Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TFH 7/24: Lance Corporal Richard A. Pittman, USMC

Richard Allan Pittman was born on May 26, 1945 in San Joaquin, California. After he graduated from high school in June of 1964, he tried to enlist in both the United States Army and United States Navy but was turned down in both instances owing to his blindness in one eye.

In September 1965, the United States Marine Corps Reserve took a chance on the half-blind young Californian and accepted his enlistment application. Pittman's enlistment was switched to the active Marine Corps soon afterwards.

Pittman completed recruit training in February of 1966 and was sent to fight in Vietnam not long after with the 1st Marine Division as a rifleman in Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. He fought in several battles during his Vietnam tour through October 1967 including Operation Hastings during July 1966.

He had been promoted to Corporal while in Vietnam, and was a Sergeant when he left the Marines on April 5, 1968. A little more than one month later, Pittman was honored at the White House on May 14, 1968 when he was presented with the Medal of Honor in recognition of his actions on July 24, 1966 as a Lance Corporal during Hastings. Pittman had stood in the face of the enemy alone, and fought until he had exhausted all his ammunition, including that of weapons he picked from the ground.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (M-Z):


Rank and organization: Sergeant (then L/Cpl.), U.S. Marine Corps, Company 1, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein) FMF. Place and date: near the Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Vietnam, 24 July 1966. Entered service at: Stockton, Calif. Born: 26 May 1945, French Camp, San Joaquin, Calif. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While Company 1 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, Sgt. 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 Sgt. Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from 2 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 submachinegun 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. Sgt. 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 U.S. Naval Service.

Pittman rejoined the Marine Corps in 1970. He eventually retired in 1988 as a Master Sergeant and is still living.

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines is still part of the 1st Marine Division. They are stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

If you missed them, last week I highlighted two other heroes of Operation Hastings: Navy Cross recipient Lance Corporal Ned E. Seath and Medal of Honor recipient Captain Robert J. Modrzejewski.

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