View Full Version : Medal of Honor - USAF
03-17-2008, 05:35 AM
For those that have served, and those serving their country now, some stories of those who have gone before. The list of Medal of Honor recipients is over 3000 (as is the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq so far), so I'm only going to take on those who served in the USAF, and then maybe the USAAF. First, a little history of the MoH, then the first story of a recipient followed by a new one every few days.
03-17-2008, 05:43 AM
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is America's highest award for valor in action against an enemy force. The President, in the name of the Congress, has awarded 59 Medals of Honor to our nation's bravest Airmen. What began as the Army Medal of Honor in 1862, the Air Force Medal of Honor was introduced in 1965. In 1918, Congress established other medals, such as the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star. These new medals can be approved by the secretary of defense or the service secretary, but the Medal of Honor requires presidential approval.
Between World War I and 1965, the Army Medal of Honor was awarded to Airmen who distinguished themselves in battle. In 1963, a new standard was set by Congress which established that all future medals could only be awarded for heoric action in combat. The Medal of Honor is awarded in the name of Congress to a person who, while a member of the Armed Services, distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against any enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the U.S. is not a belligerent party. The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. Incontestable proof of the performance of service is exacted and each recommendation for award of this decoration is considered on the standard of extraordinary means with at least two eyewitness accounts.
Since 1965, Airman have received the Air Force Medal of Honor design. In the Air Force, recommendations for a medal must be made within two years of the action and awarded within three years. The review of the recommendation is stringent at all levels of command.
Even though Congress enacted the establishment of the medal and it is presented in the name of Congress, the official title of the award is the Medal of Honor, not the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Recipients of the Medal of Honor receive $1,000 per month for life, a right to burial at Arlington National Cemetery, admission for them or their children to a service academy (if they qualify and quotas permit), and free travel on government aircraft to almost anywhere in the world, on a space-available basis.
03-17-2008, 05:54 AM
Capt. Steven L. Bennett
On June 29, 1972, Capt. Steve L. Bennett, a forward air controller and Marine Capt. Mike Brown, his observer, were answering a call to help a South Vietnamese platoon from the North Vietnamese Army. On that fateful day, Bennett chose to sacrifice his life to save another and was awarded the Medal of Honor from a grateful country. He had only been in combat for three months.
Bennett was born in April 1946 in Palestine, Texas, and entered the Air Force in 1968. He earned his pilot wings at Webb Air Force Base, Texas. In 1970, he completed the B-52 bomber training course at Castle AFB, Calif. He then transitioned to become a forward air controller, and graduated from the FAC and fighter training courses at Cannon AFB, N.M., before reporting to Vietnam in early 1972.
By June 1972, many U.S. servicemen had headed home and most of the remaining were preparing to furl their colors and return to the United States. North Vietnamese regulars were pushing south and the South Vietnamese were trying to block their descent.
Bennett was flying an Air Force OV-10 Bronco and directing American close air support fighters. His backseater was Marine Capt. Mike Brown. At dawn on June 29, Bennett got an emergency call. Several hundred North Vietnamese were preparing to strike a South Vietnamese platoon only about a mile away. Without U.S. help, the platoon would be overrun.
Bennett, call sign Covey 87, put his OV-10 into a power dive and attacked with his 7.62-mm machine guns blazing. After four strafing passes, the North Vietnamese began to fall back. Bennett swung around and began a fifth pass. By this time, another OV-10 had arrived to add firepower. As Covey 87 made a turn north in concert with his partner's turn south, a surface-to-air missile hit the exhaust port on the left engine of his plane and destroyed it. The left gear was hanging and flames were leaping in the engine bay.
Bennett veered south toward an emergency landing field. The fire got worse and the pilot of the companion plane radioed to Bennett that he and his backseater had better punch out. Brown looked over his shoulder and discovered his parachute was shredded by fragments from the explosion. Bennett's parachute was intact, but because of the configuration of the plane, he couldn't go out alone. The backseater had to be ejected first before the pilot's seat could go. Brown wouldn't survive.
With complete disregard for his own life, Bennett elected to ditch the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, even though he realized that a pilot of this type aircraft had never survived a ditching. The ensuing impact upon the water caused the aircraft to cartwheel and severely damage the front cockpit, making escape for Bennett impossible. The observer successfully made his way out of the aircraft and was rescued, but the OV-10 was sinking fast. Bennett, trapped in the broken cockpit, sank with it. A few minutes later, a rescue helicopter arrived and snatched the soaked Marine from the water. Bennett's body was recovered the next day.
On Aug. 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford presented the Medal of Honor to Bennett's widow, Linda, and his daughter, Angela.
On Nov. 20, 1997, a U.S. Navy-chartered commercial sealift ship was renamed Capt. Steven L. Bennett.
The Citation (posthumous)
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force. 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron, Pacific Air Forces.
Place and date: Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam, 29 June 1972.
Entered service at: Lafayette, La. Born: 22 April 1946, Palestine, Tex.
Citation: Capt. Bennett was the pilot of a light aircraft flying an artillery adjustment mission along a heavily defended segment of route structure. A large concentration of enemy troops was massing for an attack on a friendly unit. Capt. Bennett requested tactical air support but was advised that none was available. He also requested artillery support but this too was denied due to the close proximity of friendly troops to the target. Capt. Bennett was determined to aid the endangered unit and elected to strafe the hostile positions. After 4 such passes, the enemy force began to retreat. Capt. Bennett continued the attack, but, as he completed his fifth strafing pass, his aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile, which severely damaged the left engine and the left main landing gear. As fire spread in the left engine, Capt. Bennett realized that recovery at a friendly airfield was impossible. He instructed his observer to prepare for an ejection, but was informed by the observer that his parachute had been shredded by the force of the impacting missile. Although Capt. Bennett had a good parachute, he knew that if he ejected, the observer would have no chance of survival. With complete disregard for his own life, Capt. Bennett elected to ditch the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, even though he realized that a pilot of this type aircraft had never survived a ditching. The ensuing impact upon the water caused the aircraft to cartwheel and severely damaged the front cockpit, making escape for Capt. Bennett impossible. The observer successfully made his way out of the aircraft and was rescued. Capt. Bennett's unparalleled concern for his companion, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
03-17-2008, 06:52 AM
A1C William H. Pitsenbarger
A1C Bill Pitsenbarger knew the risks involved when he volunteered to drop into the midst of a jungle firefight.
