SOG team running

Studies and Observation Group

When discussing the Vietnam War or Second Indochina War, there are many elements of the conflict one could cover. From napalm, punji sticks, and landmines to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Tet Offensive and the Montagnards, the Vietnam War was a very long, and casualty-ridden war. While one side ultimately may have won, both the U.S. and Communist-backed North Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian peoples felt the brunt of this conflict.

And according to Historynet.com, the Vietnam War is the generally used moniker for the Second Indochina War. The Vietnam war was noted to have lasted from 1954 to 1975. And in 1975, Saigon did fall, which signaled the end of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and a win for the North Vietnamese.

However, there were many impressive campaigns and many unsung heroes that were part of MACVSOG or (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). This group name was later shortened to Studies and Observation Group. Jerry “MAD DOG” Shriver, Robert “Bob” Howard, Dick Meadows, Walter Shumate, Billy Waugh, Larry Thorne, Fred Zabitosky, Jon Cavaiani, Roy Benavidez, and Norm Doney are just some of the names of these brave men who served these highly classified groups and missions from 24 January 1964 – May 1972.

The downsides to these super-secret missions were that the casualties were noted to have surpassed 100 percent. According to HistoryNet.com, that is the “highest sustained American loss rate since the Civil War.” The most important statistic is that in 1968, every man that was part of those MACV-SOG missions was wounded — with half of those were killed. Even though this particular reconnaissance group took high losses, they were known for having the highest ratio of kills (158-to-1). This kill number is the most successful in U.S. military history.

HistoryNet.com noted that the Green Berets, which are U.S. Army Special Forces were responsible for carrying out a large number of the most harrowing and challenging special operations of the Vietnam War. And depending on the time that these SOG millions occurred, they would be given unique names like “Prairie Fire” or “Shining Brass.” The Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was part of Laos and the Sihanouk Trail (named for Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia) were places that the U.S. recon teams in these SOG teams would concentrate their gathering information, sabbatage missions and more. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Air Force Combat Controllers and the Navy SEALs would be vetted through the Special Operations Augmentation (SOA) as part of SOG — this included the Army Green Berets. These missions utilized all land and sea forces to get things done. The SOA gave special “cover” while these secret orders were taking place.

The term, “over the fence,” was used for those Special Operations Groups and other military forces entering Laos and Cambodia, when the U.S. was not supposed to “officially” be doing recon and other operations in those areas. It was a slang term, which was used predominantly during the Vietnam War.

The small teams that were part of these Spec Ops Groups had a lot of time “over the fence.” SOGs are a legendary group for tales of bravery, patriotism and the hells of being in Nam. SOG was hatched on January 16, 1964, as noted on the website, Macvsog.cc.

This Special Operations Group was active for eight years with their over the fence operations in areas of southern Laos, Cambodia and especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These Spec Operations groups included a 12-man SPIKE Reconnaissance Teams as well as HATCHET Forces to assist as backups. These Special Forces HATCHET platoons were a crucial part of engaging North Vietnamese Communist Forces on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

U.S. forces used many B-52s to bomb critical areas of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These trails had been assigned to Spec Operations units in March of 1965, under the direction of COMUSMACV. These special recon missions included precise drops by U.S. helicopters (in and out) of designated zones as well as B-52 bombings. These B-52s were brought in to help stifle any activities of the North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, Pathet Lao, and the Khmer Rouge along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

There was also the Psychological Operations Group, which was mainly focused on the North Vietnamese war efforts against U.S. and allied forces during Nam. There has been (PSYOPS) during many American wars, especially in modern times, but the U.S. used special tactics and techniques to try and get the edge in the Vietnam War. Even as these Spec operations were all top-secret at the time, the U.S. was also involved in areas of South Vietnam that were being dominated by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). While their method was one of the unconventional warfare operations, these Spec Operations numbered in the 600s or more over a short period.

And as noted on the website, Psywarrior.com, the “Psychological Studies Branch” were directly responsible for creating “black propaganda” or OP-33.

Psywarrior.com stated that the OP-33, which was “patterned after the old OSS Morale Operations Division, OP-33 operated behind such heavy security that few Americans in Asia knew of its existence, which was essential as any trace of SOG’s involvement would destroy a deception’s effectiveness.”

