Captain

Riley L. Pitts

Army
Inducted 2000


Medal of Honor Recipient

Medal of Honor Recipient

Riley L. Pitts

In 1968 Captain Riley L. Pitts of Failis, Okla., became the first African-American officer in history to receive the Congressional Medal Of Honor posthumously. Captain Pitts was a career soldier in the U.S. Army, assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. The place and date of his citation was Ap Dong, Republic of Vietnam, Oct. 31, 1967 and reads:

"Distinguishing himself by exceptional heroism while serving as company commander during an airmobile assault. Immediately after his company landed in the area, several Viet Cong opened fire with automatic weapons. Despite enemy fire, Capt. Pitts forcefully led an assault which overran the enemy positions. Shortly thereafter, Capt. Pitts was ordered to move his unit to the north to reinforce another company heavily engaged against a strong enemy force.

As Capt. Pitts' company moved forward to engage the enemy, intense fire was received from 3 directions, including fire from four enemy bunkers, two of which were within 15 meters of Capt. Pitts' position. The severity of the incoming fire prevented Capt. Pitts from maneuvering his company. His rifle fire proving ineffective against the enemy due to 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, Capt. Pitts lobbed the grenade at a bunker to his front, but it hit the dense jungle foliage and rebounded. Without hesitation, Capt. Pitts threw himself on top of the grenade which, fortunately, failed to explode. Capt. Pitts then directed the repositioning of the company to permit friendly artillery to be fired. Upon completion of the artillery fire mission, Capt.

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 enemy bunkers. Capt. 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 continuous fire, pinpointing the enemy's fortified positions, while at the same time directing and urging is men forward, until he was mortally wounded. Capt. Pitts' conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the cost of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the Armed Forces of his country.