By April 1966, 21-year-old A1C William H. Pitsenbarger, then in the final months of his enlistment, had seen more action than many a 30-year veteran. Young Pitsenbarger had gone through long and arduous training for duty as a pararescue medic with the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service and had completed more than 300 rescue missions in Vietnam, many of them under heavy enemy fire. He wore the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters; recommendations for four more were pending. A few days earlier, he had ridden a chopper winch line into a minefield to save a wounded ARVN soldier.
His service with ARRS convinced Pitsenbarger that he wanted a career as a medical technician. He had applied to Arizona State University for admission in the fall. But that was months away. He had a job to do in Vietnam and, as rescue pilot Capt. Dale Potter said, Pitsenbarger "was always willing to get into the thick of the action where he could be the most help."
On April 11 at 3 p.m., while Pitsenbarger was off duty, a call for help came into his unit, Detachment 6, 38th ARR Squadron at Bien Hoa. Elements of the Army's 1st Infantry Division were surrounded by enemy forces near Cam My, a few miles east of Saigon, in thick jungle with the tree canopies reaching up to 150 feet. The only way to get the wounded out was with hoist-equipped helicopters. Pitsenbarger asked to go with one of the two HH-43 Huskies scrambled on this hazardous mission.
Half an hour later, both choppers found an area where they could hover and lower a winch line to the surrounded troops. Pitsenbarger volunteered to go down the line, administer emergency treatment to the most seriously wounded, and explain how to use the Stokes litter that would hoist casualties up to the chopper.
It was standard procedure for a pararescue medic to stay down only long enough to organize the rescue effort. Pitsenbarger decided, on his own, to remain with the wounded. In the next hour and a half, the HH-43s came in five times, evacuating nine wounded soldiers. On the sixth attempt, Pitsenbarger's Huskie was hit hard, forced to cut the hoist line, and pull out for an emergency landing at the nearest strip. Intense enemy fire and friendly artillery called in by the Army made it impossible for the second chopper to return.
Heavy automatic weapons and mortar fire was coming in on the Army defenders from all sides while Pitsenbarger continued to care for the wounded. In case one of the Huskies made it in again, he climbed a tree to recover the Stokes litter that his pilot had jettisoned. When the C Company commander, the unit Pitsenbarger was with, decided to move to another area, Pitsenbarger cut saplings to make stretchers for the wounded. As they started to move out, the company was attacked and overrun by a large enemy formation.
By this time, the few Army troops able to return fire were running out of ammunition. Pitsenbarger gave his pistol to a soldier who was unable to hold a rifle. With complete disregard for his own safety, he scrambled around the defended area, collecting rifles and ammunition from the dead and distributing them to the men still able to fight.
It had been about two hours since the HH-43s were driven off. Pitsenbarger had done all he could to treat the wounded, prepare for a retreat to safer ground, and rearm his Army comrades. He then gathered several magazines of ammunition, lay down beside wounded Army Sgt. Fred Navarro, one of the C Company survivors who later described Pitsenbarger's heroic actions, and began firing at the enemy. Fifteen minutes later, as an eerie darkness fell beneath the triple-canopy jungle, Pitsenbarger was hit and mortally wounded. The next morning, when Army reinforcements reached the C Company survivors, a helicopter crew brought Pitsenbarger's body out of the jungle. Of the 180 men with whom he fought his last battle, only 14 were uninjured.
William H. Pitsenbarger was the first airman to be awarded the Air Force Cross posthumously. The Air Force Sergeants Association presents an annual award for valor in his honor.
The Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service is legendary for heroism in peace and war. No one better exemplifies its motto, "That Others May Live," than Bill Pitsenbarger. He descended voluntarily into the hell of a jungle firefight with valor as his only shield--and valor was his epitaph.
On Dec. 8, 2000, the Medal of Honor was presented posthumously to A1C William H. Pitsenbarger in a ceremony at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, not far from his hometown of Piqua. Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters presented the award, which was accepted by William F. Pitsenbarger on his son's behalf.
The Citation (posthumous)
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on 11 April 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an ongoing firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizeable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground. On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day was recovered, Airman Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get more wounded soldiers to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind on the ground to perform medical duties. Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible. In the vicious fighting that followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and Airman Pitsenbarger was fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.
03-17-2008, 09:24 AM
First, a little history of the MoH
Although not part of the UCMJ, it's "tradition" that all military personnel salute a MoH recipient. It doesn't matter if the recipient is a Corporal and you're a 4-Star General, you're supposed to salute the recipient.
GREAT idea Bob. :tiphat: :applause: :applause:
I look forward to more.
03-17-2008, 12:05 PM
I'm at a loss for words........Thankyou
03-18-2008, 02:15 AM
03-18-2008, 03:42 AM
Maj. Charles Joseph Loring Jr.
Charles Loring was no neophyte when he joined the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing in Korea in June 1952. On completing flying training in February 1943, he had spent several months with the 36th Fighter Squadron patrolling the Caribbean in P-39s and P-40s. The squadron then returned to the States, converted to P-47s, and was sent to the European Theater in the spring of 1944. From its base at Kingsnorth, England, the squadron, part of Ninth Air Force, primarily flew interdiction missions in preparation for Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944. A month after D-Day, the 36th moved to a series of bases on the Continent, flying close support and interdiction, paving the way for ground forces in their drive toward Germany.
On every mission, the fighter-bombers faced ground fire ranging from heavy antiaircraft artillery to rifles. Loss rates for Ninth Air Force fighter-bomber's were high compared to the escort groups of Eighth Air Force. Early in his tour, Lieutenant Loring was wounded on a close support mission, but soon he was out of the hospital and back to the war. On his 55th mission, Dec. 24, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, Loring's luck ran out. Hit by ground fire, he crash-landed in Belgium and spent the next four months as a POW.
Charles Loring decided to make the Air Force a career. He spent six years in nonflying positions, including two years as an instructor at the Army Information School at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. Then the Korean War broke out. Loring, now a major, requested assignment to a combat unit and waited impatiently for two years until his request was granted.
