Edwin Atterberry was born on March 3, 1934, in Klondike, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on November 11, 1952, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on July 5, 1955. Atterberry was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Bryan AFB, Texas, on October 13, 1956, and then completed F-84 Thunderstreak Combat Crew Training and Reconnaissance training before serving as an RF-84 Thunderflash pilot with the 302nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS) at Sembach AB, West Germany, and Laon AB, France, from October 1957 to May 1959. His next assignment was as an RF-101 Voodoo pilot with the 17th TRS, also at Laon AB, from June 1959 to November 1960, followed by service as an RF-101 pilot with the 29th TRS at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from November 1960 to November 1962. During this time, Capt Atterberry flew reconnaissance missions over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. He returned to the 17th TRS at Laon AB from November 1962 to February 1964, and then served on the staff of the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Laon AB from February 1964 to November 1965. His next assignment was as an RF-4 Phantom II pilot with the 10th and 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, from November 1965 to October 1966, and then on the staff of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Mountain Home from October 1966 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War while on temporary duty to Southeast Asia on August 12, 1967. After being held in captivity for 646 days, Col Atterberry was brutally tortured to death on May 18, 1969, for having participated in an escape from his North Vietnamese POW camp. Edwin Atterberry was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross and promoted to the rank of Lt Col, and his body was returned to the United States on March 13, 1974. He was buried in the Field of Honor at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas.
His Air Force Cross Citation Reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Lieutenant Colonel Edwin L. Atterberry for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 11 May 1969 to 14 May 1969. On 11 May 1969, Colonel Atterberry escaped from the North Vietnamese prison camp known as "The Zoo" and was recaptured twelve hours later. He was subjected to brutal torture for confessions pertaining to camp leadership, organization, and details of his escape plans. He was last seen by other prisoners of war on 14 May 1969, and the North Vietnamese later reported that Colonel Atterberry had died. Through his extraordinary heroism and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and in the dedication of his service to his country, Colonel Atterberry reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.