Ike Camacho was born in 1937 in El Paso, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 12, 1955, and was trained as an Infantryman. Camacho was later trained as a Special Forces Intelligence NCO and began serving with the Military Assistance Command in the Republic of Vietnam in July 1963, and was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong on November 24, 1963. Sgt Camacho escaped from his captors on July 9, 1965, and made his way to friendly forces on July 13, 1965. He became the first American Prisoner of War to escape captivity in Vietnam. Camacho received a direct commission in the U.S. Army on October 25, 1969. He served with the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from November 1969 to January 1971, when he was transferred to the 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa. Camacho was next assigned to the 591st Military Police Company at Fort Bliss, Texas, from September 1973 until his retirement from the Army on June 30, 1975.
His Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Isaac Camacho, Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Detachment A-21, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Sergeant First Class Camacho distinguished himself by gallantry in action during the early morning on 24 November 1963, when an estimated reinforced battalion of Viet Cong attacked a Special Forces camp at Hiep Hoa, Republic of Vietnam. Taking the camp by complete surprise, the insurgents began their attack with withering automatic weapons and small arms fire followed within a few seconds by an intense mortar barrage. The heavy volume of high and flat trajectory fire pinned down the entire Vietnamese strike force within the compound. At the beginning of the attack, Sergeant First Class Camacho ran from his sleeping area to a mortar position. Having successfully maneuvered through a hail of bullets and mortar fragments, Sergeant First Class Camacho calmly manned the mortar and began to concentrate his fire on the Viet Cong who were attempting to breach the wall of the compound. Disregarding his own personal safety and realizing that he was the only man not pinned down by the Viet Cong, Sergeant First Class Camacho valiantly engaged the enemy until he was ordered by his commanding officer to withdraw from the camp. Reluctantly, he gave up his position and moved into the darkness. In the confusion of battle, Sergeant First Class Camacho and his commanding officer became separated. Sergeant First Class Camacho was captured by the Viet Cong only when he no longer had any means to resist. Sergeant First class Camacho's conspicuous gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflects great credit upon himself and the military service.