When Major Loring reported to the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, it had been in combat for two years, first with F-51s, then in F-80s. Initially he was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron in charge of training and indoctrinating replacement pilots. But Loring had come to Korea to fight. A month later he began flying combat missions and was made a squadron operations officer. The combat environment was in most ways a replay of his World War II experience, except that now he was flying a jet fighter. Ground fire was there as always, but the chance of escape or evasion if shot down in an Oriental land was practically nil. The prospect of becoming a POW of the Chinese was not attractive.
The Chinese Communists had, as we know, entered the war with massive forces in December 1950, driving United Nations troops back to positions near the Demarcation Line. For the next 18 months fighting was sporadic, interrupted or slowed by fruitless peace negotiations. During the late summer and fall of 1952, the war heated up. With enormous sacrifice of their troops, the Communists recaptured Triangle Hill in early November and were threatening US ground forces at Sniper Ridge.
On the morning of Nov. 22, 1952, Major Loring, on his 51st mission, led a flight of four F-80s in a close support strike against enemy formations in North Korea. He was directed by an airborne controller to dive-bomb gun emplacements that were pinning down UN forces near Sniper Ridge. Ground fire, as usual, was heavy.
After locating his target, Loring rolled into his bomb run. Enemy fire concentrated on his F-80. Other members of his flight saw Loring's plane take severe hits. They expected he would pull out of his dive and attempt to reach friendly territory. Instead, he continued the attack, altering his course some 45 degrees in a deliberate, controlled maneuver and dove directly into active enemy gun positions, destroying them at the cost of his own life. There was no indication that Loring had been mortally wounded when his aircraft was hit or that it could not have been flown to safety. What impelled Major Loring's calculated act of self-sacrifice that "exemplified valor of the highest degree"? No one could say.
Besides the nation's highest award, he also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and 12 Air Medals in combat in two wars.
Today Loring AFB in Maine commemorates the extraordinary heroism of this honored son.
The Citation (posthumous)
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing.
Place and date: Near Sniper Ridge, North Korea, 22 November 1952.
Entered service at: Portland, Maine.
Born: 2 October 1918, Portland, Maine.
Citation: Maj. Loring distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While leading a night of 4 F-80 type aircraft on a close support mission, Maj. Loring was briefed by a controller to dive-bomb enemy gun positions which were harassing friendly ground troops. After verifying the location of the target, Maj. Loring rolled into his dive bomb run. Throughout the run, extremely accurate ground fire was directed on his aircraft. Disregarding the accuracy and intensity of the ground fire, Maj. Loring aggressively continued to press the attack until his aircraft was hit. At approximately 4,000 feet, he deliberately altered his course and aimed his diving aircraft at active gun emplacements concentrated on a ridge northwest of the briefed target, turned his aircraft 45 degrees to the left, pulled up in a deliberate, controlled maneuver, and elected to sacrifice his life by diving his aircraft directly into the midst of the enemy emplacements. His selfless and heroic action completely destroyed the enemy gun emplacement and eliminated a dangerous threat to United Nations ground forces. Maj. Loring's noble spirit, superlative courage, and conspicuous self-sacrifice in inflicting maximum damage on the enemy exemplified valor of the highest degree and his actions were in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Air Force.
03-19-2008, 05:41 AM
Maj. Louis Joseph Sebille
On Aug. 5, 1950, Maj. Louis J. Sebille was killed in action flying a severely damaged F-51 Mustang against an enemy force concentration in Korea. Sebille, described by his contemporaries as "easy-going" and "friendly," sacrificed his life in battle to help save the United Nations stronghold at Pusan, Korea. He was the first member of the newly independent U.S. Air Force to be awarded the United States' highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor.
Sebille was older than his fellow students when he began flight training in January 1942. He was actually two months beyond the maximum age of 26. His maturity was a positive factor, though, and he became an outstanding pilot and leader. After earning his wings, he was assigned to the 450th Bombardment Squadron at MacDill Field, Fla., flying the Martin B-26 Marauder. The group moved to England in 1943 and there Sebille piloted a B-26 in the first minimum-level Marauder attack against targets in Europe. After a similar mission by a sister squadron three days later, in which all but one of 12 B-26s were lost to flak and fighters, Marauders operated only at medium altitude.
During his tour in England, Sebille advanced to flight leader and then to squadron operations officer, and was promoted to major. He flew 68 combat missions, most of them as group or wing leader, before returning to the United States in March 1945. Considered by his peers to be courageous and inspirational, with outstanding tactical skill, Sebille was "on the fast track" to future success. However, with the end of World War II, the size of the Air Force plummeted from 2.4 million men and women to less than 400,000. Like other pilots, Sebille was lured from the military by commercial flying.
In July 1946, he was offered a regular commission and returned to active duty, where he held many different assignments, including F-51 Mustang and F-80 Shooting Star instructor pilot. In 1948, he arrived at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
In November of that year he was appointed commander of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. During the night of Aug. 4, 1950, North Koreans had established a beachhead across the shallow Naktong River and their tanks, troops and artillery were moving steadily toward the nearby base at Taegu, the U.N. forces' primary airstrip. Early in the morning of Aug. 5, Sebille led a formation of F-51s, armed with 500-pound bombs and rockets, on a strike against the North Korean troops advancing toward Pusan. A T-6 Mosquito forward air controller directed them to attack forces near the small village of H'amchang. Sebille positioned himself for a medium-angle dive bomb run, planning to drop both of his 500 pound bombs on his first attack. Diving from about 5,000 feet, he held steady until about 2,500 feet. When the target passed under his nose, he punched the red bomb release button on his control stick, and then made a sharp pull-up to the left to stay away from his bomb blast. But only one of his bombs had released, and the heavy 500 pounds of unbalanced weight under his left wing perhaps contributed to his near miss on the first run.
Enemy machine guns were still firing as Sebille made the turn for a second bomb run, intending to pull the manual release handle to release the bomb. During his second attack, Sebille radioed that he was hit. His last words were garbled. He dove straight toward the armored carrier that was his target. He fired six rockets in salvo, but instead of pulling up at the 2,000 foot level, he continued to dive his airplane and the remaining 500-pound bomb straight into the target, crashing into the ground in a great ball of fire.
On Aug. 24, 1951, Sebille was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic sacrifice. He was the first of only four Air Force men awarded the medal during the Korean War. A special corner has been set aside at the Air Force Academy's Harmon Hall to commemorate the memory of his selfless heroism.
The Citation (posthumous)
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, 5th Air Force.
Place and date: Near Hanchang, Korea, 5 August 1950.
