Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MEMORIAL DAY 2008; Medal of Honor Recipient Gave His Life for Others Nicholas Cutinha Killed 15 Enemy Soldiers as He Saved Americans

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MEMORIAL DAY 2008; Medal of Honor Recipient Gave His Life for Others Nicholas Cutinha Killed 15 Enemy Soldiers as He Saved Americans

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

YULEE - Forty years ago, Nicholas Cutinha gave his life to save nine of his fellow soldiers in a bloody ambush in Vietnam.

He is believed to be the only Nassau County native to receive the Medal of Honor - the country's highest military honor.

One of his teachers, interviewed 38 years ago, and one of his peers, interviewed this week, agreed Cutinha's unflinching bravery in the face of certain death didn't surprise them.

"He always stood for what he felt was right," Yulee teacher and principal Bob Springer said in a 1970 Jacksonville Journal interview.

"Knowing Nicky, he knew exactly what he was doing," former Nassau County Commissioner Nick Deonas said Tuesday.

"He knew it was something he had to do. That would be him. Absolutely. I always knew him to be an upright person. When Nicky said he was going to do something, he would do it."

Cuhtina was born in Fernandina Beach in 1945 and lived in Yulee with his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Grover.

According to the Jacksonville Journal article, Cuhtina loved the woods and creeks that were abundant around Yulee in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Betty James Hagins, one of Cutinha's elementary school teachers, told the Jacksonville Journal she remembered him as a country boy.

"Nicholas was a woodsman, born and raised in the woods," she said. "He loved hunting and fishing ... the outdoors," she said.

As a young man, Cutinha moved from Yulee to Alva, the hometown of his mother, Pearl Donker. Shortly after, his number came up in the draft and he was Vietnam-bound.

On March 2, 1968, Cutinha, who had turned 23 just two months before, was on a search-and-destroy mission with 91 other men in his U.S. Army squad, Charlie Company, 4th Battalion 9th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.

Near the city of Gia Dinh, his unit was attacked from all sides by North Vietnamese.

After eight minutes of bullets and explosions, 49 of the Americans were left dead or fatally wounded and 28 injured, according to L.D. James' 2005 book, Unfortunate Sons: A True Story of Young Men and War.

Cutinha remained clear-headed even though he was shot in the leg, according to his Medal of Honor citation. …

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