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Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger: Belated Medal of Honor

Chief Master Sergeant Richard Etchberger: Belated Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force photo).

Chief Master Sergeant Richard Etchberger: Belated Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force photo).

CMSgt Richard Etchberger in 1968 -- photo not taken at LS 85. (U.S. Air Force photo).

CMSgt Richard Etchberger in 1968 -- photo not taken at LS 85. (U.S. Air Force photo).

CMSgt Etchberger’s wife, Katherine, received his posthumous Air Force Cross from U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen John McConnell at a private ceremony in the Pentagon in 1969. Sworn to secrecy, she could not even tell her sons what had happened. His Air Force Cross did not become public until 1998. (U.S. Air Force photo).

CMSgt Etchberger’s wife, Katherine, received his posthumous Air Force Cross from U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen John McConnell at a private ceremony in the Pentagon in 1969. Sworn to secrecy, she could not even tell her sons what had happened. His Air Force Cross did not become public until 1998. (U.S. Air Force photo).

In 2010, Etchberger’s valor and sacrifice were fully recognized with the Medal of Honor.  Pictured is President Barack Obama presenting the Medal of Honor to Etchberger’s sons, (l to r) Steve Wilson, Cory Etchberger, and Richard Etchberger, at the White House in September 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo).

In 2010, Etchberger’s valor and sacrifice were fully recognized with the Medal of Honor. Pictured is President Barack Obama presenting the Medal of Honor to Etchberger’s sons, (l to r) Steve Wilson, Cory Etchberger, and Richard Etchberger, at the White House in September 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo).

Cory Etchberger, a son of CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on November 15, 2017. His father saved the lives of others by sacrificing his own at LS 85 in 1968. After the declassification of LS 85 and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010.

DAYTON, Ohio -- Cory Etchberger, a son of CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on November 15, 2017. His father saved the lives of others by sacrificing his own at LS 85 in 1968. After the declassification of LS 85 and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Cory Etchberger, a son of CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on November 15, 2017. His father saved the lives of others by sacrificing his own at LS 85 in 1968. After the declassification of LS 85 and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010.

DAYTON, Ohio -- Cory Etchberger, a son of CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on November 15, 2017. His father saved the lives of others by sacrificing his own at LS 85 in 1968. After the declassification of LS 85 and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Cory Etchberger, a son of CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on November 15, 2017. His father saved the lives of others by sacrificing his own at LS 85 in 1968. After the declassification of LS 85 and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010.

DAYTON, Ohio -- Cory Etchberger, a son of CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on November 15, 2017. His father saved the lives of others by sacrificing his own at LS 85 in 1968. After the declassification of LS 85 and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Through the long night, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger repulsed enemy assaults. He saved the lives of others by sacrificing his own.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger was one of the most highly trained radar technicians in the U.S. Air Force. A highly-effective and well-liked leader, he was the crew chief of a radar team on LS 85 the night of the attack.

Despite having little combat training, Etchberger held off the enemy while simultaneously directing air strikes into the area and calling for air rescue. When a helicopter arrived in the morning, Etchberger repeatedly and deliberately risked his own life. He left his safe position and braved enemy fire to place three wounded technicians in helicopter slings.

With his remaining crew safely aboard, Etchberger finally climbed into the rescue sling. Tragically, a burst of enemy ground fire fatally wounded him as the helicopter turned away from the mountain.

For his heroism and sacrifice, Etchberger received the Air Force Cross posthumously. The operation remained classified, however, and the existence of the award was not publicly acknowledged until 1998. After the declassification of LS 85 and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010.

Click here to return to LS 85: In the Jaws of the Enemy.

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