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Richard Loy Etchberger

Date of birth: March 5, 1933
Date of death: March 11, 1968
Burial location: Hamburg, Pennsylvania
Place of Birth: Pennsylvania, Hamburg
Home of record: Hamburg Pennsylvania
Status: KIA

Because U.S. military combat personnel were prohibited from serving in Laos at the time of this action, Chief Master Sergeant Etchberger was officially in "civilian status" when Lima Site 85 was attacked. After his death he was reinstated to active duty status, awarded the Air Force Cross and Purple heart, and classified as Killed in Action. His is one of the few ground combat actions to result in award of the Air Force Cross. In 2007 Congressional action moved forward in an on-going effort to get his Air Force Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor, and on September 21, 2010, President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honors to his surviving family members.


Medal of Honor

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Chief Master Sergeant Richard Loy Etchberger (AFSN: 13409393), United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Chief Master Sergeant Etchberger distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on 11 March 1968, in the country of Laos, while assigned as Ground Radar Superintendent, Detachment 1, 1043d Radar Evaluation Squadron. On that date, Chief Etchberger and his team of technicians were manning a top secret defensive position at Lima Site 85 when the base was overrun by an enemy ground force. Receiving sustained and withering heavy artillery attacks directly upon his unit's position, Chief Etchberger's entire crew lay dead or severely wounded. Despite having received little or no combat training, Chief Etchberger single-handedly held off the enemy with an M-16, while simultaneously directing air strikes into the area and calling for air rescue. Because of his fierce defensive and heroic and selfless actions, he was able to deny the enemy access to his position and save the lives of his remaining crew. With the arrival of the rescue aircraft, Chief Etchberger, without hesitation, repeatedly and deliberately risked his own life, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire in order to place three surviving comrades into rescue slings hanging from the hovering helicopter waiting to airlift them to safety. With his remaining crew safely aboard, Chief 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. Chief Etchberger's bravery and determination in the face of persistent enemy fire and overwhelming odds are in keeping with the highest standards of performance and traditions of military service. Chief Etchberger's gallantry, self-sacrifice, and profound concern for his fellow men at risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: March 11, 1968

Service: Air Force

Rank: Chief Master Sergeant

Company: Detachment 1, 1043d Radar Evaluation Squadron

Division: Lima Site 85, Laos