Psywarrior.com also noted about the OP-33 that it was not a small operation. This black operation had a budget of 3.7 million dollars in 1967 and approximately 150 staff members. Half of the staff were known to be civilian Vietnamese. The other half of this group were U.S. military. There was also at least a dozen CIA officers supporting the OP-33.

Some of these messages the U.S. propagated included the idea that the NVA hated and feared the Chinese, which was trying to aggravate tensions among these two groups.

Some of the other propaganda efforts by the U.S. including sending false messages about many Chinese troops, which were located in North Vietnam romancing the women of NVA soldiers who were stationed far away as well as reports that the Communist Chinese were providing the NVA with poor ammunition. The U.S. was able to use some of these kernels of truth to boost the credibility of the stories and propaganda being fed to the NVA.

Robert Lewis Howard

SOG’S finest warrior

Col. Robert (Bob) Howard

When it comes to the example of a superiorly brave man who fought during the Vietnam War, Green Beret, Robert Lewis Howard is one of best known. Howard is truly extraordinary in his continual show of valor as a soldier who served during a 54-month timeframe in the U.S. Army. Born in Opelika, Alabama on July 11, 1939, Howard was decorated with many medals, specifically, the CMH Congressional Medal of Honor, Robert Lewis Howard was recognized for his work in the combat zone — most notable, MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). The CMH Congressional Medal of Honor is presented directly by the President of the United States in the name of the United States Congress. There are three distinct versions of the Medal of Honor: One for the Army, Navy and Air Force. The first Medal of Honor recipient went to a U.S. Army recipient in March of 1863. This example of valor by a soldier in the U.S. Army took place during the U.S. Civil War.

Howard was also nominated three times for the Medal of Honor, which is the United State’s highest military decoration for those serving in the armed forces. Robert Lewis Howard was recognized for his gallantry and brave actions that went above and beyond that critical call of duty while performing military operations to defeat the United States’s enemy during the Vietnam War. In 1992, Robert Howard retired from the Army’s Special Forces with the rank of Colonel. Col. Howard served in the Armed Services from 1956 to 1992.

The men who fought with Robert “Bob” Howard on SF missions as part of MACVSOG were in full agreement that he was a man who did indeed deserve the Medal of Honor. And in 1971, he was honored with a CMH from then-President, Richard Nixon.

Over Howard’s stellar military career, he earned the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, four Legion of Merit awards, three Air Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Cross as well as seven Joint Services Commendation Medals. Robert Howard was noted on record to having been wounded approximately 14 times even though he only received eight Purple Hearts. In addition to this extraordinary list of medals, Howard was also presented with awards by specific armed forces groups from other nations. Howard was also noted as being the most decorated soldier of the modern era according to RLHTribute.com.

Because of his impressive military service like being wounded in missions more than any one person can count on two hands, Howard received a direct appointment in 1969 by being promoted from the rank of Master Sergeant to First Lieutenant. And this military rank change was based on his bravery, gallantry and specific actions that were made a note of by his superiors and his fellow soldiers during one of his highly classified missions. Howard had been hit with many pieces of shrapnel and a hand that was severely damaged but was able to save soldiers and complete important parts of the operation before his fellow soldiers and Howard were able to get transported out of the area of special operation by helicopter.

Howard’s service during the Vietnam war — more specifically — those classified operations in Laos and Cambodia, included assignments with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, 1/327th Airborne Infantry, 5th SF Group as well as MACVSOG. According to RLHTrivure.com, Howard spent a large percentage of his five military tours in the MACVSOG (Special Operations Group). This group was responsible for hundreds of classified cross-border operations in North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Concerning his educational background, in May 1973 Robert “Bob” Howard graduated from Ranger School. Howard also served with the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington as Company Commander. From 1977-1978 he served as Mountain Ranger Training instructor.

As part of his military career, which began in Alabama in 1952, Howard served as the officer-in-charge at Camp Mackall in N.C. of Special Forces training. Howard also had a role in command at the Mountain Ranger Training Camp, which was situated in Dahlonega, Georgia. Howard graduated from the National War College as well as part of the 1987-1988 class. He was also noted to have earned two Master’s degrees while in the Army from 1952 to 1992.

While he was able to retire from military service as a Colonel in the U.S. Army, he also worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Howard also visited active-duty troops in Iraq during his lifetime.

