Riley L. Pitts
Rank and Organization: Captain, U.S.
Army, Company C, 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry
Place and Date: Ap Dong, Republic of Vietnam, 31 October 1967.
Entered Service At: Wichita, Kans.
Born: 15 October 1937, Fallis, Okla.
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.
Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy.
Black Americans in Defense of Our Nation.
Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1985.
"MRS. RILEY L. PITTS and her two children received the Medal of Honor which her husband,
Captain Riley Pitts won posthumously in Vietnam on December 31, 1967. Mrs. Pitts is one
of a growing number of wives of an increasing number of Black war heroes. Captain Pitts
was the first Black officer to win the Medal of Honor in United States history.
(US Army Photo)"
Source: Johnson, Jesse L. (Ed.) Black Women in the Armed Forces, 1942-1974: A Pictorial History. Hampton, VA: Johnson, c. 1974.
"First Negro Officer Gets Medal of Honor."
New York Times, December 11, 1968, p. 3.
Johnson, Danny. "5th Signal Comd. Marks History with New Exhibit." (May 2, 2002).
Retrieved March 2, 2004 from the World Wide Web:
"Pitts – 2003." (2003). Retrieved March 2, 2004
from the World Wide Web: http://www.sdit.org/
Presentation Ceremony at The White House, December 10, 1968. President Johnson's Remarks
Upon Awarding the Medal of Honor to Riley L. Pitts. Citation for
Riley L. Pitts read by Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor.
"Seven Picked for Military Hall of Fame." The Shawnee News-Star.
(June 3, 2000). Retrieved March 2, 2004
from the World Wide Web: http://www.news-
Terry, Wallace. "Brave Men & Leaders of Men: The Stories Of Black Soldiers In Vietnam."
(February/March 2002). The VVA Veteran, p. 24-27.
University of Oklahoma. Financial Aid Services. "Vietnam Memorial Scholarship or Capt.
Riley L. Pitts Commemorative Scholarship." (2005). Retrieved June 25, 2005
from the World Wide Web: http://www.financialaid.ou.edu/forms/2005-