Educators, learn how to use the Medal of Honor Character Development Program with your students by taking our new online training.

Access the course here.

»

Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

or
  • Filter Recipient Database here
    • Service Branch
    • Conflict / Era
    • Additional Filters
      -  
    or

Vietnam War - U.S. Air Force

William H. Pitsenbarger

Details
  • Rank: Airmen First Class (Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant)
  • Conflict/Era: Vietnam War
  • Unit/Command:
    Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron,
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Air Force
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: April 11, 1966
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam
Citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on 11 April 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an ongoing firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizeable enemy force approximately 35 mile east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground. On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded , prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day was recovered, Airman Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get more wounded soldiers to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind on the ground to perform medical duties. Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pulled them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, Simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible. In the vicious fighting that followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casaulties as their perimeter was breached, and Airman Pitsenbarger was fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.

Medal of Honor Recipient William H. Pitsenbarger
Medal of Honor Recipient William H. Pitsenbarger
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Piqua, Miami County, Ohio
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Presentation Date & Details: December 8, 2000

    Air Force Museum, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio - presented by Secretary of the Air Force S. Whitten Peters to his parents

  • Born: July 8, 1944, Piqua, Miami County, OH, United States
  • Died: April 11, 1966, near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam
  • Buried: Miami Memorial Park Cemetery (43D-2), Covington, OH, United States
  • Location of Medal: USAF Pararescue & Combat Rescue Officer School, Kirkland Air Force Base, NM
Share

Questions? For More Information Contact Us!