You have heard of the Army’s Green Berets, and the Navy’s SEALs, but have you ever heard of the Air Force’s Parajumpers? Affectionately known as the “PJs”, these special forces troops drop into the toughest situations to rescue people in impossible situations. Oh yeah, they can fight too.
William Pitsenbarger of Piqua Ohio was a PJ during the Vietnam War. He had volunteered to be a PJ and volunteered for duty in Vietnam. On April 11th, 1966, US Army troops had been ambushed and were surrounded about 35 Mike’s east of Saigon. The call went out to Pitsenbarger’s Air Force unit to come in their helicopters and evacuate the wounded.
When his helicopter arrived at the battle, William volunteered to ride a hoist over 100 feet through the jungle to the ground– while the communists were firing at him. Once on the ground safely he quickly went to work patching up the wounded and getting them onto the hoist and lifting them 100 feet up into the sky and into the helicopter. Each time one of the nine evacuated soldiers were hoisted up, Pitsenbarger would refuse to go with them. The Airman chose to stay with the Army on the ground and try to save just one more.
Finally, a helicopter was hit and had to leave the scene. William was where he thought he was needed most…on the ground tending the wounded, gathering ammo from the dead, and eventually joining in the fight by borrowing an M-16 and shooting back. The Americans suffered 80 percent casualties, but the PJ continuously exposed himself to enemy fire while dragging the wounded to safety and fighting back. All night he did this…until an enemy sniper found him. William Pitsenbarger was found dead the next morning, but holding his rifle in one hand and his medical kit in the other. Reinforcements arrived and the communists were driven off. The American troops were rescued.
William was dead at the age of 21.
For his acts of “conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty”, William Pitsenbarger was awarded the Medal of Honor. Remember him this Memorial Day.