Medal of Honor Recipient


The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to:


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

 The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Major Stephen Wesley Pless (MCSN: 0-79156), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 19 August 1967, while serving as a helicopter gunship pilot attached to Marine Observation Squadron SIX (VMO-6), Marine Aircraft Group THIRTY-SIX, First Marine Aircraft Wing, in action against enemy forces near Quang Nai, Republic of Vietnam. During an escort mission Major Pless monitored an emergency call that four American soldiers stranded on a nearby beach were being overwhelmed by a large Viet Cong force. Major 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. Major 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 tree line. His rocket and machinegun attacks were made at such low levels that the aircraft flew through debris created by explosions from its rockets. Seeing one 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, Major Pless maneuvered the helicopter out to sea. Before it became safely airborne, the overloaded aircraft settled four 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 United States Naval Service.

4 thoughts on “Medal of Honor Recipient

  1. As a past member of the now decommissioned, VMO-6, as the then Captain Stephen Wesley Pless, I am honored to have served in the same squadron as then Captain Pless. He checked into our suadron about the same time I was departing.

    Captain Pess went on to win over 40 medals while serving in the capacity as a Pilot flying the UH-1E Marine Armed Attack “Huey” Helicopter. He was driven, and then driven again to fly in some of the most dangerous missions there in the Vietnam War, flown by members of the squadron, both pilots and air crewman. They were dauntless in their attacking skills and their flying abilities. We lost about 36 men during the Vietnam War, as well as 13 helicopters in the War, by observations squadrons.

    I as a past member of VMO-6, desires to salute each and every member that ever stepped into the aircraft of any VMO-6 during it’s illustrious history that dates back to the 1920’s at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia.

    VMO-6 earned a total of 42 Battle Streamers for her participation in World War II at Guadacanal, Iwo Jima, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the South American Campaigns she served in.


    Sgt Raymond L. Britt, USMC

  2. I got to hear of this story first hand from Gunnery Sergeant (I knew him as Master Guns) Leroy Poulson. He was my high school JROTC instructor and winner of the Navy Cross that day. Much respect for the entire crew! Miss you TOP. You were a great mentor.

    • Branden,

      There were a lot of outstanding and heroic aircrewmen in VMO-6. However, when one learns what someone in their past did heroicly, that leaves a very positive impression on that person – as you stated about GySgt Poulson. Even now after over 50 years, I still miss several of the personnel in the squadron I served with in Vietnam, VMO-6, too.

      Then Captain Pless’ aircrew of three other Marines, did for the Army aircrew what the Army failed and did not do – rescue the three live Army Rangers after their grounded helicopter left the three behind on the beach of the South China Sea, when they and their grounded helicopter came under attack by a superior enemy force.

      When the copilot and the other Huey aircrewmen left the Huey helicopter to rescue the wounded three live Rangers, it was a life and death situation for all seven Americans, without any combat support at all, except for the lone Huey, piloted by then Captain Pless. That makes this action impressive, none of the aircrewmen were killed, or wounded while leaving behind scores of dead and wounded Viet Cong enemy.

      The Huey aircrewmen were awarded the most top combat medals than any other aircrew within the history of the Vietnam War and the United States Marine Corps. Then Captain Pless was the only Marine Corps pilot within the Vietnam War that earned the Medal of Honor, which shows the importance of the rescue. The actions and situation on their faithful day did come at a high price.

      The price cost LtCol Pless his life after he returned home from the War. He left behind a pregnant wife, and family, which is so sad.

      Much respect to you also for giving credit where credit is due. You did have a great mentor. It is Marines and other Americans like the crew of VMO-6 that day that young men should have to help them in later life, too. It is hoped that you still have the qualities in you that your mentor had, and taught you. It is also hoped there are still men like the VMO-6 crew in America willing to be mentors to the young, like you were.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.