Summary

Conflict Period:
Vietnam War 1
Branch:
Air Force 1
Rank:
Airman First Class 2
Birth:
08 Jul 1944 2
Death:
11 Apr 1966 2
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
William Hart Pitsenbarger 2
Birth:
08 Jul 1944 2
Male 2
Death:
11 Apr 1966 2
Cause: Gun, Small Arms Fire 2
Age at Death: 21 2
Body Recovered: Recovered 2
Casualty Date: 11 Apr 1966 2
Casualty Type: Hostile, Died 2
Residence:
Hometown: Piqua, OH 2
Edit
Marriage:
Marital Status: Single 2
Edit

Vietnam War 1

Branch:
Air Force 1
Rank:
Airman First Class 2
Enlistment Type:
Regular 2
Grade:
E4 2
Major Command:
7th AF 2
Posthumous Decoration:
Medal of Honor 2
Service:
Air Force 2
Squadron:
38TH ARRS 2
Years Served:
3 2
Edit
Religion:
Not Reported 2
Race or Ethnicity:
Caucasian 2
Memorial Wall Location:
Line: 102 2
Panel: 06E 2

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Stories

Fallen Fellow PJ

He passed away just before my arrival to SEA saving lives, recieved the Medal of Honor post humously.

Medal of Honor Citation

The President of the United States
in the name of the Congress of the United States
takes pride in presenting the
MEDAL OF HONOR
to
WILLIAM H. PITSENBARGER
Staff Sergeant
United States Air Force
for service as set forth in the following
CITATION:

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 on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles 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 were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier 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, pull 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 which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and Airman Pitsenbarger was finally 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 military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.

From Col. Mark Schibler

William Pitsenbarger was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant. The United States Navy Container Ship MV A1C William H. Pitsenbarger (T-AK 4638) was christened in his honor. The ship will preposition Air Force ammunition at sea near potential war or contingency sites.

In addition several buildings have been named in his honor including William H. Pitsenbarger Dining Hall, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; William H. Pitsenbarger Professional Military Education Center, Beale AFB, California; William H. Pitsenbarger Airman Leadership School, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; Pitsenbarger Hall, Randolph AFB, Texas and Pitsenbarger Fitness Center, Sheppard AFB, Texas.

His name can be found on Panel 06E Line 102 of the Vietnam Wall.

Civilian authorities have also honored his name. The city of Piqua, Ohio, renamed a recreational park (which includes the municipal swimming pool) the "Pitsenbarger Sports Complex." The state of Ohio designated state route 48 as the "U.S.A.F. Pararescue Memorial Highway." The highway runs near the hometowns of four pararescuemen who died in service to their country. This includes Pitsenbarger; Sgt. Jim Locker of Sidney, Ohio; Master Sgt. William McDaniel II of Greenville, Ohio; and Airman 1st Class James Pleiman of Russia, Ohio.[5] In addition to being designated Main Street through the city of Dayton—where the Wright Brothers designed their airplane—state route 48 also runs along Miami Memorial Park north of Covington, Ohio, where all four are buried.

Edison Community College in Piqua, Ohio, awards the Pitsenbarger Scholarship to two full-time students per year who can show financial need.

The drill team of the AFJROTC unit at Martinsburg High School, Martinsburg WV is known as the Pitsenbarger Rifles.

The Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) awards a $500 Pitsenbarger Scholarship to the top 5% of each graduating class that is currently enrolled in a Bachelors program and submits a competitive award nomination package.


Sgt. Pitsenbarger was assigned to Detachment 6, 38 ARRSq when he was lost. The 38th ARRSq oversaw all HH-43 units in SEA. 3rd ARRGp oversaw all ARRS units in SEA.
I was a pilot in Pit's unit and flew the first helicopter from his unit into a small hole in the jungle the next day to recover the wounded. That was when we first learned that we had lost a very courageous young man.----Col. Mark Schibler

Notes from the Wall

24 May 2001

We were friends of William Pitsenbarger's parents in Ohio. This was a very difficult time for them as he was their only son.

Gary and Shirley Nagy
gandsnagy@charter.net
9 Sep 2004

On this day, Sept. 9,2004, an American Flag has been purchased in memory and in honor of William H. Pitsenbarger. This flag will be displayed from September 9-12, 2004, in Findlay, Hancock County, Ohio, during the HEALING FIELD FLAG MEMORIAL along with at least 4,200 other American Flags. This flag was purchased by Bill's first cousin, Wally McMasters, and Wally's family. A photo and information regarding Bill's heroic efforts were attatched to the flag post for all who visit this incredible display of patriotism to read. God bless Bill, his parents, family, friends and his fellow soldiers living and deceased. God bless America!

