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Fallen Airman Receives Medal of Honor

From a U.S. Air Force News Release

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2010 – An airman who was killed 42 years ago in Laos received the Medal of Honor for actions he took after enemy forces overran a clandestine U.S. radar site.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. "Dick" Etchberger, who was killed while saving the lives of some of his crew during a fierce battle at a radar site in Laos in 1968, will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously in a Sept. 21, 2010, White House ceremony. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. "Dick" Etchberger, 35, died March 11, 1968, after being shot following an overnight battle on Mount Phou Pha Thi at Lima Site 85, as the radar location was known to Americans, where he helped to maintain equipment that aided the U.S. bombing campaign of North Vietnam.

Despite having received little or no combat training, Etchberger single-handedly held off the enemy with an M-16 rifle while simultaneously directing air strikes into the area and calling for air rescue. Because of his fierce defense and heroic and selfless actions, he was able to deny the enemy access to his position and save the lives of some of his crew.

With the arrival of the rescue aircraft, Etchberger again deliberately risked his life, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire to place his three surviving wounded comrades into rescue slings hanging from a hovering helicopter waiting to airlift them to safety.

With his remaining crew safely aboard, Etchberger finally climbed into an evacuation sling himself, only to be fatally wounded by enemy ground fire as he was being raised into the aircraft.

"He should have a 55-gallon drum full of medals," said retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. John G. Daniel, 71, of La Junta, Colo., who was one of the three rescued airmen. "I wouldn't be alive without him."

Following a 2008 personnel board of review of the chief's actions, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley nominated the Hamburg, Pa., native for the U.S. military's highest decoration, which is awarded "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty."

President Barack Obama approved Etchberger’s Medal of Honor, which was presented at a White House ceremony. Etchberger will be inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes tomorrow.


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Related Sites:
Remarks: Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz
Remarks: Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy
Air Force Special Report

Related Articles:
Obama to Award Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Airman


Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

9/21/2010 2:13:24 PM
My dad served with Dick Etchberger. My father was stationed with Det. 1 CEVG, La Junta, CO. He was TDY for schools in Mississippi during the time period when quite a few members of Det. 1 were serving in Laos. I wish my dad (Tech. Sgt. John M. Cook) was still alive to see this day. It was a heavy burden upon my father to see many of his friends KIA during this mission. Chief Etchberger, for my father, may God rest your soul in peace, we salute and honor your service to our great nation....
- Chris Cook, Anchorage, AK

9/21/2010 12:07:20 PM
It is unlikely that an Air Force Vietnam veteran's records would have been destroyed in the St. Louis fire. This individual should contact a veterans service officer from the VFW, Legion, DAV, etc. at the VA hospital and they can conduct research for him. Prostate canser is a presumptive Agent Orange condition and so long as the individual can document that he was in VN, he should receive VA compensation and treatment.
- M. C. Agresti, Alexandria, VA

9/21/2010 10:40:27 AM
Dear Sir: I am very happy for what has had the government done. I am one of those that serving in USAF, and because my records did burn, it has been long time for whoever is in charge of answering my letters that from time to time I was in Vietnam. But , thanks to the medical attention that I receive at the Miami Veterans Medical Center I still alive, far from committing suicide, and developing prostate Cancer, but recently they are investigating about my case of Neuropathy. I Hope that finally they (whoever is in charge) believe about its relationship with Agent Orange more than 40 years later. Jimmy R. Aycart AF16755844
- Jimmy R. Aycart, Miami, Fl

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