William Hart Pitsenbarger

United States Air Force
08 July 1944 - 11 April 1966
Piqua, Ohio
Panel 06E Line 102

Medal of Honor

USAF Aircrew

Airmen's Medal, Purple Heart (2 awards), Air Medal (4 awards), National Defense, Vietnam Service, RVN Military Merit, RVN Cross of Gallantry, RVN Campaign medals
Bill Pitsenbarger

The database page for William Hart Pitsenbarger

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

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

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.

Maxie A.

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.

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

The President of the United States
in the name of the Congress of the United States
takes pride in presenting the



Staff Sergeant
United States Air Force

for service as set forth in the following


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.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 24 May 2001
Last updated 08/10/2009