At the age of 70, Robert Lewis Howard passed away in a hospice situation from pancreatic cancer in Waco, Texas, in December of 2009. Howard had been visited by many fellow soldiers and other notable individuals during his fight with pancreatic cancer. Army Colonel, Robert Howard also received posthumous awards like the Bull Simons Award in 2014 for his lifetime achievements concerning Special Operations in the field of battle.

And according to Shadowspear.com, this Bull Simons Award is USSOCOM’s top honor. This award was first given in 1990. Since 1990, awarding this award has become an annual tradition. Shadowspear also noted about this award that it recognizes those recipients who personify the values, genuine spirit and skills of a Special Operations warrior. Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons is named for this award. Simons was noted as the epitome of these special attributes that can be compared to Col. Howard’s storied career.

And in the case of Robert “Bob” Howard, his heroic actions in the most harrowing of war situations where his life was always at risk to save his fellow soldiers and other soldiers who fought with the U.S. to defeat the enemy, will never be forgotten.

Colonel Howard may have had some of his recognitions downgraded to keep him out of the larger spotlight during those times when the U.S. was performing super-secret covert operations in the countries of Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. However, his final legacy is one of true respect and admiration from those that truly understand what support our American freedoms truly stand for. And the lives of those who fought for the U.S. should never be forgotten.

When all was said and done, Colonel Howard received an appropriate burial at Arlington National Cemetery with the full honor that he deserved in February 2010. For a man who was initially trained to occupy the role of a supply sergeant, Howard became an essential part of the U.S. Army’s recon and hatchet force teams. Robert Howard is a soldier whose bravery and the shedding of his blood in defense of American and the world’s democratic freedoms should never be cast aside in shame on vain.

Roza Shanina

Roza Shanina the unseen terror of East Prussia

Roza Shanina was a Soviet sniper during World War II who was credited with fifty-nine confirmed kills, including twelve soldiers during the Battle of Vilnius. Shanina volunteered for the military after the death of her brother in 1941 and chose to be a marksman on the front line. Praised for her shooting accuracy, Shanina was capable of precisely hitting enemy personnel and making doublets (two target hits by two rounds fired in quick succession).

In 1944, a Canadian newspaper described Shanina as “the unseen terror of East Prussia”. She became the first Soviet female sniper to be awarded the Order of Glory and was the first servicewoman of the 3rd Belorussian Front to receive it. According to the report of Major Degtyarev (the commander of the 1138th Rifle Regiment) for the corresponding commendation list, between 6 and 11 April Shanina killed 13 enemy soldiers while subjected to artillery and machine-gun fire. By May 1944, her sniper tally increased to 17 confirmed enemy kills, and Shanina was praised as a precise and brave soldier. The same year, on 9 June, Shanina’s portrait was featured on the front page of the Soviet newspaper Unichtozhim Vraga.

When Operation Bagration commenced in the Vitebsk region on 22 June 1944, it was decided that female snipers would be withdrawn. They voluntarily continued to support the advancing infantry anyway, and despite the Soviet policy of sparing snipers, Shanina asked to be sent to the front line. Although her request was refused, she went anyway. Shanina was later sanctioned for going to the front line without permission but did not face a court-martial. She wanted to be attached to a battalion or a reconnaissance company, turning to the commander of the 5th Army, Nikolai Krylov. Shanina also wrote twice to Joseph Stalin with the same request.

In the face of the East Prussian Offensive, the Germans tried to strengthen the localities they controlled against great odds. In a diary entry dated 16 January 1945, Shanina wrote that despite her wish to be in a safer place, some unknown force was drawing her to the front line. In the same entry, she wrote that she had no fear and that she had even agreed to go “to a melee combat”. The next day, Shanina wrote in a letter that she might be on the verge of being killed because her battalion had lost 72 out of 78 people. Her last diary entry reports that German fire had become so intense that the Soviet troops, including herself, had sheltered inside self-propelled guns.

On 27 January Shanina was severely injured while shielding a wounded artillery officer. She was found by two soldiers disemboweled, with her chest torn open by a shell fragment. Despite attempts to save her, Shanina died the following day near the Richau estate (later a Soviet settlement of Telmanovka. Shanina was buried under a spreading pear tree on the shore of the Alle River (now called the Lava) and was later reinterred in the settlement of Znamensk, Kaliningrad Oblast.

