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Veterans Stories and Achievements 

U.S. Marine pilot whose heroics helped stop 1973 New Orleans sniper dies at 84

A decorated U.S. Marine Corps pilot who risked his life and career to help New Orleans police during the Howard Johnson’s hotel sniper attack that claimed seven lives in 1973 died Feb. 13 of cancer, according to his family.

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Retired Lt. Gen. Charles “Chuck” Pitman Sr., whose heroics in piloting a helicopter that allowed police to shoot and kill sniper Mark Essex earned him the gratitude of city leaders, was 84.

In nearly four decades as a Marine, including three combat tours in Vietnam, Pitman earned numerous medals: including Silver Stars for valor, Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Purple Heart.

But in an interview with The Times-Picayune in 2013, Pitman said perhaps his proudest achievement was being named an honorary New Orleans Police Department captain for flying the helicopter that turned the tide as police exchanged gunfire with Essex.

Pitman never sought permission from his superiors to fly that mission, he said, only forgiveness.

“The thing with him was, if you’re going to be a Marine, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” his son, Charles Pitman Jr., said. “He was always happy he did what he did.”

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