MOH Recipient Richard Pittman, USMC – Remembering the Hero
When someone says a person has “balls of steel,” Medal of Honor recipients often come to mind. One in particular, Richard A. Pittman, who passed away in October of last year, is a case in point.
There are many more famous names than his; people like him who have done amazing feats of valor. He served in the Vietnam War with Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines near the Demilitarized Zone.
He was a Lance Corporal on July 24, 1966 and was the last in his column when the ambush hit.
“Believe it or not, I had the last functioning machine gun…I didn’t have any other goal in mind, other than to just, you know, help my fellow Marines. And, in retrospect, fortunately, I was able to do that.” Richard Pittman
Just kept on shooting
Here is what his citation reads:
“While Company I was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force.
Hearing the engaged Marines’ calls for more firepower, Sergeant Pittman quickly exchanged his rifle for a machinegun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades.
Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy position. As Sergeant Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from two automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed.
Learning that there were additional wounded Marines 50 yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading Marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy.
Totally disregarding his safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machinegun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up an enemy submachine gun and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn.
Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his platoon. Sergeant Pittman’s daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted many enemy casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the United States Naval Service.”
His unit ambushed, he did something totally crazy. He “calmly” established a position and took out the enemy with first his machine gun, a fallen Marine’s handgun, then an enemy’s weapon. He stopped only when he ran out of ammo.
Medal of Honor
He received the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson on May 14, 1968.
He had no idea how many of his fellow Marines died that day until he visited the Vietnam Memorial in DC, according to Stars and Stripes.
“I never knew how many were killed and wounded until I went to the Vietnam Memorial. When I saw a couple of names that I knew, that were in my squad. Then the day of the action and all the names that were right there together. I was in shock. Because we were all buddies. We were all close. There was a lot.” Richard Pittman
Mr. Pittman retired from the Marine Corps on October 27, 1988 as a Master Sergeant. He was lauded for his dedication to serving the veteran’s community after his service.
“He was always reaching out a helping hand to those who needed it. He put others before himself, just like he did in the Marine Corps. He’s a role model for not only the young people of America but also for the peers of his generation – if we could only live our lives like he did, we’d all be better off.” Navy Capt. Tom Kelley, president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
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