Medal of Honor
WILBANKS, HILLIARD A.*
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 21st. Tactical Air Support Squadron, Nha Trang AFB, RVN.
Place and date: Near Dalat, Republic of Vietnam, 24 February 1967.
Entered service at: Atlanta, Ga.
Born: 26 July 1933, Cornelia, Ga.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. As a forward air controller Capt. Wilbanks was pilot of an unarmed, light aircraft flying visual reconnaissance ahead of a South Vietnam Army Ranger Battalion. His intensive search revealed a well concealed and numerically superior hostile force poised to ambush the advancing rangers. The Viet Cong, realizing that Capt. Wilbanks' discovery had compromised their position and ability to launch a surprise attack, immediately fired on the small aircraft with all available firepower. The enemy then began advancing against the exposed forward elements of the ranger force which were pinned down by devastating fire. Capt. Wilbanks recognized that close support aircraft could not arrive in time to enable the rangers to withstand the advancing enemy, onslaught. With full knowledge of the limitations of his unarmed, unarmored, light reconnaissance aircraft, and the great danger imposed by the enemy's vast firepower, he unhesitatingly assumed a covering, close support role. Flying through a hail of withering fire at treetop level, Capt. Wilbanks passed directly over the advancing enemy and inflicted many casualties by firing his rifle out of the side window of his aircraft. Despite increasingly intense antiaircraft fire, Capt. Wilbanks continued to completely disregard his own safety and made repeated low passes over the enemy to divert their fire away from the rangers. His daring tactics successfully interrupted the enemy advance, allowing the rangers to withdraw to safety from their perilous position. During his final courageous attack to protect the withdrawing forces, Capt. Wilbanks was mortally wounded and his bullet-riddled aircraft crashed between the opposing forces. Capt. Wilbanks' magnificent action saved numerous friendly personnel from certain injury or death. His unparalleled concern for his fellow man and his extraordinary heroism were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
--- General / Personal ---
Last name: WILBANKS
First name: HILLIARD ALMOND
Home of Record (official): CORNELIA
State (official): GA
Date of Birth: Wednesday, July 26, 1933
Marital Status: Married
--- Military ---
Branch: Air Force
Serial Number: 3056748
Pay grade: O3
MOS (Military Occupational Specialty code): Unknown/Not reported
--- Action ---
Start of Tour: Thursday, March 31, 1966
Date of Casualty: Friday, February 24, 1967
Age at time of loss: 33
Casualty type: (A1) Hostile, died
Reason: Air loss - Crashed on land (Pilot - Fixed wing aircraft)
Country: South VietNam
Province: Lam Dong
The Wall: Panel 15E - Row 088
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