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William Harold Fitch

Date of birth: November 6, 1929
Place of Birth: Tennessee, Chattanooga
Home of record: Fort Meade Florida

William Fitch entered military service in the Marine Corps after graduating from the University of Florida in 1950, and was designated a Naval Aviator and commissioned a second Lieutenant in 1952. He retired as a U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General in 1984.

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

Navy Distinguished Service Medal

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Awarded for actions during the Peace Time Awards

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Lieutenant General William Harold Fitch (MCSN: 0-55351), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States as Deputy Chief for Aviation, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps from July 1982 through August 1984. Lieutenant General Fitch was instrumental in the development and implementation of numerous plans, programs, and procedures for improving the quality and operational readiness of Marine Corps aviation, Drawing on his vast experience as a creative aviation tactician and innovative leader, both in the air and on the ground, Lieutenant General Fitch provided the impetus for tactics development, force modernization, and training actions which will shape the future of Marine Corps aviation into the next century. His personal involvement in every facet of Marine Corps aviation, from supply support to flight safety, is reflected in aircraft mission capability rates, standards of aircrew professionalism and overall tactical acumen that reached the highest levels in history. Indicative of the climate of excellence engendered by Lieutenant General Fitch's inspiring leadership across the entire spectrum of Marine Corps aviation was the superb response of the aviation combat element of the Twenty-Second Marine Amphibious Unit in the Grenada contingency operation. A recognized authority on the Department of Defense research, development, and acquisition process, Lieutenant General Fitch, while remaining keenly aware of fiscal limitations, actively sought those items of equipment and capabilities that will enable Marine aviation to fly and fight better. By his exemplary professional performance, dedication to excellence, and unswerving devotion to duty, Lieutenant General Fitch reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: July 1982 - August 1984

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Lieutenant General

Silver Star

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Lieutenant Colonel William Harold Fitch (MCSN: 0-55351), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Marine All Weather Attack Squadron FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY-THREE (VMA(AW)-533), FIRST Marine Aircraft Wing, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On the night of 21 February 1968, Colonel Fitch launched as the Aircraft Commander of an A-6 Intruder aircraft assigned a bombing mission against a communication installation near Hanoi in North Vietnam, an area known to be defended by heavy concentrations of automatic weapons, surface-to-air missiles, and enemy interceptor aircraft. Executing numerous turns and feints to confuse the enemy, he maneuvered his aircraft to the designated target area. Although his aircraft lost contact with all supporting aircraft, which increased the hazards from hostile antiaircraft fire, he resolutely elected to continue the mission and, guided by his complex electronic equipment, approached the target Skillfully maneuvering to evade an enemy-launched surface-to-air missile which barely cleared the canopy of his aircraft before detonating, and fully aware that his 500-foot altitude, high-speed approach precluded the possibility of a safe ejection if his aircraft were hit, Colonel Fitch dauntlessly attacked the target, delivering all ordnance with unerring accuracy. After observing a large secondary explosion, he departed the hazardous area through treacherous mountain terrain, refueled at an alternate airfield, and returned safely to the Chu Lai Air Base. By his exceptional professional skill, unfaltering determination, and courageous devotion to duty, Colonel Fitch contributed immeasurably to the accomplishment of the mission and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: February 21, 1968

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Company: Marine Attack Squadron 533 (VMA(AW)-533)

Division: 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" to Lieutenant Colonel William Harold Fitch (MCSN: 0-55351), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States with Marine Aircraft Group Twelve, FIRST Marine Aircraft Wing in connection with military operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam from 27 July 1967 to 1 August 1968. Throughout this period, Lieutenant Colonel Fitch performed his demanding duties in an exemplary and highly professional manner. Initially assigned as Assistant operations officer and subsequently as Operations Officer, he displayed exceptional skill and resourcefulness in planning and coordinating combat missions. Reassigned on 1 October 1967 as Commanding Officer of Marine All Weather Attach Squadron 533, he molded the unit into an effective strike force capable of accomplishing all assigned missions under the most adverse conditions. Exceptionally knowledgeable concerning the employment of the A-6 Intruder aircraft, Lieutenant Colonel Fitch expanded the squadron's capabilities to assume increasingly demanding assignments deep into hostile territory. Under his dynamic leadership, his well trained aircrews completed over 2,300 sorties and delivered in excess of 13,800 tons of ordnance against the enemy. On 1 April 1968, Lieutenant Colonel Fitch was chosen to represent the Commanding General at the Commandant's Aviation Training and Readiness Conference at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and earned the respect and admiration of all his associates through his extensive knowledge of the complex electronic weapons systems of the A-6 aircraft. Upon returning to Vietnam, he was assigned as Group Operations Officer and continued to distinguish himself in the 5,000 combat sorties which expended over 8,000 tons of ordnance, enabling the Group to establish an enviable combat record. By his dynamic leadership, exceptional professional ability and unwavering devotion to duty throughout, Lieutenant Colonel Fitch upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. (Lieutenant Colonel Fitch is authorized to wear the Combat "V".)

