Honoring Capt. Lee Hitchcock - OSI’s First Fallen Hero

  • Published
  • By Robert Vanderpool
  • OSI Command Historian

During National Police Week, the Office of Special Investigations is among the law enforcement agencies nationwide honoring fallen officers.

Among the names being remembered this week is Capt. Lee Hitchcock, the first OSI member killed in action, following an attack in the Pleiku province of South Vietnam. Although he spent less than three years at OSI, his legacy endures today.

Hitchcock was born July 27, 1940, in Detroit, Michigan. His father worked in the automobile industry for most of his life and served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II as a navigator on B-24 heavy bombers.   

Although born in Michigan, Hitchcock graduated in 1958 from Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, after moving there with his family in 1955. Following graduation, he attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he was a member of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.

As a collegian, Hitchcock worked a myriad of summer jobs, including service station attendant, general laborer and lifeguard. During this time, he also obtained a private pilot's license and learned Spanish.

Hitchcock's ROTC experience at Purdue paved the way for his military career. Before graduating in Jan. 1963, with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Economics, Hitchcock rose to the rank of ROTC division commander. 


A month later, Hitchcock was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve. The newly-minted officer’s first duty assignment was at Norton Air Force Base, California, where he served as a production and procurement officer for ballistic missile systems.

His time as a reservist was short. At Purdue, Hitchcock had applied for active duty status, which began July 20, 1964. Roughly two months later, he received a temporary promotion to first lieutenant Aug. 21, 1964.

In early 1965, Hitchcock applied for duty with the Office of Special Investigations and was accepted as an agent trainee in March. He completed the OSI Training School Basic Course from April to June 1965 in Washington, D.C., where he was the Honor Graduate of Class 65-B, finishing first out of 29 students. Upon graduation he was assigned to Detachment 1703 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where he served as a Special Agent focusing on special investigations.

Hitchcock was promoted to first lieutenant permanently on Feb. 28, 1966. He graduated from OSI’s Specialized Counterintelligence Class in Sept. 1966.


Hitchcock shipped to Vietnam on Nov. 17, 1966, first assigned to OSI Det. 5003 at Da Nang Air Base, where he continued to serve as a special investigations officer. Upon his promotion to captain on February 17, 1967, Hitchcock assumed command of OSI Det. 5008, Pleiku Air Base, in South-Central Vietnam. 

Det. 5008 was in a one-story villa, within the residential city, just a few miles from the air base. Off-base facilities for Det. 5008 provided living quarters and offices for the detachment's personnel. A small courtyard separated the offices from the bedrooms on opposite sides of the building.

An Army Military Intelligence unit also lived and worked in the residential building next door.

Additional billeting areas for other Army personnel, including a cadre of military police were nearby. In front of Det. 5008 was a small street, which was surrounded by a landscape of open rice paddy fields. The facilities were guarded by a South Vietnamese sentry.   

While commander of Det. 5008, Hitchcock was responsible for supervising criminal counterintelligence and personal security investigations, for the collection and preservation of evidence, maintaining liaison with Air Force commanders and local military and civil agencies and for the preparation of reports of investigation for area commanders.

The detachment staff consisted of two Special Agents and one administrative support person.

On Sept. 10, 1967, Hitchcock and his Det. 5008 colleagues were asleep as a group of Viet Cong guerillas approached the villa through the rice paddy fields. The guerilla warfighters were armed with assault rifles and shoulder-mounted rocket-propelled grenades .

Around 2 a.m., the VC opened fire and killed the South Vietnamese sentry. Hitchcock suddenly awoke to the sounds of exploding rockets and automatic gunfire, sprang from his bed and grabbed his sidearm.

At that moment, a rocket tore through the front door of the villa, destroying an interior concrete wall and exploding in Hitchcock’s bedroom as he approached the door. After being hit by shrapnel, the Special Agent fell to the floor seriously injured. 

As abruptly as it began, the attack ended. The soldiers living next door responded and summoned an ambulance to transport Hitchcock to a nearby hospital.

However, Hitchcock succumbed to his wounds while either en route to the hospital or shortly after arrival there. The Special Agent had been with OSI for just over two and a half years.

History would remember him as the first OSI member killed in the line of duty. 


In the aftermath of Hitchcock’s death, a ceremony was conducted at Pleiku Air Base in Hitchcock’s honor on Sept. 18, 1967.

“Lee was one of the finest persons I have ever met or served with,” Hitchcock’s district commander said after the ceremony. “He had a purpose in life and he knew where he was going and what he wanted to do. Lee was intelligent, he was motivated, determined and expressive and at times he gave me spark and a lift because of his enthusiasm.”  

Others stationed with Hitchcock agreed.

“Lee was my commander, supervisor and friend from the first day we met and we worked together as a team until the day of his death,” said a colleague who served alongside the Fallen Agent at Pleiku. “He not only was a highly competent OSI commander and supervisor, but an outstanding Special Agent who was very hard to keep up with. Lee never wanted to rest and at times I had to slow him down. His driving force helped me to become a better Special Agent.”

Hitchcock’s remains were returned to Indiana and were later interred at Saint Joseph Valley Memorial Park in Mishawaka, just 7 miles from where his parents lived.

Besides his parents, Hitchcock was survived by his wife, Carol Ann, whom he married in 1964. They met in high school and went to Purdue together. 

After his death, Hitchcock received the Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

The next year, OSI established the Lee. C. Hitchcock Award, given to the student with the highest scholastic average at the OSI Special Investigations School.

The Hitchcock Award was later changed to represent the AFOSI Officer Special Agent of the Year.

Following the deadly attack, OSI Det. 5008 was relocated to Pleiku Air Base, where it had previously been located. Investigations later revealed the attack on Det. 5008 was likely targeted from the disruptions the detachment was causing to black market operations involving Pleiku Air Base.

Historian’s Note: For six decades, National Police Week, observed this year May 11-17, has been observed annually in conjunction with Peace Officers Memorial Day, to pay special recognition to law enforcement officers throughout American history who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the line of duty.

Since its establishment in 1948, the Office of Special Investigations has lost 16 members in the line of duty in service to our nation. Information regarding each of these Fallen Heroes is on the OSI Website at: https://www.osi.af.mil/About/Fallen-Agents/ .