In 1964–65 a renewed interest in Shanina arose in the Soviet press, largely due to the publication of her diary. The newspaper Severny Komsomolets asked Shanina’s contemporaries to write what they knew about her. Streets in Arkhangelsk, Shangaly, and Stroyevskoye were named after her, and the village of Yedma has a museum dedicated to Shanina. The local school where she studied in 1931–35 has a commemorative plate.

This is the last known picture of Rosa Shanina. The photo was taken on January 1, 1945. 28 days later she was killed in action.

Shanina’s personal life was thwarted by war. On 10 October 1944, she wrote in her diary, “I can’t accept that Misha Panarin doesn’t live anymore. What a good guy! [He] has been killed … He loved me, I know, and I him … My heart is heavy, I’m twenty, but I have no close [male] friend”. In November 1944, Shanina wrote that she “is flogging into her head that [she] loves” a man named Nikolai, although he “doesn’t shine in upbringing and education”. In the same entry, she wrote that she did not think about marriage because “it’s not the time now”. She later wrote that she “had it out” with Nikolai and “wrote him a note in the sense of but I’m given to the one and will love no other one“. Ultimately in her last diary record, filled with somber tones, Shanina wrote that she “cannot find a solace” now and is “of no use to anyone”.

Charles Hazlitt Upham

Charles Hazlitt Upham

Charles Hazlitt Upham is probably New Zealand’s most famous soldier. He became one of only three people ever to win the Victoria Cross twice for his actions in Crete in 1941 and Egypt in 1942. He is the only person to have achieved this as a combat soldier.

Born in Christchurch in 1908, Upham joined the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force soon after war broke out in September 1939. He came to symbolize what many saw as the essential qualities of ‘the typical New Zealand soldier’. He developed these qualities as a musterer in the Canterbury high country, where men had ‘to match the ruggedness of nature with their own ruggedness of physique and temperament’.

Upham earned the VC for outstanding gallantry and leadership in Crete in May 1941, and his Bar at Ruweisat Ridge, Egypt, in July 1942. After being severely wounded in the latter engagement, Upham was captured by the Germans. After a failed escape attempt while recuperating in an Italian hospital, he was transferred to Germany in September 1943. A particularly audacious solo attempt to scale his camp’s barbed-wire fences in broad daylight saw Upham become the only New Zealand combatant officer sent to the infamous Colditz camp for habitual escapers in 1944.

Upham was fiercely loyal to his comrades and shunned the limelight. When informed of his first VC he was genuinely distressed at being singled out. He believed that others deserved it more than he did. Only by seeing it as recognition of the bravery and service of his unit could Upham accept the award and the unwanted attention that went with it. Upham was presented with his first VC at Buckingham Palace on 11 May 1945.

After Upham’s capture officers of 2NZEF had begun collecting evidence to support the award of a bar to his Victoria Cross. The British authorities considered it unlikely that a bar would be awarded. It was decided to leave the matter until his release. In July 1945 Bernard Freyberg revived the question. The British thought Upham should be made a DSO. But further evidence was gathered by Major-General Howard Kippenberger and it was decided that his actions at Minqâr Qaim and Ruweisat Ridge merited the highest recognition possible. When the recommendation for his second VC was made later in 1945 King George VI said to Kippenberger that a Bar to the cross would be ‘very unusual indeed’. The king inquired, ‘Does he deserve it?’ − to which Kippenberger replied, ‘In my respectful opinion sir Upham won the VC several times over’. News of the second VC was released in September 1945.

After the war, Upham returned to farming life in Canterbury, where he died in 1994. Modest and selfless, but extremely tough and single-minded, Upham came to symbolize the steely determination and professionalism of the New Zealand Division in the Second World War.

Read the full biography.

Lieutenant Thomas Norris

In the spring of 1972, an American electronic surveillance plane was shot down over North Vietnam. One crewman survived the crash and narrowly escaped capture. The Air Force launched an unprecedented rescue effort. In five days, 14 people were killed, eight aircraft were lost, two rescuers were captured and two more were stranded behind enemy lines.

On April 10, 1972, Lieutenant Thomas Norris led a five-man patrol deep into enemy territory. Separating temporarily from his patrol, he traveled alone through the jungle and located one of the downed pilots just before dawn. He led his crew safely back to their forward operating base. Later that day, a North Vietnamese rocket attack on the small base inflicted devastating casualties and compelled the medical evacuation of the one other American officer, the remaining Vietnamese officers and all but a remnant of the Vietnamese supporting force. After an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the first missing flier, two of Norris’s three remaining Vietnamese commandos proved unwilling to accompany Norris on further missions.

