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First Name: Riley

Last Name: Pitts

Birthplace: Fallis, OK, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Wichita, KS
Middle Name: Leroy

Date of Birth: 15 October 1937

Date of Death: 31 October 1967

Rank: Captain

Years Served: 1960 - 1967
Riley Leroy Pitts

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Riley Leroy Pitts
Captain, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Captain Riley Leroy Pitts (15 October 1937 - 31 October 1967) was a U.S. Army officer who was the first African-American commissioned officer to receive the Medal of Honor. He was posthumously awarded his Nation's highest award for valor for his heroic actions on 31 October 1967 in Ap Dong, South Vietnam.

Riley Leroy Pitts was born on 15 October 1937 in Fallis, OK. He attended Wichita State University and graduated in 1960 with a degree in Journalism. Pitts and his wife, Eula, had a daughter, Stacie, and a son, Mark, while he was employed with the Boeing Corporation. After being commissioned as an officer in the Army, he was sent to Vietnam in December 1966. Pitts had seven years of service in the Army.

In Vietnam, Pitts served as an Information Officer until he was transferred to a combat unit. As a Captain, he then served as Commander of C Company "Wolfhounds," 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment. On 31 October 1967, just one month before he was to be rotated back home, his unit was called upon to reinforce another company that was heavily engaged against a strong enemy force. For his exceptional heroism during the battle that ensued, Captain Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Company C, 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Ap Dong, Republic of Vietnam, 31 October 1967.

Entered service at: Wichita, KS. Born: 15 October 1937, Fallis, OK.

Citation: 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 the 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 4 enemy bunkers, 2 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 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, 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 1 more Viet Cong. The jungle growth still prevented effective fire to be placed on the 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 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. 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.

Award Ceremony

President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Captain Pitts' Medal of Honor to his wife, Eula, his daughter Stacie, and son Mark on 10 December 1968. In presenting the award, President Johnson remarked, "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 a leader of men. No greater thing could be said of any man."

Captain Pitts' mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore H. Pitts, attended the presentation; also in attendance were Secretary of Defense Clark M. Clifford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Earle Wheeler, and Secretary of the Army Stanley Rogers Resor.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Silver Star Medal
Purple Heart

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Riley Leroy Pitts' name is inscribed on Panel 28E - Line 105.


Numerous organizations have honored Captain Riley Leroy Pitts by naming parks and organizations after him.

Death and Burial

Captain Riley Leroy Pitts was killed in action on 31 October 1967. He is buried at Hillcrest Memory Gardens in Spencer, OK. The coordinates to his grave are GPS (lat/lon): 35.52465 -97.30283.

Captain Pitts is survived by his wife, Eula and his daughter Stacie and son Mark. Mark became an active member of the organization "Sons and Daughters In Touch" (SDIT) where he traveled to Vietnam to commemorate a memorial for his father.

Honoree ID: 1057   Created by: MHOH




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