Cornelia City Hall
Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks Memorial Marker
About Captain Hillard Wilbanks Memorial Marker
The Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks Memorial Marker is located at the Cornelia Community House. The dedication ceremony was held on July 29, 2001
Hilliard Almond Wilbanks
Hilliard Almond Wilbanks was born in Cornelia on July 26, 1933 and he is our most famous hero. Captain Wilbanks had to leave his wife Rosemary and children Tommy, Paula, John and Debbie to go to Vietnam in support of the 23rd Ranger Battalion. He was mortally wounded saving the 23rd Ranger Battalion from ambush on February 24, 1967. Please read about his Citation below.
Medal of Honor
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1896, has awarded in the name of The Congress, the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks, United States Air Force for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
Events of That Day
As a forward air controller near Dalat, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 February 1967, Captain Wilbanks was pilot of an unarmed, light aircraft flying visual reconnaissance ahead of a South Vietnamese Army Ranger Battalion. His intensive search revealed a well-concealed and numerically superior hostile force poised to ambush the advancing Rangers. The Viet Cong, realizing that Captain Wilbanks’ discovery had compromised their position and ability to launch a surprise attack, immediately fired on the small aircraft with all available fire power. The enemy then began advancing against the exposed forward elements of the Ranger force which were pinned down by devastating fire.
Captain Wilbanks recognized that close support aircraft could not arrive in time to enable the Rangers to withstand the advancing enemy onslaught. With full knowledge of the limitations of his unarmed, unarmored, light reconnaissance aircraft, and the great danger imposed by the enemy’s vast fire power, he unhesitatingly assumed a covering, close support role. Flying through a hail of withering fire at treetop level, Captain Wilbanks passed directly over the advancing enemy and inflicted many casualties by firing his rifle out of the side window of his aircraft. Despite increasingly intense antiaircraft fire, Captain Wilbanks continued to completely disregard his own safety and made repeated low passes over the enemy to divert their fire away from the Rangers.
His daring tactics successfully interrupted the enemy advance, allowing the Rangers to withdraw to safety from their perilous position. During his final courageous attack to protect the withdrawing forces, Captain Wilbanks was mortally wounded and his bullet-riddled aircraft crashed between the opposing forces. Captain Wilbanks’ magnificent action saved numerous friendly personnel from certain injury or death. His unparalleled concern for his fellowman and his extraordinary heroism were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.