Entered service at: Chicago, Ill.
Born: 21 November 1915, Harbor Beach. Mich.
Citation: Maj. Sebille, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. During an attack on a camouflaged area containing a concentration of enemy troops, artillery, and armored vehicles, Maj. Sebille's F-51 aircraft was severely damaged by antiaircraft fire. Although fully cognizant of the short period he could remain airborne, he deliberately ignored the possibility of survival by abandoning the aircraft or by crash landing, and continued his attack against the enemy forces threatening the security of friendly ground troops. In his determination to inflict maximum damage upon the enemy, Maj. Sebille again exposed himself to the intense fire of enemy gun batteries and dived on the target to his death. The superior leadership, daring, and selfless devotion to duty which he displayed in the execution of an extremely dangerous mission were an inspiration to both his subordinates and superiors and reflect the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the armed forces of the United Nations.
03-20-2008, 04:18 AM
Maj. George A. Davis
In late November 1950, Chinese Communist armies entered the Korean War in overwhelming numbers, forcing United Nations troops to retreat from North Korea to positions south of the 38th Parallel. By the spring of 1951, due in large part to air support provided by Far East Air Forces (FEAF), the United Nations Command had regained the initiative. Communist armies soon stood at the brink of military disaster. On June 23, Jacob Malik, Soviet delegate to the United Nations Security Council, proposed cease-fire talks, which both sides accepted. The talks began on July 10.
Almost immediately, it was apparent that the Communists were using the lull in fighting to build up stockpiles that would allow them to resume the offensive. FEAF's Fifth Air Force F-84 fighter-bombers and B-26s and Bomber Command's B-29s launched a round-the-clock interdiction campaign against lines of communication in North Korea.
The cease-fire talks broke down in August. Early the following month, the Chinese Air Force, with more than 500 MiG-15 jet fighters opposed by fewer than 100 USAF F-86 Sabres--the only plane that could match the MiG in air-to-air combat--began an all-out drive to win air superiority in the North and defeat the crucially important interdiction campaign. It was the job of the F-86 pilots to keep swarms of Chinese MiGs--some of them flown by Russian pilots--off the backs of the bombers, fighter-bombers, and recce planes lest the balance be tilted once more in favor of the Communists.
As the air war over MiG Alley reached a fever pitch, 30-year-old Maj. George A. Davis reported for duty with the renowned 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing based at Kimpo, some 200 miles south of the Yalu River, where many of the great jet battles took place. Davis was no neophyte. He had shot down seven Japanese planes during World War II, and after the war had been a member of the Air Force jet demonstration team, a forerunner of USAF's Thunderbirds, first flying F-80s, then F-86s.
There are two kinds of fighter pilots--the hunters and the hunted. Davis not only was a superb, combat-experienced fighter pilot, he was also a hunter.
Davis flew his first jet combat mission on Nov. 1, 1951. On Nov. 27, he downed two MiG-15s, and three days later one MiG and three Tu-2 bombers. Two MiGs went down before his guns on Dec. 5, and four more on Dec. 13. In 17 days, he had become the leading Korean ace, with 12 victories, and had won the Distinguished Service Cross. Then there was a dry spell of a few weeks when Communist pilots stayed at altitude and refused to fight. That ended in February.
On Feb. 10, 1952, Davis led his 60th jet mission over North Korea--a formation of four F-86s on combat patrol to protect fighter-bombers targeted against railroads near Kunu-ri. Davis's element leader ran out of oxygen and had to return to Kimpo with his wingman, leaving Davis and the fourth F-86 to continue the patrol alone.
A few minutes later, Davis spotted a formation of 12 MiG-15s heading south toward an area where the F-84 fighter-bombers were working. Disregarding the odds, Davis maneuvered into attack position and dove into the enemy formation, exploding one MiG on his first pass. With fighters on his tail, Davis shot down a second MiG and then, rather than dive to safety, continued his attack in a hazardous maneuver: He reduced speed to slide behind another enemy fighter. One of the remaining MiGs came in from seven o'clock, firing at close range. Davis's F-86 went out of control and crashed on a mountain a few miles south of the Yalu. The MiG formation had been disrupted, the F-84s completed their interdiction mission, but the Air Force lost one of its greatest and most courageous warriors.
Several months later, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nathan F. Twining presented the Medal of Honor posthumously to Davis's young widow at a ceremony attended by more than 2,000 guests, including many members of Congress.
When the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, only three Air Force pilots--Capt. Joseph McConnell (16 victories), Maj. James Jabara (15), and Capt. Manuel Fernandez (14 and a half) had surpassed Davis's 14 victories that were won in less than three months.
That record ended in a supreme act of valor.
The Citation (posthumous)
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, CO, 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force.
Place and date: Near Sinuiju-Yalu River area, Korea, 10 February 1952.
Entered service at: Lubbock, Tex.
Born: 1 December 1920, Dublin, Tex.
Citation: Maj. Davis distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While leading a flight of 4 F-86 Saberjets on a combat aerial patrol mission near the Manchurian border, Maj. Davis' element leader ran out of oxygen and was forced to retire from the flight with his wingman accompanying him. Maj. Davis and the remaining F-86's continued the mission and sighted a formation of approximately 12 enemy MIG-15 aircraft speeding southward toward an area where friendly fighter-bombers were conducting low level operations against the Communist lines of communications. With selfless disregard for the numerical superiority of the enemy, Maj. Davis positioned his 2 aircraft, then dove at the MIG formation. While speeding through the formation from the rear he singled out a MIG-15 and destroyed it with a concentrated burst of fire. Although he was now under continuous fire from the enemy fighters to his rear, Maj. Davis sustained his attack. He fired at another MIG-15 which, bursting into smoke and flames, went into a vertical dive. Rather than maintain his superior speed and evade the enemy fire being concentrated on him, he elected to reduce his speed and sought out still a third MIG-15. During this latest attack his aircraft sustained a direct hit, went out of control, then crashed into a mountain 30 miles south of the Yalu River. Maj. Davis' bold attack completely disrupted the enemy formation, permitting the friendly fighter-bombers to successfully complete their interdiction mission. Maj. Davis, by his indomitable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness, and superb courage in engaging the enemy against formidable odds exemplified valor at its highest.
03-20-2008, 02:21 PM
Thanks Bob for the response.
So much lost. And so many touched / hurt because of it.
