Air Force Hero Authorized MOH

With the signing of the 2009 defense policy bill earlier this month, CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, who originally received a posthumous Air Force Cross for his heroic actions at Lima Site 85 during the Vietnam War, is now authorized to receive the Medal of Honor for that action. The pertinent language in Public Law 110-417 waives the time limitations normally entailed with such awards. Etchberger was a ground radar superintendent at a secret Air Force radar site atop one of the highest Laotian mountains, which enemy forces surprisingly overran on March 11, 1968. Etchberger kept the North Vietnamese troops at bay with an M-16, enabling rescue for seven of the 19 Americans still alive at the site. He would have been the eighth man alive but was mortally wounded by ground fire at he boarded the helicopter. (Read more in The Fall of Lima Site 85) The Minot Daily News reports that Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) worked for four years to secure authorization for a posthumous MOH for Etchberger, a native of Bismarck, N.D. He told the newspaper, “The Medal of Honor is reserved for extraordinary acts of valor in combat, and Chief Etchberger’s actions were the very definition of such extraordinary valor.” At the time, the White House declined to award the MOH, believing the action would spotlight the presence of the clandestine facility in a supposedly neutral country. Instead, Etchberger’s wife received his Air Force Cross in a closed ceremony. Defense Secretary Robert Gates now may send an MOH nomination for Etchberger to President Bush for approval.