Hilliard Almond Wilbanks

Personal Information

Hilliard Almond Wilbanks was born on July 26,1933 in Cornelia, Habersham County, Georgia.


He was educated in public schools and graduated from Habersham High School in 1950.  Upon completion of high school he joined the Air Force in 1950.

Medal of Honor Event

On 24 February 1967, Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks, a forward air controller, was dispatched in an unarmed 0-1 Bird Dog aircraft to assist in an operation against enemy forces attacking near Dalat, South Vietnam.


While flying reconnaissance for a South Vietnamese Ranger Battalion, Captain Wilbanks discovered hostile

units concealed on two hilltops. He promptly called in helicopter gunships by radio and alerted the Rangers advancing into the area.


Realizing that their ambush was being compromised, the enemy reacted with a barrage from mortars, machine guns, and automatic weapons. Captain Wilbanks received much of this fire as he marked the enemy positions with white phosphorus rockets for the gunships. He himself opened fire with an M-16 rifle that he carried in his plane when he spotted forward Ranger squads that were pinned down and about to be overrun.  Firing out of the side window of his 0-1, Captain Wilbanks distracted the enemy troops and momentarily slowed their advance.


The outnumbered Rangers were afforded a chance to withdraw as the attackers diverted their fire against the low-flying aircraft. Despite the hits being scored on his plane, Captain Wilbanks persisted in covering the withdrawal. On his third pass, he was severely wounded and crashed in the battle area. The Rangers managed to rescue Captain Wilbanks from the wreckage of his plane, but he died while being evacuated to a hospital.


For his heroic support of the Rangers, Captain Wilbanks was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.  The presentation was made to his widow by Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown at the Pentagon, Washington, D. C. on 24 January 1968.

DTIC.mil Air Force Report Summarizing the Vietnam Era

Service Record

Hilliard Wilbanks joined the Air Force in 1950, and served as an air policeman with the Strategic Air Command during his first four years of service. He was then accepted into the aviation cadet program, and became a commissioned officer in June 1955. After serving as an instructor for a few years, he qualified as a fighter pilot in the early 1960s.


He arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 as a forward air controller with the 21st Air Support Squadron. He was still flying, but instead of a sleek fighter jet, he was piloting a Cessna O-1E Bird Dog, with a top speed of about 105 mph.  FACs were the key link in providing close air support to ground troops fighting in the Vietnam jungle. By February 24, 1967 he had flown 487 combat missions and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and 17 Air Medals. He had spotted numerous enemy forces and directed uncounted fighter strikes against them, saving hundreds of allied lives.  When Captain Wilbanks lost his life he was within two months of returning home to his wife and four small children.


On January 24, 1968, Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown presented the Medal of Honor to Wilbanks' widow in the Pentagon, Washington, D. C.


Wilbanks, aged 33 at his death, was buried in Fayette Methodist Cemetery, Fayette, Mississippi.

Medals and Awards

   Medal of Honor

   The Distinguished Flying Cross

   Purple Heart

   Air Medal with 19 Oak Leaf Clusters

   Air Force Commendation Medal

   Air Force Good Conduct Medal

   Army Good Conduct Medal

   National Defense Service Medal with 1 Bronze Service Star

   U. S. Vietnam Service Medal

   Armed Forces Air Force Reserve Medal

   RVN Gallantry Cross with Silver Star

   Vietnam Campaign Medal

  Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

   Air Force Longevity Service Award with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters

   Small Arms Expert Marksmanship

Perpetual Memorials

Captain Wilbanks is a member of the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.


A six-foot tall, two-sided black granite memorial was erected in his home town, about 400 yards from where he was born, commemorating the country boy who, without hesitation, flew a Cessna into battle and into history.


In 2012 the Habersham County, Georgia middle school was renamed in Captain Wibanks honor .


The Hilliard A Wilbanks Foundation was formed to provide  scholarships to high school students furthering their education while participating in ROTC.

Copyright 2013 Hilliard A Wilbanks Foundation