John Gary Gertsch

Staff Sergeant
Army of the United States
29 September 1944 - 19 July 1969
Russell, Pennsylvania
Panel 20W Line 019

MoH Silver Star

Combat Infantry

Bronze Star (3), Purple Heart (3), Army Commendation (3), Good Conduct, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign


The database page for John Gary Gertsch

11 Apr 2005

John Gertsch was model soldier to his fellow "Tiger Force" brothers, fierce and sure in battle, quick with a laugh. Ready to teach a new guy the ropes, fearless in a firefight. He gave 100% all the time, and was recognized by his peers. 5 Silver Stars, Posthumous Medal of Honor.

From a "Tiger Force" veteran,
Hank Ortega

John Gertsch receives an award of the Silver Star in Vietnam.

The President of the United States
in the name of the Congress of the United States
takes pride in presenting the



Staff Sergeant
United States Army

for service as set forth in the following


Staff Sergeant 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, Staff Sergeant Gertsch's platoon leader was seriously wounded and lay exposed to intense enemy fire. Forsaking his own safety, without hesitation Staff Sergeant 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 Staff Sergeant Gertsch's unit was reconnoitering when attacked again by the enemy. Staff Sergeant 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. Staff Sergeant 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 Staff Sergeant Gertsch was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Without Staff Sergeant 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.

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Four men were killed in the action described in SSG Gertsch's Medal of Honor Citation:
  • 58th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog):
    • SGT Raymon D. Hales, Springville, UT (with E Co, 2/327)

  • E Co, 1st Bn, 327th Infantry
    • SSG John G. Gertsch, Russell, PA (Medal of Honor)
    • CPL Walter Karas, Chicago, IL
    • CPL Durel S. Woods, New Orleans, LA

Staff Sergeant John Gertsch is buried in Northside Catholic Cemetery, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. While The Virtual Wall can neither verify nor deny the statement above that Staff Sergeant Gertsch was five times awarded the Silver Star, it is clear he received at least one award. The following commentary appears on another site, written by a soldier who served with John Gertsch:

"On June 1, 1969, John was ending his third consecutive year in Vietnam. ... Tiger Force was going back into the notorious A-Shau Valley and John knew his experience was badly needed. He decided to stay for this dangerous mission. While attempting to save the lives of some of his comrades, John was killed. In all, John Gertch was awarded 3 Army Commendation medals, 2 Silver Stars, 3 Bronze Stars, 3 Purple Hearts, and for his gallantry on July 19th, John was awarded the nation's highest honor..."

"It was a great privilege and honor to have served with this true American hero. He was the pinnacle of what it meant to be an airborne soldier. I have missed my friend."

T. J. McGinley
Tiger Force
1/327/101 Abn. Div.
VN - 68-69

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a "Tiger Force" Vet,
Hank Ortega
11 Apr 2005

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 07/09/2005