Hats off to them and their families. :tiphat:
03-22-2008, 01:07 AM
Capt. Hilliard A. Wilbanks
Wilbanks was a fighter pilot, but he arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 as a forward air controller (FAC) with the 21st Air Support Squadron. He was still flying, but instead of a sleek fighter jet, he was piloting a Cessna O-1E Bird Dog, with a top speed of about 105 mph.
FACs were the key link in providing close air support to ground troops fighting in the Vietnam jungle. By Feb. 24, 1967 he had flown 487 combat missions and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and 17 Air Medals. He had spotted numerous enemy forces and directed uncounted fighter strikes against them, saving hundreds of allied lives.
He was within two months of returning home to his wife and four small children.
Late in the afternoon of the 24th, Wilbanks was in the air above the Central Highlands, about 100 miles north of Saigon, flying reconnaissance for a South Vietnamese Ranger Battalion. He discovered hostile units concealed on two hilltops. The Rangers were on foot, making their way through a tea plantation that gave them little or no cover. They were walking into a trap.
As Wilbanks flew his O-1E on a low-level sweep of the area, he radioed a warning to the Rangers. The enemy troops, seeing his plane, knew their ambush was being compromised, so they reacted with a barrage from mortars, machine guns and automatic weapons. Wilbanks flew through the heavy fire as he marked the area with white phosphorus rockets. The Viet Cong, knowing that fighters would soon be coming, charged down the slopes toward the outnumbered Rangers.
Wilbanks watched the drama from above and realized the fighters wouldn't arrive in time to save Ranger lives. The enemy force needed to be delayed a little longer. Diving toward the advancing troops, Wilbanks dropped his remaining phosphorus rockets. The line momentarily stopped, but the Viet Cong were old hands at this and knew he had no more rockets. They began their advance again. Still, the fighters hadn't arrived. Wilbanks had one more weapon, an M-16 automatic rifle. Grabbing his rifle, he began a series of strafing runs at about 100 feet, firing the through the side window and reloading between passes. He managed to distract the enemy troops and momentarily slowed their advance. The Viet Cong diverted their fire against the low-flying O-1E. On his third pass, Wilbanks was severely wounded and crashed in the battle area. An Army Ranger ran to his plane and pulled the unconscious Wilbanks from the wreckage. A flight of F-4s roared in to strafe the enemy while a chopper picked up the wounded Wilbanks. He died while being evacuated to a hospital.
On Jan. 24, 1968, Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown presented the Medal of Honor to Wilbanks' widow in the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Wilbanks is a member of the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. A six-foot tall, two-sided black granite memorial was erected in his home town, about 400 yards from where he was born, commemorating the country boy who, without hesitation, flew a Cessna into battle and into history.
Wilbanks, aged 33 at his death, was buried in Fayette Methodist Cemetery, Fayette, Mississippi.
The Citation (posthumous)
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 21st. Tactical Air Support Squadron, Nha Trang AFB, RVN.
Place and date: Near Dalat, Republic of Vietnam, 24 February 1967.
Entered service at: Atlanta, Ga.
Born: 26 July 1933, Cornelia, Ga.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. As a forward air controller Capt. Wilbanks was pilot of an unarmed, light aircraft flying visual reconnaissance ahead of a South Vietnam Army Ranger Battalion. His intensive search revealed a well-concealed and numerically superior hostile force poised to ambush the advancing rangers. The Viet Cong, realizing that Capt. Wilbanks' discovery had compromised their position and ability to launch a surprise attack, immediately fired on the small aircraft with all available firepower. The enemy then began advancing against the exposed forward elements of the ranger force which were pinned down by devastating fire. Capt. Wilbanks recognized that close support aircraft could not arrive in time to enable the rangers to withstand the advancing enemy onslaught. With full knowledge of the limitations of his unarmed, unarmored, light reconnaissance aircraft, and the great danger imposed by the enemy's vast firepower, he unhesitatingly assumed a covering, close support role. Flying through a hail of withering fire at treetop level, Capt. Wilbanks passed directly over the advancing enemy and inflicted many casualties by firing his rifle out of the side window of his aircraft. Despite increasingly intense antiaircraft fire, Capt. Wilbanks continued to completely disregard his own safety and made repeated low passes over the enemy to divert their fire away from the rangers. His daring tactics successfully interrupted the enemy advance, allowing the rangers to withdraw to safety from their perilous position. During his final courageous attack to protect the withdrawing forces, Capt. Wilbanks was mortally wounded and his bullet-riddled aircraft crashed between the opposing forces. Capt. Wilbanks' magnificent action saved numerous friendly personnel from certain injury or death. His unparalleled concern for his fellow man and his extraordinary heroism were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
03-27-2008, 06:52 PM
Col. William A. Jones, III
By 1967, the US had been at war in Southeast Asia, at first covertly then overtly, for a decade. It was a strange war conducted under a strategy of "gradualism," run by civilian theorists, and master-minded by a Secretary of Defense whose middle name was Strange.
At home, it was business as usual, with little increase in Air Force budgets, a declining aircraft inventory, and a shortage of young pilots--a result of peacetime training quotas and aircraft losses in the war zone that were approaching 1,000. More than 2,500 older pilots had to be returned to the cockpit.
Among the more venerable SEA pilots was 46-year-old Lt. Col. William A. Jones III, a West Pointer whose earlier experience had been in SAC bombers and troop-carrier aircraft. Now he was commanding the 602d Special Operations Squadron, based at Nakhom Phanom in northeast Thailand and equipped with A-1 Skyraiders, popularly known as Spads.
Early in the morning of Sept. 1, 1968, Jones took off on his 98th combat mission, leading a flight of four A-1s that was assigned the task of locating an F-4 pilot who had been shot down somewhere northwest of Dong Hoi in North Vietnam. Jones was on-scene commander for the rescue effort. As usual during the monsoon season, the weather was bad--poor visibility and clouds that blanketed the tops of hills in the search area. Jones sent two of his A-1s into high orbit while he and his wingman, Capt. Paul Meeks, spent an hour flying a low search pattern over an area where the downed pilot, Carter 02 Alpha, was reported to be hiding.
