The Last Full Measure was a movie released in 2020 about William H. Pitsenbarger Jr., who was awarded the Medal of Honor 34 years after his death. An award that he should’ve gotten from the very beginning.

Eager to Enlist

A1C William Pitsenbarger
A1C William Pitsenbarger. (U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons)

Pitsenbarger, or simply “Pits,” grew up in the small town of Piqua in Ohio as an only child. He wanted to enlist in the Army when he was junior high, but his parents did not allow him. He finished high school and pushed through with the enlistment— only this time, he decided to join the U.S. Air Force, where he volunteered to be Pararescueman. He completed the Airborne School, SCUBA, survival school, and a rescue and survival medical course. He was assigned to the Rescue Squadron in Hamilton Field, California.

Volunteered In Vietnam

Pits was then sent on Temporary Duty Assignment in Vietnam. Once he completed that, he volunteered to return as part of the Detachment Six, 38th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon. This unit performed the dangerous mission of recovering downed pilots hitting targets in North Vietnam.


A1C William Pitsenbarger preparing for a water jump

A1C William Pitsenbarger preparing for a water jump. (U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons)In Vietnam, Pits demonstrated that he was born to be a pararescue jumper. He completed over 250 missions, including rescuing a South Vietnamese soldier who lost a limb in a minefield, and he did so by hanging from the HH-43’s hoist cable. For that rescue, he was awarded the Airman’s Medal.

“These Things We Do, That Others May Live”

A1C William Pitsenbarger’s final and most selfless act in his career happened on April 11, 1966. It was his day off, but he volunteered to help extract a half-dozen or so wounded soldiers near Cam My. He boarded one of the two Kaman HH-43F Huskie helicopters sent for the mission on a battlefield where 134 Americans were fighting against some 500 Viet Cong.

As Army infantryman, Johnny Libs said, “I saw the guy coming down through the trees, and I said ‘What is he doin’ comin’ down here?'”