Galen Kittleson was born on August 14, 1924, in Mitchell County, Iowa. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 13, 1943, and after completing basic training and airborne training, he served with the 503rd Regimental Combat Team and with the Alamo Scouts in the Pacific Theater. During this time, Sgt Kittleson participated in the raid to free the 511 American and Allied Prisoners of War held at the Cabanatuan Prison Camp in the Philippines on January 30, 1945. He left active duty on November 30, 1945, and served in the U.S. Army Reserve until receiving an honorable discharge on November 29, 1948. Sgt Kittleson enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard on March 22, 1954, serving as a Military Policeman before going back on active duty in the U.S. Army on November 14, 1956. His next assignment was as a Military Policeman at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, from November to December 1956, followed by service as a Light and Heavy Weapons Leader with the 327th Airborne Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, from December 1956 to July 1959. Sgt Kittleson then served as a Squad Leader with Company C, 1st Battalion of the 7th Infantry Regiment in West Germany from July 1959 to November 1961, followed by service with the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany from November 1961 to June 1965. His next assignment was as a Heavy Weapons Leader and Operations Sergeant with Company B, 6th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from June 1965 to May 1967, and then deployed to Southeast Asia with Company D, 5th Special Forces Group in South Vietnam from May 1967 to April 1968. After completing French language training at the Presidio of Monterey, California, he served as Operations Sergeant with Company B, 6th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from May 1968 to March 1971. During this time, MSG Kittleson participated in the Son Tay Raid on November 21, 1970, a clandestine mission to free American Prisoners of War held in North Vietnam. His next assignment was as Sergeant Major of Company C, 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from May 1971 to April 1972, and then as Operations Sergeant for Headquarters Company, 5th Special Forces Group, from April to August 1972. SGM Kittleson served as Sergeant Major of Company A, 3rd Battalion of the 5th Special Forces Group from August 1972 to February 1973, and then as Command Sergeant Major of 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa from March 1973 to June 1974. His next assignment was as Command Sergeant Major at U.S. Army Base Command on Okinawa from June 1974 to March 1975, and then as Command Sergeant Major of U.S. Army Garrison Okinawa from April to December 1975. CSM Kittleson's final assignment was as Command Sergeant Major of 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from December 1975 until his retirement from the Army on August 1, 1978. Galen Kittleson died on May 4, 2006, and was buried at the First Lutheran Cemetery in Saint Ansgar, Iowa. He is believed to be the only American soldier to have participated in 4 POW liberation attempts, 2 during World War II, and 2 during the Vietnam War.
His 3rd Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action on 21 November 1970 as a member of an all-volunteer joint U.S. Army and Air Force raiding force in the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed heliborne assault mission to rescue United States military personnel held as prisoners of war at Son Tay prison in North Vietnam. This valiant effort was motivated by deep compassion for his imprisoned fellow men-at-arms, and by a strong sense of military duty and national pride. After debarking from the crash-landed assault helicopter inside the prison compound, Sergeant Kittleson fearlessly maneuvered into his pre-planned position to provide covering fire for his advancing element, fully realizing that, in doing so, he was completely exposed to automatic weapons fire from both the east and the northwest guard towers. As the initial phase of the assault was accomplished, Sergeant Kittleson then took command of his sub-element; courageously, and with total disregard for his life, maneuvered into the north area of the compound; and, using accurate and aggressive rifle fire and movement, immediately neutralized his objectives. Even though he was aware of the possibility of a counterattack by North Vietnamese forces, Sergeant Kittleson ignored this fact and calmly and deliberately began to search and clear the suspected prisoner-maximum-security area. Master Sergeant Kittleson's conscious disregard for his personal safety, extraordinary heroism against an armed hostile force, and extreme devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself and the United States Army.