The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
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.