Finally, an F-100 pilot made contact with the survivor several miles to the east, in territory well defended by 37-mm guns and automatic weapons. Now Carter 02 Alpha had to be pinpointed and the guns silenced so a chopper could come in for the pickup. As Colonel Jones made repeated low passes over the area, his A-1 was shaken by a violent explosion, apparently from a shell that detonated just below his Spad. He regained control, decided the plane was still flyable, and continued the search until he was rewarded by a call from the downed man, who reported that an A-1 was directly over him. Almost simultaneously, Jones came under attack from an AA gun that fired down on him from the top of a hill. The gun was too close to the F-4 pilot to risk calling in fighters, so Bill Jones attacked with rockets and his four 20-mm cannon.
On his second pass, Jones's A-1 was stitched with automatic weapons fire that ignited the rocket motor of his ejection seat. The blast of flame seared his neck, face, arms, and hands. Heading for a clear area, he tried, despite excruciating pain, to report the where-abouts of Carter 02 Alpha. His calls were blocked; then his transmitter went dead. There was nothing to do but eject or be consumed by the fire. He pulled the ejection'handle that jettisoned his canopy, but "nothing else happened," except that the rush of air intensified the flames.
As he prepared to go over the side, the fire began to die down, and Jones decided not to bail out. He would return to Nakhom Phanom if he could and report the location of the pilot and enemy guns. His flight instruments were useless, most of the windscreen gone, his eyes swelling shut, the pain--especially in his hands--almost unbearable, and the weather deteriorating. His only chance was to tuck into his wingman and follow him home. The flight to NKP took 40 tortured minutes, ending with manual extension of the landing gear and a no-flap GCA approach through heavy overcast and turbulence.
When Jones was lifted from the blackened cockpit, his hands looking "like mozzarella cheese," he refused a sedative until he had described the precise location of the F-4 pilot and the enemy guns. Later that day, Carter 02 Alpha was rescued.
On recovering from his burns, Jones, who was to be awarded the Medal of Honor, was assigned to duty at Andrews AFB, Md., and promoted to colonel on Nov. 1, 1969. In a supreme irony, Colonel Jones, who had survived more than 20 years of flying high-performance aircraft and nearly 100 combat missions, was killed in the crash of his private plane before the presentation ceremony could be held. President Nixon presented the medal posthumously to Jones's widow and three young daughters.
After the ceremony, Jones's youngest daughter, 9-year-old Mary Lee, gave the President a copy of her father's book, Maxims for Men-at-Arms, illustrated with his own pen-and-ink drawings. Jones had received the first copy of the book the day before his death.
The Citation (posthumous)
Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 602d Special Operations Squadron, Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.
Place and date: Near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam, 1 September 1968.
Entered service at: Charlottesville, Va. Born: 31 May 1922, Norfolk, Va.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Col. Jones distinguished himself as the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. On that day, as the on-scene commander in the attempted rescue of a downed U.S. pilot, Col. Jones' aircraft was repeatedly hit by heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. On one of his low passes, Col. Jones felt an explosion beneath his aircraft and his cockpit rapidly filled with smoke. With complete disregard of the possibility that his aircraft might still be burning, he unhesitatingly continued his search for the downed pilot. On this pass, he sighted the survivor and a multiple-barrel gun position firing at him from near the top of a karst formation. He could not attack the gun position on that pass for fear he would endanger the downed pilot. Leaving himself exposed to the gun position, Col. Jones attacked the position with cannon and rocket fire on 2 successive passes. On his second pass, the aircraft was hit with multiple rounds of automatic weapons fire. One round impacted the Yankee Extraction System rocket mounted directly behind the headrest, igniting the rocket. His aircraft was observed to burst into flames in the center fuselage section, with flames engulfing the cockpit area. He pulled the extraction handle, jettisoning the canopy. The influx of fresh air made the fire burn with greater intensity for a few moments, but since the rocket motor had already burned, the extraction system did not pull Col. Jones from the aircraft. Despite searing pains from severe burns sustained on his arms, hands, neck, shoulders, and face, Col. Jones pulled his aircraft into a climb and attempted to transmit the location of the downed pilot and the enemy gun position to the other aircraft in the area. His calls were blocked by other aircraft transmissions repeatedly directing him to bail out and within seconds his transmitters were disabled and he could receive only on 1 channel. Completely disregarding his injuries, he elected to fly his crippled aircraft back to his base and pass on essential information for the rescue rather than bail out. Col. Jones successfully landed his heavily damaged aircraft and passed the information to a debriefing officer while on the operating table. As a result of his heroic actions and complete disregard for his personal safety, the downed pilot was rescued later in the day. Col. Jones' profound concern for his fellow man at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
03-31-2008, 04:36 AM
Capt. Gerald O. Young
Shortly after midnight on Nov. 9, 1967, Capt. Gerald O. Young, an instructor pilot with the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Da Nang, headed his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant toward an area southwest of Khe Sanh. Low-hanging clouds shrouded 5,000-foot peaks off to his left. Visibility was poor. It wasn't a good night for a rescue mission in the hill country just below the DMZ, but Young was a veteran of 59 combat missions, including as far north as Haiphong. He and his crew had volunteered for this one.
The previous afternoon, a small US-South Vietnamese reconnaissance team had been surrounded by a NVA battalion. Two helicopters had been shot down during a daylight rescue attempt. Young and his crew were flying backup for another Jolly Green, supported by a C-130 flareship and three Army gunships, in a desperate attempt to save the ambushed patrol.
As the rescue force approached the beleaguered team, the enemy opened up with automatic weapons on the escorting gunships. The primary HH-3E moved through heavy fire into the area, now lighted by flares from the C-130. Hovering along a steep slope, its crew picked up three survivors before they were forced to withdraw to an emergency landing area, badly shot up and leaking fuel and oil. The pilot advised Young not to make another attempt under such extremely difficult conditions. Nevertheless, Young decided on one more try, even though the gunships were low on fuel and ammunition and might not be able to stay with them.
Young approached the slope head-on, hovering with one main wheel on the ground and his rotor blades barely clearing the bank above him. His copilot, Capt. Ralph Brower, directed fire from the gunships while Sgt. Larry Mansey leaped to the ground to help the wounded aboard, covered by SSgt. Eugene Clay at one of the chopper's machine guns. The big bird was sprayed by automatic weapons fire while five survivors were pulled aboard. During takeoff, a direct hit exploded one of the Jolly Green's engines, flipping the craft over on its back as it burst into flames and crashed down the hillside.
