier with his pistol and with continuing disregard for the danger, neutralized another enemy emplacement. Captain Sprayberry then established radio contact with the isolated men, directing them toward his position. When the two elements made contact he organized his men into litter parties to evacuate the wounded. As the evacuation was nearing completion, he observed an enemy machinegun position which he silenced with a grenade. Captain Sprayberry returned to the rescue party, established security, and moved to friendly lines with the wounded. This rescue operation, which lasted approximately 7 1/2 hours, saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers. Captain Sprayberry personally killed 12 enemy soldiers, eliminated two machineguns, and destroyed numerous enemy bunkers. Captain Sprayberry's indomitable spirit and gallant action at great personal risk to his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army. For this action, Captain Mike Sprayberry earned the nation's highest award for gallantry against an enemy force, the Medal of Honor. Captain Sprayberry also received the Purple Heart for his combat wounds during this operation.

In post-Vietnam service, LTC Sprayberry was assigned to Fort Polk where he commanded two Advanced Infantry Training Companies. In 1970, he completed Rotary Wing Flight School and was designated an Army Aviator, serving in Germany with line Army Aviation units as a Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, and Commander of an Air Cavalry Troop. Later in his career he was a senior academic instructor at Fort Rucker. During the final stages of his career he was instrumental in pre-Desert Shield and Desert Storm threat analysis and developmental planning for both ground and aviation systems, weapons and tactics.

Post retirement LTC Sprayberry has been at the forefront of Vietnam MIA recovery efforts for thirty years. He is totally dedicated to the code of “No Soldier Left Behind.” His initial efforts related to his unit’s MIA soldiers included numerous helicopter crew MIA incidents, primarily in the A Shau Valley. These continuing efforts have required many trips to Vietnam for on-site investigations, and to gather essential information for joint excavation by U.S./Vietnamese government agencies. Since 2012 he has actively assisted his wife, Julie, a Gold Star sister, with her ongoing work with Vietnam Helicopter Gold Star Families.