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Statement by the President Upon Presenting the Medal of Honor to the Widow and Children of Capt. Riley L. Pitts, USA.

December 10, 1968

THIS IS a moment touched with sorrow and splendor.

Captain Riley L. Pitts, who earned his Nation's Medal of Honor, is with us no more--and grief burdens the hearts of all of us in this room.

But what this man did in an hour of incredible courage will live in the story of America as long as America endures--as he will live in the hearts and memories of those who loved him.

He was a brave man, and leader of men. No greater thing could be said of any man. His valor under fire moved him forever into that select company where the heroes of our history stand.

His sacrifice was for us all. His countrymen, and all who live in freedom, will be indebted to him for all of freedom's days.

It is with a heavy heart but a proud one that I present this Medal to Mrs. Pitts and to the children of this great and good American whom we remember and honor today.

[The text of the citation follows.]

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to


for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Captain Riley L. Pitts, Infantry, United States Army, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while serving as Company Commander of Company C, 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry, during an airmobile assault in the vicinity of Ap Dong, Republic of Vietnam, on 31 October 1967. Immediately after his company landed in the area, several Viet Cong opened fire with automatic weapons. Despite the enemy fire, Captain Pitts forcefully led an assault which overran the enemy positions. Shortly thereafter, Captain Pitts was ordered to move his unit to the north to reinforce another company heavily engaged against a strong enemy force. As Captain Pitts' company moved forward to engage the enemy, intense fire was received from three directions, including fire from four enemy bunkers, two of which were within 15 meters of Captain Pitts' position. The severity of the incoming fire prevented Captain Pitts from maneuvering his company. His rifle fire proving ineffective against the enemy due to the dense jungle foliage, he picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and began pinpointing the targets. Seizing a Chinese Communist grenade which had been taken from a captured Viet Cong's web gear, Captain Pitts lobbed the grenade at a bunker to his front, but it hit the dense jungle foliage and rebounded. Without hesitation, Captain Pitts threw himself on top of the grenade which, fortunately, failed to explode. Captain Pitts then directed the repositioning of the company to permit friendly artillery to be fired. Upon completion of the artillery fire mission, Captain Pitts again led his men toward the enemy positions, personally killing at least one more Viet Cong. The jungle growth still prevented effective fire to be placed on the enemy bunkers. Captain Pitts, displaying complete disregard for his life and personal safety, quickly moved to a position which permitted him to place effective fire on the enemy. He maintained a continuous fire, pinpointing the enemy's fortified positions, while at the same time directing and urging his men forward, until he was mortally wounded. Captain Pitts' conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the armed forces of his country.


Note: The President presented the Medal in his office at the White House to Mrs. Eula Pitts and her two children, Mark, 5, and Stacie, 7.

As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Presenting the Medal of Honor to the Widow and Children of Capt. Riley L. Pitts, USA. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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