He was with the 55th Combat Engineers attached to the 10th Armored Division and landed in Cherbourg, France, three months after D-Day. The Tenth was under the command of General Patton and the 55th Combat Engineers were thrown into the breach with inadequate clothing and limited supplies to build bridges in advance of the tank columns as they advanced toward Belgium. As a combat engineer, then Lieutenant Pittenger built bridges under heavy fire behind enemy lines, disarmed landmines in the path of American tanks and distinguished himself both individually and as platoon leader. They built bridges under intense enemy fire enabling the U.S. tanks to advance without delays. His unit was caught inside Bastogne, Belgium, along with the 101st Airborne during Christmas of 1944. Although surrounded and outnumbered by German forces the commander of the 101st Airborne responded to the demand for surrender by the German commander with a single word -- "Nuts."
Generally known as the "Battle of the Bulge," the U.S. defense at Bastogne is widely accepted as the turning point of World War II. Colonel Pittenger received numerous awards for his dedication, his skills and heroism during his service in World War II. He distinguished himself again in Korea as a company commander on the line with the 40th Infantry Division.
A captain at this time, Pittenger commanded not only his American company, but also commanded 450 ROK (Republic of Korea) troops in extensive combat and received the Combat Infantrymen's Badge. Upon his return to the states, he passed the Airborne Jumpmaster course and received his parachutist badge. He also attended the Command and General Staff College and held several command and staff positions. Because of his command experience he was selected to attend Army Aviation schooling and became proficient in both fixed wing and helicopters.
As Aviation Commander of the 82nd Airborne, Pittenger initiated test exercises, war games, and concentrated study and analysis of the use of helicopters as armed assault and transport vehicles for organic air mobility -- later known as air assault -- and the extensive use of helicopters to transport infantry troops, artillery and supplies, as well as to provide local aerial fire support. Pittenger retired from the Army in 1969 from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where his last assignment was as the first commander of the Army's War Games facility which he was instrumental in establishing.
Colonel Pittenger's major decorations include the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster. Bronze Star and Oak Leaf cluster with V and two Oakleaf Clusters, Certificate of Merit, Korean Chung Mu medal with Silver Star and the Legion of Merit, Combat Infantry Badge, Army Aviator Badge, Parachutist badge among numerous other medals.
Colonel Pittenger and his wife, Diane (Ewing), retired to Nevada, Mo., and subsequently to Stockton, Mo., where they owned a walnut tree farm for 18 years, which they ultimately developed as a subdivision. They then traveled for five years as full time RV'ers, finally settling at South Padre Island, Texas, as his health declined. They later lived at Lake Whitney, Texas, prior to moving to Air Force Village I in San Antonio, Texas.
He is predeceased by his parents, Nelle and Ray Pittenger; brother, Dallas; and sister, Lois Reed. His father, Ray, was the first U.S. military officer assigned to assist the Flying Tigers in the Burma, India, China Theatre and his brother, Dallas, was a World War II Navy pilot. He is survived by his wife, Diane; son, Bradford; daughter-in-law, Brenda; two granddaughters, Jennifer and Lauren; and Lauren's fiancÚ, Nick Trenc.
Services for Colonel Pittenger were held on Friday, Aug. 31, at the Chapel at Air Force Village I and interment services with full military honors were held at Fort Sam Houston.
Donations may be made to Center for the Intrepid, Warrior and Family Support Center, 2010 Family Road, Suite 95, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas 78234 or the charity of your choice.