The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
PLESS, STEPHEN W.
Rank and organization: Major (then Capt.),
U.S. Marine Corps, VMD-6, Mag-36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Place and date: Near
Quang Nai, Republic of Vietnam, 19 August 1967. Entered service at: Atlanta, Ga. Born:
6 September 1939, Newman, Ga.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the
call of duty while serving as a helicopter gunship pilot attached to Marine Observation
Squadron 6 in action against enemy forces. During an escort mission Maj. Pless monitored
an emergency call that 4 American soldiers stranded on a nearby beach were being
overwhelmed by a large Viet Cong force. Maj. Pless flew to the scene and found 30 to 50
enemy soldiers in the open. Some of the enemy were bayoneting and beating the downed
Americans. Maj. Pless displayed exceptional airmanship as he launched a devastating attack
against the enemy force, killing or wounding many of the enemy and driving the remainder
back into a treeline. His rocket and machinegun attacks were made at such low levels that
the aircraft flew through debris created by explosions from its rockets. Seeing 1 of the
wounded soldiers gesture for assistance, he maneuvered his helicopter into a position
between the wounded men and the enemy, providing a shield which permitted his crew to
retrieve the wounded. During the rescue the enemy directed intense fire at the helicopter
and rushed the aircraft again and again, closing to within a few feet before being beaten
back. When the wounded men were aboard, Maj. Pless maneuvered the helicopter out to sea.
Before it became safely airborne, the overloaded aircraft settled 4 times into the water.
Displaying superb airmanship, he finally got the helicopter aloft. Major Pless'
extraordinary heroism coupled with his outstanding flying skill prevented the annihilation
of the tiny force. His courageous actions reflect great credit upon himself and uphold the
highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.