Action Date: July 27, 1967 - August 1, 1968

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Legion of Merit to Lieutenant Colonel William Harold Fitch (MCSN: 0-55351), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Attack Systems Program Coordinator for Offensive Air Support Section, Air Weapons System Branch, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff (Air), from September 1968 to July 1970. Through his unswerving dedication to duty and his unusually perceptive understanding of both operational and developmental requirements of attack systems, Lieutenant Colonel Fitch identified and rapidly solved numerous operational and developmental problems of urgent interest to the Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Fitch consistently demonstrated exceptional professional competence and unusual personal resourcefulness in establishing and strengthening Marine Corps light attack aircraft programs which were under the intense scrutiny of DOD and Congressional Staffs. His imaginative efforts to expand the operational capability of existing attack aircraft systems led directly to providing RABFAC beacons urgently required by combat units, qualification of the CTU-1A delivery container for night and all-weather drops by the A-6A RABFAC offset delivery technique, and establishment of a combat search and rescue project for Harrier. Although faced with seemingly inescapable and unfavorable Harrier and A-4th Marines program and budgetary decisions, Lieutenant Colonel Fitch distinguished himself repeatedly by re-establishing and substantiating the Marine Corps requirement for a high performance V/STOL light attack aircraft program. His exemplary leadership, resourceful management techniques, and unfailing good judgment have reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: September 1968 - July 1970

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Distinguished Flying Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Lieutenant Colonel William Harold Fitch (MCSN: 0-55351), United States Marine Corps, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as the Commanding Officer of Marine All Weather Attack Squadron FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY-THREE (VMA(AW)-533), Marine Aircraft Group Twelve, FIRST Marine Aircraft Wing, in connection with military operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On the night of 15 October 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Fitch launched as Flight Leader of two A-6 attack aircraft assigned a night interdiction mission against a heavily defended railroad siding and railroad bridge on a vital supply route in North Vietnam. Because of indications that an attack on one of the targets would draw more intense retaliation than the other, he carefully planned to lead the flight and employ deceptive measures to protect the second aircraft and veil its intended target as long as possible. Displaying exceptional aeronautical ability, he effectively utilized his aircraft's complex navigation system to fly through the darkness, penetrate the enemy's early warning and aircraft patrol periphery and reach the initial point of approach to the target area. Successfully employing his defensive equipment, he effectively screened the second aircraft's approach to its initial point of approach to its target. Undaunted by the enemy's integrated surface-to-air missile defense and radar-controlled anti-aircraft weapons, Lieutenant Colonel Fitch completely disregarded his own safety as he skillfully maneuvered his aircraft at high speed and low altitude over hazardous, mountainous terrain and through the heavy volume of hostile fire to reach the target. Climbing to release altitude, he delivered his ordnance with pinpoint accuracy on the railroad siding. Immediately maneuvering his aircraft into a right break to ascend up and over the mountainous terrain, he expeditiously departed the area. Meanwhile, his highly effective deceptive measures enabled the second aircraft to reach its target without receiving anti-aircraft fire. It then delivered its ordnance on the railroad bridge before the enemy could react and fire on the departing aircraft. Both aircraft delivered their bombs accurately on their designated targets, completing the strike within a thirty second time span. Lieutenant Colonel Fitch's superior airmanship, courageous leadership and selfless devotion to duty at great personal risk were instrumental in accomplishing the hazardous mission and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: October 15, 1967

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Company: Marine Attack Squadron 533 (VMA-533)

Division: 1st Marine Aircraft Wing