HomeAbout UsFact Sheets

A1C William H Pitsenbarger

Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam

Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam

A1C William H. Pitsenbarger receiving an Air Medal.
Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam.

A1C William H. Pitsenbarger receiving an Air Medal. Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam.

From the Airmen Heritage Series booklet, Airmen Memorial Museum.  Medal of Honor recipient Vietnam.

From the Airmen Heritage Series booklet, Airmen Memorial Museum. Medal of Honor recipient Vietnam.

 

On April 11, 1966, near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, A1C Pitsenbarger sacrificed his life to save nine others.  He was a pararescueman on a helicopter evacuating American casualties from a dense jungle area, and voluntarily organized and coordinated rescue efforts at the scene, ensuring that the recovery operation proceeded smoothly.  However, when the last wounded person had been assisted to the recovery site, the hovering rescue helicopter was hit by enemy fire and the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing at an airstrip nearby, abandoning rescue attempts.

A1C Pitsenbarger volunteered to stay behind and tend to the wounded amid heavy mortar and sniper fire.  He continually exposed himself to intensive automatic fire while collecting weapons from fallen comrades for use by remaining defenders.  Even after he'd been incapacitated by his wounds, A1C Pitsenbarger continued directing defensive efforts.

His actions during the mission were initially recognized with a posthumous award of the Air Force Cross. That award is the military's second-highest for service members, and the highest award the Air Force can bestow.

Upon further review in the 1990s, a number of private citizens and federal officials successfully advocated that the Medal of Honor would more accurately characterize Pitsenbarger's heroism.

See
full citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society webpage.

For more information see the National Museum of the USAF website.