William H. Pitsenbarger
Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger Rescue and Survival Specialist
Born: July 8, 1944, Piqua, Ohio
Son of W. F. and Irene Pitsenbarger
Graduated Piqua High School Class of 1962
Died: April 11, 1966, near Cam My, Vietnam
Airman Pitsenbarger was the first airman to receive the Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism when he sacrificed his life to insure the rescue of wounded combatants, Vietnam, April 1966. He wore the Air Medal with nine oak leaf clusters.
William H. Pitsenbarger was a member of the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service. The Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service is legendary for heroism in peace and war. No one better exemplifies its motto, "That Others May Live” than Bill Pitsenbarger. He descended voluntarily into the hell of a jungle firefight with valor as his only shield, and valor was his epitaph.
By April 1966, twenty one year old A1C William H. Pitsenbarger, then in the final months of his enlistment, had seen more action than a thirty-year veteran. Young Pitsenbarger had gone through long and arduous training for duty as a pararescue medic and had
On April 11 while Pitsenbarger was off duty, a call for help came into his unit in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam.
With complete disregard for his personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger voluntarily rode a rescue hoist more than 100 feet to the ground to organize and coordinate rescue efforts at the scene.
Sensing the desperate situation, Pitsenbarger decided on his own to remain with the wounded even though they were under heavy sniper and mortar fire. He gathered rifles and ammunition from fallen comrades to pass along to the defenders. His heroic efforts ended when he was mortally wounded by enemy automatic weapons fire.
When his body was recovered, he had a rifle in one hand and a medical
kit in the other. Of the 180 men with whom he fought his last battle, only
fourteen were uninjured.
Topics and series. This memorial is listed in these topic lists: Air & Space • War, Vietnam. In addition, it is included in the Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross/Air Force Cross Recipients series list. A significant historical date for this entry is April 11, 1966.
Location. 40° 9.851′ N, 84° 15.339′ W. Marker is in Piqua, Ohio, in Miami County. Memorial is at
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within one mile of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Piqua's Vietnam Home Front / William H. Pitsenbarger (within shouting distance of this marker); Piqua Veterans Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Piqua (within shouting distance of this marker); Forest Hill Union Cemetery (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Alexander Post No. 158 G.A.R. Civil War Memorial (about 500 feet away); United Spanish War Veterans (about 600 feet away); Prehistoric Indian Mound (approx. 0.9 miles away); Johnston Barn (approx. one mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Piqua.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
1. Air Force Cross Medal Upgraded to Medal of Honor.
After review, and nearly 35 years later, the original Air Force Cross award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor on December 8th, 2000. Receiving the posthumous medal in his honor were his father and wife. The 2019 film, The Last Full Measure, tells the story of his actions in Vietnam and the extraordinary efforts to upgrade the Air Force
Credits. This page was last revised on February 14, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 13, 2021, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 231 times since then and 84 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on February 13, 2021, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. 4. submitted on February 14, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.