Monday, December 15, 2008

Airman up for Medal of Honor for Actions in Laos, 1968

CMSgt Richard Etchberger was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for his valorous actions at the destruction of Lima Site 85 in Laos in 1968. 40 years later, the request to upgrade his award to the Medal of Honor is on Secretary of Defense Gates' desk. The link goes to a site detailing the story; the AF lost 11 of 19 men at the site, the largest loss of AF personnel during a single engagement in the Vietnam War. As is too often the case, the loss of life was preventable but for bureaucratic friction. These guys were at the sharp, shitty end of the stick.
Etchberger's sons only ever knew that there father died in a helicopter accident. I can't access the Army Times story on-line (yet) but one thing that stood out was
For 14 years Etchberger's sons didn't know the truth of their father's death, Cory Etchberger said.
His mother was briefed on the mission when she went to DC with her husband [before the mission], but was sworn to secrecy. Not until the mission was declassified did she tell her sons about what their father did in Laos.

That's hardcore.
The citation for Etchberger's Air Force Cross reads
On 11 March 1968, Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger was manning a defensive position when the base was overrun by an enemy ground force.

The enemy was able to deliver sustained and withering fire directly upon this position from higher ground.

His entire crew dead or wounded, Chief Etchberger continued to return the enemy's fire thus denying them access to the position.

During this entire period, Chief Etchberger continued to direct air strikes and call for air rescue on his emergency radio, thereby enabling the air evacuation force to locate the surrounded friendly element.

When air rescue arrived, Chief Etchberger deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire in order to place his three surviving wounded comrades in the rescue slings permitting them to be airlifted to safety.

As Chief Etchberger was finally being rescued, he was fatally wounded, by enemy ground fire. His fierce defense which culminated in the supreme sacrifice of his life, saved not only the lives of his three comrades but provided for the successful evacuation of the remaining survivors of the base.

Sounds like a Medal of Honor to me.

The Mungadai salute CMSgt Etchberger, his family, and all the Airmen who gave their last full measure on that hilltop in 1968 and their families.

1 comment:

  1. Try this for a link