French Camp native and Medal of Honor recipient Richard Pittman, 71, has passed away.
He died on Thursday, Oct. 13, in Stockton, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The French Camp man was presented with the Medal of Honor by then President Lyndon B. Johnson on May 14 in 1968 for his “heroic actions” in battle on July 24, 1986 near the Demilitarized Zone during the Vietnam War. There were 230 Marines who went into battle on that day and only 76 returned.
The narrative of Lance Corporal Pittman’s Medal of Honor citation reads as follows, ““On July 24, 1966, while Company I was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force. Hearing the engaged Marines’ calls for more firepower, Sergeant (then Lance Corporal) Pittman quickly exchanged his rifle for a machine gun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades. Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy positions. As Sergeant Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from two automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed. Learning that there were additional wounded Marines fifty yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading Marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy. Totally disregarding his own safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machine-gun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up a submachine gun and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn. Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his own platoon. Sergeant Pittman’s daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted many enemy casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades.”
Pittman had suffered partial blindness from the battle which kept him from returning to regular service, however he was later allowed to join the Marine Corps Reserves. There are currently 76 Medal of Honor recipients who are still alive including fellow French Camp native Sammy Davis who attended Manteca High.
In 1988 Pittman retired from the Marine Corps as a master sergeant. He is survived by his wife Patricia and family in Stockton. Funeral services are pending.