Young, hanging upside down in his harness, finally escaped through the broken windshield, his clothing on fire. He rolled down the slope to extinguish the flames, which had inflicted second- and third-degree burns on his legs, back, arms, and neck. Then, with his bare hands, he smothered the flames that were consuming a soldier lying nearby who had been thrown clear of the wreckage. Were there other survivors in or near the burning wreck? Young crawled 100 yards up the hill toward the flames, but was driven back by intense heat and enemy fire.
Young knew that daylight would bring a rescue force looking for survivors. The first A-1E Sandys to arrive spotted him and the unconscious man he had rescued. Young tried to warn them of a possible flak trap. He knew that the main rescue force would arrive at any moment and that enemy troops were moving back into the area to oppose them. The only way he could help was by leading the hostiles away from the crash site. In his condition, that meant almost certain capture or death.
He hid the wounded man whom he had rescued earlier and, despite the agony of his burns, took off into the brush, with enemy troops in pursuit. Each step ahead in the long hours of flight was a triumph of will over searing pain as he lured his pursuers farther and farther from the wreckage. After stumbling and crawling for six miles, he eluded the NVA troops late that afternoon, 17 hours after the crash, and called in a helicopter to pick him up. A rescue force had finally been able to land at the crash site, retrieve one survivor, and recover the bodies of the dead, including that of the man Young had hidden. Young spent six months in hospitals, recovering from his burns. In May 1968, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson at a ceremony dedicating the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
Before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1980, Young served at the Air Force Academy, was instrumental in setting up the forerunner of the Air Force Mast Program (which provides helicopter assistance to civilian highway patrols), flew with the VIP transport squadron out of Andrews AFB, Md., and was Air Attache to Colombia.
Today, 18 years after his last combat mission, how does he feel about his Vietnam experience? "The air rescue mission was one of the best in the war," he says. "There is no greater compensation than to participate in saving lives."
By that standard, Young is a wealthy man indeed.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 37th ARS Da Nang AFB, Republic of Vietnam.
Place and date: Khesanh, 9 November 1967.
Entered service at: Colorado Springs, Colo. Born: 9 May 1930, Chicago, Ill.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Young distinguished himself while serving as a helicopter rescue crew commander. Capt. Young was flying escort for another helicopter attempting the night rescue of an Army ground reconnaissance team in imminent danger of death or capture. Previous attempts had resulted in the loss of 2 helicopters to hostile ground fire. The endangered team was positioned on the side of a steep slope which required unusual airmanship on the part of Capt. Young to effect pickup. Heavy automatic weapons fire from the surrounding enemy severely damaged 1 rescue helicopter, but it was able to extract 3 of the team. The commander of this aircraft recommended to Capt. Young that further rescue attempts be abandoned because it was not possible to suppress the concentrated fire from enemy automatic weapons. With full knowledge of the danger involved, and the fact that supporting helicopter gunships were low on fuel and ordnance, Capt. Young hovered under intense fire until the remaining survivors were aboard. As he maneuvered the aircraft for takeoff, the enemy appeared at point-blank range and raked the aircraft with automatic weapons fire. The aircraft crashed, inverted, and burst into flames. Capt. Young escaped through a window of the burning aircraft. Disregarding serious burns, Capt. Young aided one of the wounded men and attempted to lead the hostile forces away from his position. Later, despite intense pain from his burns, he declined to accept rescue because he had observed hostile forces setting up automatic weapons positions to entrap any rescue aircraft. For more than 17 hours he evaded the enemy until rescue aircraft could be brought into the area. Through his extraordinary heroism, aggressiveness, and concern for his fellow man, Capt. Young reflected the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the Armed Forces of his country.
04-04-2008, 03:02 AM
Maj. George E. Day
On Aug. 26, 1967, Maj. George E. Day punched out of his disabled F-100F some 35 miles north of the DMZ in Vietnam, opening a saga of unremitting valor that was to last for more than five years.
If any man could be prepared for the ordeal that lay ahead, it was Bud Day. He had served 30 months in the Pacific with the Marines in World War II. After the war, he earned a doctor's degree in law, joined the National Guard, was called to active duty in 1951, and completed pilot training that year. During the Korean War, he flew two tours in F-84s. Later, while based in England, he bailed out of a burning jet fighter at 300 feet, too low for his parachute to open, landed in trees, and survived. He arrived in Vietnam in early 1967 with a finely trained mind, a wealth of experience in fighters, devout faith in God, and an unshakable devotion to country.
After several weeks of combat flying, Major Day was picked to organize the F-100 "Misty" Forward Air Controllers, known as Commando Sabre. Their operations were in the hot areas north of the DMZ where slow-moving FAC aircraft couldn't survive. Bud Day was on his 67th mission in the North when Communist guns brought him down.
Day landed in enemy territory with his right arm broken in three places, a badly injured knee, and a damaged eye. He was captured immediately, interrogated under torture despite his injuries, and imprisoned in a bunker until the North Vietnamese could move him to a prison near Hanoi.
Realizing that if he were to escape, it had to be now, before he was behind bars, Day tricked his youthful guards into believing he was unable to move. Shortly after nightfall, he worked free of his bonds, slipped out of the bunker, and began an incredible 12-day journey toward freedom.
Twice in that nightmarish passage he was caught in the midst of B-52 attacks. On the second night an incoming artillery round threw him into the air, ruptured his eardrums, and left a deep gash in his right leg. Violent nausea and dizziness prevented his traveling for two days after that. It was not until the fifth day that he was able to catch his first meal--a frog, which he ate raw. After that, it was nothing but water, a few berries, and some fruit.
Despite frequent periods of delirium brought on by injuries and lack of food, he reached the Ben Hai River at the north edge of the DMZ and swam it with the help of a bamboo log. By that time, his bare feet were cut to ribbons and the wound in his leg had become infected. Then came the most agonizing moment of the escape. A US helicopter landed within half a mile of him, but before he could drag himself through the brush it was gone.
Still fighting his way south, Day was within two miles of the US Marine base at Con Thien when he was recaptured by two young enemy soldiers who shot him in the left leg and hand. The long, painful trek to Hanoi began for the only American POW to escape and make it south to the DMZ.
