John G. Gertsch
Medal Of Honor
RANK AND ORGANIZATION: STAFF SERGEANT , U.S. ARMY, COMPANY E, 1ST BATTALION
327th INFANTRY, 101st AIRBORNE DIVISION
PLACE AND DATE: A SHAU VALLEY, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM, 15 TO 19 JULY 1969
ENTERED SERVICE AT: BUFFALO, NEW YORK
BIRTH: 29 SEPTEMBER 1944, JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY
S/SGT. GERTSCH DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF WHILE SERVING AS A PLATOON SERGEANT AND PLATOON LEADER DURING COMBAT OPERATIONS IN THE A SHAU VALLEY. DURING THE INITIAL PHASE OF AN OPERATION TO SEIZE A STRONGLY DEFENDED ENEMY POSITION, S/SGT. GERTSCH’S PLATOON LEADER WAS SERIOUSLY WOUNDED AND LAY EXPOSED TO INTENSE ENEMY FIRE. FORSAKING HIS OWN SAFETY, WITHOUT HESITATION S/SGT. GERTSCH RUSHED TO AID HIS FALLEN LEADER AND DRAGGED HIM TO A SHELTERED POSITION. HE THEN ASSUMED COMMAND OF THE HEAVILY ENGAGED PLATOON AND LED HIS MEN IN A FIERCE COUNTERATTACK THAT FORCED THE ENEMY TO WITHDRAW. LATER, A SMALL ELEMENT OF S/SGT. GERTSCH’S UNIT WAS RECONNOITERING WHEN ATTACKED AGAIN BY THE ENEMY. S/SGT. GERTSCH MOVED FORWARD TO HIS BESIEGED ELEMENT AND IMMEDIATELY CHARGED, FIRING AS HE ADVANCED. HIS DETERMINED ASSAULT FORCED THE ENEMY TROOPS TO WITHDRAW IN CONFUSION AND MADE POSSIBLE THE RECOVERY OF 2 WOUNDED MEN WHO HAD BEEN EXPOSED TO HEAVY ENEMY FIRE. SOMETIME LATER HIS PLATOON CAME UNDER ATTACK BY AN ENEMY FORCE EMPLOYING AUTOMATIC WEAPONS, GRENADE, AND ROCKET FIRE. S/SGT. GERTSCH WAS SEVERELY WOUNDED DURING THE ONSLAUGHT BUT CONTINUED TO COMMAND HIS PLATOON DESPITE HIS PAINFUL WOUND. WHILE MOVING UNDER FIRE AND ENCOURAGING HIS MEN HE SIGHTED AN AIDMAN TREATING A WOUNDED OFFICER FROM AN ADJACENT UNIT. REALIZING THAT BOTH MEN WERE IN IMMINENT DANGER OF BEING KILLED, HE RUSHED FORWARD AND POSITIONED HIMSELF BETWEEN THEM AND THE ENEMY NEARBY. WHILE THE WOUNDED OFFICER WAS BEING MOVED TO SAFETY S/SGT. GERTSCH WAS MORTALLY WOUNDED BY ENEMY FIRE. WITHOUT S/SGT. GERTCH’S COURAGE, ABILITY TO INSPIRE OTHERS, AND PROFOUND CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF HIS MEN, THE LOSS OF LIFE AMONG HIS FELLOW SOLDIERS WOULD HAVE BEEN SIGNIFICANTLY GREATER. HIS CONSPICUOUS GALLANTRY, EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM, AND INTREPIDITY AT THE COST OF HIS LIFE, ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY, ARE IN THE HIGHEST TRADITIONS OF THE U.S. ARMY AND REFLECT GREAT CREDIT ON HIM AND THE ARMED FORCES OF HIS COUNTRY.
John G. Gertsch
Though I did not serve with Sergeant John G. Gertchs, recipient of the Medal of Honor, “Tiger Force,” 1st. Battallion, 327th Airborne Infantry, 1st. Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, as an original member of “Tiger Force,” it is with great honor that I submit to you the hallowed respect from fellow “Tigers” regarding Staff Sergeant John G. Gertsch, earned by his conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and exemplified valor above and beyond the call of duty.
The “Tiger Force” was a special, elite unit designed and composed of the finest reconnaissance and assault forces ever conceived to fight either at night or day. Most effective, and deadly. More importantly: crucial.
Tiger Force closed the doors of the enemies night capabilities, and widened the scope of the frontal daylight contact, an important task S/SGT Gertsch instilled into his soldiers with the confidence a leader inspires.
What follows is the Citation for his Medal Of Honor:
S/Sgt. Gertsch distinguished himself while serving as a platoon sergeant and platoon leader during combat operations in the A Shau Valley. During the initial phase of an operation to seize a strongly defended enemy Position, S/Sgt. Gertchs’ platoon leader was seriously wounded and lay exposed to intense enemy fire. Forsaking his own safety, without hesitation S/Sgt. Gertsch rushed to aid his fallen leader and dragged him to a sheltered position. He then assumed command of the heavily engaged platoon and led his men in a fierce counterattack that forced the enemy to withdraw. Later, a small element of S/Sgt. Gertsch’s unit was reconnoitering when attacked again by the enemy. S/Sgt. Gertsch moved forward to his besieged element and immediately charged, firing as he advanced. His determined assault forced the enemy troops to withdraw in confusion and made possible the recovery of 2 wounded men who had been exposed to heavy enemy fire. Sometime later his platoon came under attack by an enemy force employing automatic weapons, grenade, and rocket fire. S/Sgt. Gertsch was severely wounded during the onslaught but continued to command his platoon despite his painful wound. While moving under fire and encouraging his men he sighted an aidman treating a wounded officer from an adjacent unit. Realizing that both men were in imminent danger of being killed, he rushed forward and positioned himself between them and the enemy nearby. While the wounded officer was being moved to safety S/Sgt. Gertsch was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Without S/Sgt. Gertsch’s courage, ability to inspire others, and profound concern for the welfare of his men, the loss of life among his fellow soldiers would have been significantly greater. His conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the cost of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit on him and the Armed Forces of his country.
Staff Sergeant Gertsch was a man of the moment; unselfish, always sacrificing – perhaps scared- like all men in combat. However, he overcame his personal fears, knowing his soldiers shared that same fear, to rallying his unit, set the example, and showed leadership in dire and deathly moments. Whether he concerned himself with his personal fate cannot be be known.
He gave his life knowing he would die, and, most likely, hoping he died so that his troops might have a chance to live.
He was a soldiers… soldier!