Robert Harrison Pilk

Sergeant First Class
Army Of The United States
18 August 1945 - 19 June 1970
Wewahitchka, FL
Panel 09W Line 070

Robert H. Pilk

Silver Star


Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Robert Harrison Pilk

Robert H Pilk
Photo courtesy of Mary Lou Whitfield

But these also were godly men,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten.
Their offspring will continue forever,
and their glory will never be blotted out.
Their names live on generation after generation.
Ecclesiasticus 44:10-14

Staff Sergeant Robert H. Pilk was my first husband.

We were married for 6 years and had three children together. These girls, now ages 36, 35, and 32, are interested in finding out all they can about their father. He was serving with the Troop C , 7/17 Cavalry (the "Ruthless Riders"), during his last tour (1969-70).

The girls were so young (Marybeth, the youngest, only 3 months old) when he was killed in action on June 19, 1970, they don't remember much about him. Before that he served with an Advisory Team, #21, I believe, near Pleiku.

Mary Louise Whitfield

The Mission

On 19 June 1970, Staff Sergeant Pilk was flying as an observer in an OH-6A (tail number 67-16244) on a reconnaissance mission. While on a low altitude/low speed firing run (approximately 20 feet and 40 knots), the aircraft was hit by automatic weapons fire, exploded, and crashed. The pilot and gunner, although injured, survived the crash, but SSG Pilk did not.

Six weeks earlier, on 05 May 1970, SSG Pilk had again been flying in an OH-6 as an observer, this time helping to cover the southern flank of a multi-Division insertion of US and ARVN troops into Cambodia, part of the Sanctuary Counter-Offensive. His aircraft was one of five in the covering force (two OH-6A scouts, two AH-1 gunships, and one UH-1 command and control ship). On arrival in the target area, the covering force received heavy fire and one of the OH-6A scouts (tail number 67-16554) went down. Usually the C&C ship would provide pick-up but in this instance the second OH-6A scout landed to attempt a rescue. Pilk's aircraft was forced to land about 200 meters from the downed OH-6. Pilk left his aircraft and moved through heavy underbrush to the downed OH-6. He got the pilot out of the aircraft and was bringing him out when NVA troops got between him and his ship. The other three airborne helicopters provided covering fire and Pilk, carrying the injured pilot, was able to get back to his aircraft which immediately lifted off. SSG Pilk reported that SP4 Richard S. Moden, the observer aboard the downed Scout, was dead.

The intense ground fire made it impossible to retrieve SP4 Moden's body, but about three days later, other members of A Troop working in the area located and retrieved his body.

Staff Sergeant Pilk received the Silver Star for his actions that day. He is remembered by his brothers-in-arms on the Ruthless Riders web site.

Collated from VHPA records

A memorial initiated by his daughter,
Mary Beth Pilk-Smith 
31 Mar 2002

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)