William H. Pitsenbarger in Vietnam in the 1960s. He died in battle. CONTRIBUTED

Local war hero subject of new movie starring Hollywood A-listers

A Piqua war hero who has one of the “great untold stories of the Vietnam era” is the subject of a new Hollywood film.

“The Last Full Measure,” with Samuel L. Jackson, William Hurt and Peter Fonda, Diane Ladd, Christopher Plummer and Alison Sudol, is based on the true story of Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, portrayed by Grant Gustin.

In this 2000 photo, William F. “Frank” Pitsenbarger shows the Congressional Medal of Honor he received posthumously for his son Airman1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a pararescuer who was killed during the Vietnam War. FILE PHOTO

Plot, per imdb: “34-years after his death, Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, Jr. (“Pits”) is awarded the nation’s highest military honor for his actions on the battlefield. One of the great untold stories of the Vietnam era.”

Part of A1C William H. Pitsenbarger’s uniform on display in the Modern Flight Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)


Pitsenbarger’s uniform and an exhibit about his life are on display in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. A statue honors his memory in his hometown of Piqua.

>> RELATED: Life-size statue honors Airman Pitsenbarger

>> RELATED: Statue honors Vietnam hero

This statue in Piqua honors the memory of William Pitsenbarger. CONTRIBUTED

Here’s his story, according to the museum:

“Born in 1944 in Piqua, Ohio, William H. Pitsenbarger was an ambitious only child. He wanted to quit high school to join the U.S. Army Special Forces’ Green Berets, but his parents convinced him to stay in school. After graduating in 1962, Pitsenbarger joined the Air Force.

A1C Pitsenbarger learned his military skills in a series of demanding schools. After Air Force basic training, he volunteered for pararescue work and embarked on a rigorous training program, which included U.S. Army parachute school, survival school, a rescue and survival medical course, and the U.S. Navy’s scuba diving school. More Air Force rescue training and jungle survival school followed. His final training was in air crash rescue and firefighting, with assignment to the HH-43 Huskie helicopter.

Arriving in Vietnam in August 1965, Pitsenbarger completed more than 250 missions, including one in which he hung from an HH-43’s cable to rescue a wounded South Vietnamese soldier from a burning minefield. This action earned him the Airman’s Medal and the Republic of Vietnam’s Medal of Military Merit and Gallantry Cross with Bronze Palm.

William H. Pitsenbarger was only 21 years old when he was killed in action. But in his short life and valorous Air Force career, he was an example of dedication, compassion and tenacity for all those with whom he served. In his work, and especially on his final mission, Airman 1st Class Pitsenbarger embodied the pararescueman’s motto: ‘That Others May Live.’”

F. Whitten Peters, left, Secretary of the Air Force, presents the Medal of Honor to William and Irene Pitsenbarger during ceremonies at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, Friday, Dec. 8, 2000. The award was given posthumously to their son, Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a pararescueman killed in action during the Vietnam War. FILE PHOTO

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