By Compiled by Fort Sill Tribune staffOctober 29, 2019
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Oct. 29, 2019) -- A former Fort Sill artillery Soldier was one of nine service members inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame during a banquet Oct. 26, in Oklahoma City.
The late Sgt. Maj. Ira Whitaker retired from Fort Sill in 1974. He died Feb. 4, 2017, at the age of 82 in Fletcher, Oklahoma.
In 1968 during the Vietnam War, Whitaker received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions at a remote fire support base (FSB) near Cambodia, according to an article by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire.
At the time Whitaker was a first sergeant with C Battery, 8th Battalion, 6th Artillery Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He had been at FSB Rita for a couple weeks when a North Vietnamese sapper battalion struck Nov. 1.
It was a fierce fight, recalled Whitaker in Stoutamire's 2014 interview during a 1st Infantry Division reunion at Fort Riley, Kan.
"They threw Bangalore torpedoes across the wire and blew it and they came straight in and blew a vehicle and its ammunition. Two machine guns were knocked out instantly," Whitaker said. "We had a perimeter where there were no U.S. forces except for our firing battery blocking that perimeter.
"We fought all night; the whole thing wasn't over in just an hour," he said. Twelve Soldiers were killed in the fighting, and 54 wounded.
There is memorial dedicated to Whitaker at Fort Sill's Artillery Park next to the actual M109 self-propelled 155mm howitzer that he helped to defend in the FSB Rita attack.
Whitaker joined the Army in October 1952. He attended basic combat training at Fort Bliss, Texas, and then trained there as an air defense artillery operation intelligence specialist. He fought in Korea in the battles for Pork Chop Hill, and other strategic sites. In 1958, he cross-trained into the field artillery branch.
Whitaker's awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Korean War Service Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and Vietnam Campaign Medal.