101 airborne combat patch
2nd Battalion Chaplain
Vietnam 1967 - 1968
21 February 1968
CPT William W. Erbach was awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action against an
armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam on 21 February 1968. Chaplain Erbach
distinguished himself while serving as chaplain with the 2d Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry
near Hue, Republic of Vietnam. The Battalion was making an assault on a North Vietnamese
Regimental base camp and was encountering severe enemy fire from a strong, well entrenched
bunker system. Fighting became very intense and drew to close quarters as casualties began to
mount. Company D was making the main assault, and this is where Chaplain Erbach went in an
effort to inspire the men. He continually moved along the line encouraging the men, but as the
casualties increased Chaplain Erbach, unarmed and in complete disregard for his own safety,
moved out across the bullet swept field to help care for an evacuate the wounded. Time and again
he crossed the field, aiding the wounded and materially helping in every way possible. While
assisting one of the fallen Soldiers, Chaplain Erbach was himself seriously wounded after he had
been repeatedly advised to leave the forward area. After receiving first aid and being taken to the
rear, he refused medical evacuation and remained on the field caring for further wounded Soldiers
as they were brought to his position for evacuation. Only after all the wounded had been
evacuated, five full hours after being grievously wounded himself, did Chaplain Erbach consent to
being evacuated. His courage and inspiration were of great significance in contributing to the
success of the battalion’s assault. Chaplain Erbach’s personal bravery and devotion to duty were
in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself,
his unit, and the United States Army.
Information provided by Ryan P. Niebuhr CW2, AD
2nd Brigade Historian
101st Airborne Division