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


Born: 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. 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.

Thanks to Rick Helton for the photograph of S/Sgt. Gertsch. Rick Helton was a combat photographer in Vietnam from November 1968 through November 1969. He served with S/Sgt. Gertsch on several missions with Tiger Force during 1969. This picture was taken south of Phu Bia, about 30 minutes by jeep. The picture was taken in March of 1969 as S/Sgt. Gertsch was photographed as "Soldier of the Month" for the Screaming Eagles magazine (May-June 1969 issue)


--- General / Personal ---


Last name: GERTSCH

First name: JOHN GARY

Home of Record (official): RUSSELL

State (official): PA

Date of Birth: Friday, September 29, 1944

Sex: Male

Race: Caucasian

Marital Status: Single


--- Military ---


Branch: Army

Rank: SSG

Serial Number: 189365254

Component: Regular

Pay grade: E6

MOS (Military Occupational Specialty code): 11F4P


--- Action ---


Start of Tour: Saturday, June 24, 1967

Date of Casualty: Saturday, July 19, 1969

Age at time of loss: 24

Casualty type: (A1) Hostile, died

Reason: Gun, small arms fire (Ground casualty)

Country: South VietNam

Province: Thua Thien

The Wall: Panel 20W - Row 019

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