From the daughter of Bill's first cousin Wally McMasters,
Missy McMasters Schaller
Findlay, Ohio
dan2miss@aol.com
8 Mar 2005

William Pitsenbarger was a very important person in the Vietnam War. I just want you to know that everybody remembers and cares about him, and they won't forget, including me! He saved a lot of peoples' lives, and that makes him a very good person.

From
Maxie A.
cpage@pinecrest.edu
14 Feb 2006

William Hart Pitsenbarger was a great, generous man with lots of bravery. He sacrificed his life to save others. He refused to leave and just leave his buddies lying on the ground. Even though his body isn't there his soul is still alive with happiness. Thank you, because you made this country a safer, better place.

From an admirer,
Mark B.
cpage@pinecrest.edu
12 Jun 2006

I am currently an Airman in the U.S. Air Force. I've been reading a lot about Airman Pitsenbarger and I have to say I'm nothing short of inspired. I recently heard a quote from a movie that I believe sums up this Airman's dedication to his country.

"I would bleed on the flag to keep those stripes red."

It moved me deeply and reminded me of Airman Pitsenbarger's sacrifice. To you Sir, and all of our brothers who fought with you, I extend my most heartfelt gratitude. Hoorah.

From an admirer,
A1c James "Mike" Mathers
james.mathers@travis.af.mil
The President of the United States
in the name of the Congress of the United States
takes pride in presenting the
MEDAL OF HONOR
to
WILLIAM H. PITSENBARGER
Staff Sergeant
United States Air Force
for service as set forth in the following
CITATION:

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 on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles 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 were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier 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, pull 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 which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and Airman Pitsenbarger was finally 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 military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.

Notes from The Virtual Wall
Bill Pitsenbarger

A full description of the circumstances of A1C William Pitsenbarger's death can be found here. In brief, while operating near Xa Cam My during Operation Abilene Company C, 2/16 Infantry, stumbled across the base camp of the Viet Cong D800 Battalion - and found themselves in a vicious firefight with a superior enemy force under a 150-foot-high jungle canopy. Pitsenbarger, a para-rescueman, volunteered to participate in efforts to extract wounded infantrymen. The helicopters couldn't land, but had to hover over the jungle canopy and lower a stretcher (a "Stokes litter") by cable through the canopy. Pitsenbarger again volunteered, this time to go down with the stretcher to help with the wounded.

As night approached, the helicopters were forced to withdraw, leaving Pitsenbarger behind. Pitsenbarger alternated between aiding the wounded, making sapling stretchers to carry them, collecting and distributing weapons and ammunition, and actively fighting alongside the infantrymen. He was wounded three times before ultimately being killed by enemy sniper fire.

The following morning, Army relief units broke through to the surrounded units, finding only 14 of the original 180 infantrymen alive and unwounded. The Army's reports of Pitsenbarger's heroism under fire were sufficient to convince the Air Force to grant the Air Force Cross to Pitsenbarger.

Mr Pitsenbarger receives his son's Medal of Honor Over the years, additional eye-witness testimony became available, and the Air Force reopened Pitsenbarger's case with an eye toward upgrading his Air Force Cross to the Medal of Honor. The award was approved , and on 8 December 2000 the Secretary of the Air Force presented the Medal of Honor to his father, William Pitsenbarger, with Alice Pitsenbarger looking on.

William Pitsenbarger also received a posthumous promotion to Staff Sergeant.

His Medal of Honor and Airman's Medal citations:
Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger (AFSN: 15680744), United States Air Force, 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 on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles 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 were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier 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, pull 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 which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally 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 military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.
Action Date: 11-Apr-66
Service:  Air Force
Rank: Airman First Class
Company: Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron
Division: DaNang Air Base, Vietnam

Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Airman's Medal to Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger (AFSN: 15680744), United States Air Force, for heroism involving voluntary risk of life while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, in action near Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, on 7 March 1966. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was on duty when a helicopter was requested to remove a severely wounded Vietnamese from a burning, uncharted mine field. With complete disregard for his own safety and despite the hazard of being lowered on a concealed mine, Airman Pitsenbarger was voluntarily lowered by hoist to recover the injured man. The exemplary courage and heroism displayed by Airman Pitsenbarger have reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Action Date: 7-Mar-66
Service:  Air Force
Rank: Airman First Class
Company: Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron
Division: DaNang Air Base, Vietnam
 

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