From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Henry Pilger '70

Date of birth: January 8, 1948

Date of death: September 23, 1972

Age: 24

Lucky Bag

From the 1970 Lucky Bag:


From Class of 1970 40th Reunion Book:

Born in San Diego, “Rick” Pilger came to Annapolis after an illustrious athletic and academic career in North Syracuse, NY and quickly established himself as one of the best-liked guys in the Company. Tough both physically and mentally, he was a standout in math and in all sports, especially soccer. He was a truly gifted leader and was Company Commander First Class Year, an honor he truly deserved. Rick was always upbeat, exuding “perpetual cheerfulness” in the words of one classmate, and had a great sense of humor with a distinctive laugh and voice that had a bit of a Great Lakes twang. One classmate remembers visiting Rick in the hospital after he’d broken his jaw playing soccer and seeing Rick with his jaw wired shut playing chess with another Mid who also had his jaw wired shut, the two of them arguing over something and waving scissors, each threatening to cut the other guy’s wires. Even the nurses laughed at the absurdity of it. Rick was the kind of guy everybody liked being around, with an easy going charisma that made you want to follow him. He had a beautiful powder blue TR-6 First Class Year and, inspired by Major Kostesky, went Marine Air, receiving his wings in April of 1972. He married Debbie Wadsworth in June 1970 and they had a daughter, Abigail.

1st Lieutenant Henry N. “Rick” Pilger tragically died in the service of his country of injuries from a helicopter crash during a NATO exercise on Grytoga Island, Troms County, Norway, on September 23, 1972, while attached to Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, Det. “S.” He was the co-pilot.

Rick’s death was a shock to his classmates and a reminder of the high cost of freedom. While his star shone brightly for too short a time, all who knew him know that had he been granted a full life there was no upper limit to what his accomplishments might have been. He is greatly missed.

Other Information

Henry was survived by his wife, "he leaves his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Pilger of North Syracuse N.Y.; a daughter Abagail Pilger at home; three brothers, Bernard Pilger with the Navy in Hawaii, Gregory Pilger and Dennis Pilger, both of Syracuse, N.Y.; and a sister, Marie E. Pilger, also of Syracuse, N.Y." He is buried in the Riverside Cemetery of Farmington, Connecticut.

His class ring was discovered near the crash site and returned to the US embassy to Norway in late 1993 or early 1994, according to an investigator who emailed on April 13, 2021.

Class of 1970

Henry is one of 20 members of the Class of 1970 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

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