On the afternoon of the 12th, a forward air controller located the first pilot and notified Lt. Norris. Dressed as fishermen, Lt. Norris and a Vietnamese comrade, Nguyen Van Kiet, paddled a sampan up the river and found the injured pilot at dawn. Concealing him in the bottom of their vessel, Norris and Kiet headed down river to their base, dodging one North Vietnamese patrol and surviving heavy machine gun fire from a bunker along the river. This extraordinary rescue has been recounted in numerous books and a feature film, BAT-21, the Air Force code name for the original reconnaissance mission.

The following October he received a near-fatal head wound in action and was rescued by his fellow Navy SEAL, Michael Thornton. At first, Norris’s doctors gave him little chance of recovery, but with constant encouragement from his family and from Michael Thornton, Norris fought on. In time, Norris and Thornton enjoyed the unique satisfaction of witnessing each other’s Medal of Honor ceremonies at the White House. Thomas Norris ultimately realized his youthful ambition of joining the FBI. After many years of distinguished service in FBI hostage rescue operations, he now enjoys a well-earned retirement in Idaho.

Having a drink with a German friend

Collaborator girls of WWII

German-Occupied Europe

It’s 1942 and the Germans occupy and dominate the vast majority of Europe. They were there, on the scene, and the local men either were not (dead, in prison camps, in hiding) or were greatly diminished in status. Like soldiers of every army of every period of history, as soon as the Germans got comfortable, they started scouting around for women. And, as always in times of military occupation, there were willing women to be found.

And, sure enough, the German soldiers found them. It’s not quite clear what the big deal was about exchanging clothes with your French girlfriend, but as shown on many pictures here, that seemed to be the thing to do. And it seemed quite common as if this was ‘the proof’ of, well, you know.

Everyone in the Wehrmacht knew that Paris was the place to be. The official German propaganda outlets even advertised its allures. Essentially, and this is no exaggeration, Paris became almost synonymous with “giant cathouse” in the Wehrmacht. To some extent, that reputation remains to this day in certain quarters.

Some of the women simply fell in love and married their German beau. Who could foresee that the world would change so drastically so quickly? Once in that situation, staying home became untenable – time to follow husband wherever he is headed, even if it is prison camp. And sometimes you need to put aside your cynicism – love is love, for better or worse.

Conquering soldiers have a lot to offer a girl, especially a soldier who has rank and can most likely offer all sorts of inducements. Clearly, these ladies had no difficulty taking advantage of all those lonely men and offering them some solace, and the soldiers had an easy time taking advantage of naive girls who had no idea of the enormity of what they were doing.

Some 200,000+ babies were born to German fathers during the French occupation. There was nothing special about French women: in one of the Channel Islands, 900 such babies were registered. In Norway, 8-12,000 babies (including Anni-Frid Lyngstad of Abba fame) resulted. Such marriages also were encouraged in Denmark and Holland.

There are thousands upon thousands of joyful pictures of the liberation of France in 1944. But among the cheering images, there are also shocking ones. These show the fate of women accused of “collaboration horizontale”. It is impossible to forget Robert Capa’s fallen-Madonna image of a shaven-headed young woman, cradling her baby, implicitly the result of a relationship with a German soldier.

The Phoenix Program

The Phoenix Program

The CIA, assassinations and terror of the Phoenix.

The Phoenix Program was a brutal counterinsurgency program run by William Colby, later head of the C.I.A., aimed at weeding out Viet Cong and their sympathizers. According to some sources, more than 25,000 suspected Viet Cong were killed, many of them assassinated, as part of the operation. The Phoenix Program program designed, coordinated, and executed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States special operations forces, special forces operatives from the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam and the Republic of Vietnam’s (South Vietnam) security apparatus during the Vietnam War. The program was in operation between 1965 and 1972, and similar efforts existed both before and after that period. By 1972, Phoenix operatives had “neutralized” 81,740 suspected NLF operatives, informants, and supporters, of whom 26,369 were killed.

