MoH Monday: Major William Edward Adams

Jessica Evans
Updated onApr 24, 2023
3 minute read
William Edward Adams


Major William Edward Adams was a member of the United States Army. He is a posthumous recipient of the military’s prestigious Medal of Honor. Major Adams earned his medal through…

Major William Edward Adams was a member of the United States Army. He is a posthumous recipient of the military’s prestigious Medal of Honor. Major Adams earned his medal through a show of courage in Vietnam, where he ultimately lost his life.


Adams' passion for the outdoors started in childhood growing up near Casper, Wyoming. So, it was no surprise that after graduating high school, he found himself at Wentworth Military Academy. This is where his military journey began. In 1962, Adams joined the Army. Within a few years, he deployed with the 227 Assault Helicopter Company, 52D Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade.

As Adams arrived in Vietnam in 1970, the war had already been raging for years. The North Vietnamese pushed south as democracy struggled to take root in the rest of the country.

It was during his tour in Vietnam that Adams' bravery and valor shone through in the most extraordinary way. He found himself in the heat of battle. Here is where he risked his own life to save others and prevent further loss of life. In recognition of his heroic actions, Adams earned the Medal of Honor. His selflessness and dedication to duty serve as an inspiration to all who serve in the military, reminding us of the true cost of freedom and the extraordinary individuals who are willing to pay it.

Major William Edward Adams. (Photo courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund)

Medal of Honor Action

As he approached the rescue site, he could see smoke billowing from the crash site. The heat from the explosion made the air tremble, and the sound of gunfire echoed in his ears. He knew the enemy was waiting for him, but he had a job to do. Adams skillfully navigated his helicopter through the gunfire and landed with precision. He quickly loaded the wounded servicemembers onboard, knowing that time was of the essence. Despite the increasing danger, Adams remained calm and focused, determined to save his fellow soldiers.

As he lifted off, the enemy intensified their attack. They fired machine guns and rocket grenades in a desperate attempt to bring the helicopter down. Adams maneuvered the helicopter through the barrage of bullets, but one finally hit its target. The helicopter was hit midair. Immediately, Adams knew he and his passengers faced grave danger. But Adams didn't lose his composure. He kept a steady hand on the controls, desperately trying to keep the helicopter airborne.

As every second ticked by, the situation grew more dire. Smoke permeated the cabin, and the passengers could sense the intense heat emanating from the explosion. With a clear understanding that he needed to act quickly to save their lives, Adams remained focused amidst the chaos and calmly instructed the passengers on what to do. However, before he could make any further moves, disaster struck. The helicopter exploded in a fiery ball of flames, instantly killing Adams and his passengers.

Valor ceremony

During a special ceremony in 1972, Adams' family was presented with his Medal of Honor. The recognition that Adams received for his bravery and selflessness continued even after his death.

Adams received not only the Medal of Honor, but also the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star Medal. Similar to numerous others who served in the conflict, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial bears his name etched into the granite.

He is interred at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado, a fitting resting place for a man who dedicated his life to serving his country.