The Program was designed to identify and “neutralize” (via infiltration, capture, terrorism, torture, and assassination) the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong). The CIA described it as “a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Viet Cong”. The major two components of the program were Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) and regional interrogation centers. PRUs would kill and capture suspected VC. They would also capture VC and civilians who were thought to have information on VC activities. Many of these people were then taken to the interrogation centers where some were tortured in an attempt to gain intelligence on VC activities in the area. The information extracted at the centers was then given to military commanders, who would use it to task the PRU with further capture and assassination missions.

In a paper for the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, Colonel Andrew R. Finlayson of the U.S. Marine Corps wrote: “The Phoenix program is arguably the most misunderstood and controversial program undertaken by the governments of the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was, quite simply, a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Lao Dong Party (hereafter referred to as the Viet Cong infrastructure or VCI) in South Vietnam. Phoenix was misunderstood because it was classified, and the information obtained by the press and others were often anecdotal, unsubstantiated, or false. The program was controversial because the antiwar movement and critical scholars in the United States and elsewhere portrayed it as an unlawful and immoral assassination program targeting civilians. [Source: Colonel Andrew R. Finlayson, USMC (Ret.), A Retrospective on Counterinsurgency Operations, The Tay Ninh Provincial Reconnaissance Unit and Its Role in the Phoenix Program, 1969-70, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence ^^]

William Hart Pitsenbarger

William Hart Pitsenbarger

USAF Pararescue

Flying on almost 300 rescue missions in Vietnam, Bill Pitsenbarger risked his life almost daily during the war rescuing downed soldiers and fliers. On April 11, 1966, the 21-year-old, known as “Pits” to his friends, was killed while defending some of his wounded comrades. For his bravery and sacrifice, he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest military decorations, the Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross, becoming the first enlisted airman to receive the medals posthumously.

Pitsenbarger was born in 1944 and grew up in Piqua, Ohio, a small town near Dayton. When Bill was a junior in high school, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret, but his parents refused to give their permission. After he graduated from high school, he decided to join the Air Force, and on New Year’s Eve 1962, he was on a train bound for basic training in San Antonio.

During his basic training in early 1963, Bill volunteered for Pararescue. He completed the very difficult qualifying requirements and was one of the first group of airmen to qualify for Pararescue right out of basic training. After completing the very trying and difficult pararescue training, Bill was assigned to the Rescue Squadron assigned to Hamilton AFBCalifornia. He was later sent on TDY (Temporary Duty) to Vietnam. Upon completing his first TDY assignment, he volunteered to return and received orders in 1965 to report to Detachment 6, 38th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon. His unit was composed of five aircrews that flew three Kaman HH-43F Huskie helicopters. His commander, Maj. Maurice Kessler called him “One of a special breed. Alert and always ready to go on any mission.”

On April 11, 1966, the Joint Rescue Center dispatched two Huskies from Detachment 6 to extract a half-dozen or more Army casualties pinned down in a battle near Cam My, a few miles east of Saigon. Upon reaching the site of the ambush, he was lowered through the trees to the ground where he attended to the wounded before having them lifted to the helicopter by a cable. After six wounded men had been flown to an aid station, the two Air Force helicopters returned for their second load.

As one of the helicopters lowered its litter basket to Pitsenbarger, who had remained on the ground with the 20 infantrymen still alive, it was hit by a burst of enemy small-arms fire. When its engine began to lose power, the pilot realized he had to get the helicopter away from the area as soon as possible. Instead of climbing into the litter basket so he could leave with the helicopter, Pitsenbarger elected to remain with the Army troops under enemy attack and he gave a “wave-off” to the helicopter which flew away to safety. With heavy mortar and small-arms fire, the helicopters couldn’t return to rescue the rescuer.

For the next hour and a half, Pitsenbarger attended to wounded soldiers, hacking splints out of snarled vines and building improvised stretchers out of saplings. When the others began running low on ammunition, he gathered ammunition from the dead and distributed them to those still alive. Then, he joined the others with a rifle to hold off the Viet Cong. Pitsenbarger was killed by Viet Cong snipers later that night. When his body was recovered the next day, one hand still held a rifle and the other clutched a medical kit.

Although Pitsenbarger did not escape alive, nine other men did, partially thanks to his courage and their devotion to duty. He is buried in Miami Memorial Park Cemetery Covington, Ohio. His grave can be found in plot 43-D, grave #2.