During the brutal punishment that followed his recapture, Day's arm was broken again. He arrived at Little Vegas, one of the prisons near Hanoi, completely unable to care for himself, but denied medical treatment. Later he was transferred to The Zoo, "a bad treatment camp," where he was the senior officer. As the months dragged by, he was tortured many times for alleged transgressions by officers under his command. During frequent interrogations, he steadfastly refused to give information that would endanger American aircrews or could have been used by the North Vietnamese for propaganda purposes. Thirty-seven months of his five-and-a-half-year imprisonment was in solitary confinement.
For his long-sustained heroism, Col. George Day, who previously had earned more than 60 decorations, including the Air Force Cross, was awarded the nation's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.
No words can recreate the horror of the long, calculated attack on mind and body suffered by Day. That he survived with his honor intact and continued to serve his country until retirement from the Air Force in 1977 is testimony to the unconquerable spirit that dwells in the best of men.
On March 14, 1997, the new Survival School Building at Fairchild AFB was named in his honor.
In 2002, Sioux City Airport was renamed Sioux Gateway Airport/Col. Bud Day Field in his honor.
January 04, 2008 Retired Col. Bud Day was awarded Freedom Communications, Inc. Spirit of Freedom Award on behalf of the Northwest Florida Daily News.
Rank and organization: Colonel (then Major), U.S. Air Force, Forward Air Controller Pilot of an F-100 aircraft.
Place and date: North Vietnam, 26 August 1967.
Entered service at: Sioux City, Iowa.
Born: 24 February 1925, Sioux City, Iowa.
Citation: On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Col. Day's conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.
04-04-2008, 12:40 PM
:applause: :applause: Bob, Thank you.. :respect:
04-05-2008, 05:56 AM
04-06-2008, 11:12 AM
Looking at George E. Day standing up there I can picture a small child running to their Grandpa for a hug. They would have no idea he was a hero and so brave. He would be just Grandpa to them......
The other day a man was sitting in my chair. He was a small built friendly little guy. He talked with everyone in the Barbershop. The other men sitting around waiting got in a conversation about the war today. The old man looked up at me and said , "I was in WW2 ya’know" He went on to say he was a prisoner of war for 4 years......4 YEARS! He had no idea how long he was in there at the time, because they kept moving him around to different camps and sometimes leaving him in a hole that was dug in the ground, and he just lost track of time. He said, "I told myself if I ever get out of here I was never going to stop eating". He said , "I ate myself into over 400 pounds" I stopped cutting his hair and just stood there in silence with tears for him. I would have done anything for him at that moment. The branch of service he was in (I was so shocked I for got to ask what branch) threatened to kick him out if he didn’t lose the weight. He did lose the weight because he didn’t want to lose his retirement. When he left I felt like I had just met a real life HERO......
04-06-2008, 11:32 AM
AW, you did.
Bob, thank you for posting these.
These are ALL true AMERICAN HEROS. I thank GOD every day for people like these, and thank them in my prayers. Generally speaking, the American people (younger generation) have no idea what people like these heros have given up for this bunch of idiots to have the rights they have in this country.
04-08-2008, 06:26 AM
Sgt. John L. Levitow
On February 24, 1969, Levitow was asked to fill in for the regular loadmaster on an AC-47. He was handling Mark 24 magnesium flares aboard "Spooky 71" when his pilot threw the AC-47 and its eight-man crew into a turn to engage Viet Cong whose muzzle flashes were visible outside Long Binh Army Base. The aircraft, an armed version of the C-47 Skytrain transport, had been flying a night mission in the Tan Son Nhut Air Base area when Long Binh came under attack. Levitow would set the ejection and ignition controls and pass a flare to the gunner, who attached it to a lanyard. On the pilot's command, the gunner would simultaneously pull the safety pin and toss the flare through the open cargo door. Ten seconds after the three-foot-long, 27 pound metal tube was released, an explosive charge deployed a parachute. In another ten seconds, the magnesium flare would ignite, quickly reaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and illuminating the countryside with two million candlepower intensity. Each flare would burn for more than a minute.
Suddenly, Spooky 71 was jarred by a tremendous explosion and bathed in a blinding flash of light. A North Vietnamese Army 82-millimeter mortar shell had landed on top of the right wing and exploded inside the wing frame. The blast raked the fuselage with flying shrapnel. Everyone in the back of Spooky 71 was wounded, including Levitow who was hit by shrapnel that "felt like a two-by-four."
Despite his wounds, he came to the rescue of a fellow crew member who was perilously close to the open cargo door. As he dragged his buddy back toward the center of the cabin, Levitow saw something even worse: a loose, burning Mark 24 magnesium flare had been knocked free in the fuselage and was rolling amid ammunition cans that contained 19,000 rounds of live ammunition.
Through a haze of pain and shock, Levitow, with 40 shrapnel wounds in his legs, side and back, realized he was the closest crew member to the flare. Fighting a 30-degree bank, Levitow crawled to the flare, but was unable to grasp it to pick it up. He threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging it to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft, leaving a trail of blood behind. Not knowing how long the flare had been burning, he hurled it through the open cargo door. At that instant, the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. When the aircraft finally returned to the base, the extent of the damage became apparent. The AC-47 had more than 3,500 holes in the wings and fuselage, one measuring more than three feet long.
The pilot later reconstructed what happened by the blood pattern Levitow had left on the floor of the aircraft.
Levitow spent about two-and-a-half months in a hospital and was sent back to Vietnam for another tour of duty, and flew 20 more missions. He was returned to the United States to receive the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon in ceremonies at the White House on Armed Forces Day, May 14, 1970. After receiving the Medal of Honor, Levitow was told by a member of the Air Staff that the only people to whom he was required to render a salute were Medal of Honor recipients who were of higher rank than himself -- all of them since he was the lowest-ranking one.
He was promoted to sergeant before his discharge from the Air Force fours years later, Levitow spent more than 22 years devoted to veterans' affairs. On January 22, 1998, in Long Beach, California, Air Mobility Command and the Boeing Company struck a resounding chord for the Air Force enlisted rank with the naming of a C-17 Globemaster III as "The Spirit of John Levitow."
John Levitow died of cancer November 8, 2000 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia. His grave can be found in section 66, site 7107, map grid DD/17.
In his memory, the Levitow Honor Graduate Award is presented to the top professional military education graduate from Air Force Airman Leadership Schools. The 737th Training Group headquarters building at Lackland AFB, Texas, has also been named in his honor. Levitow is further honored by having the "John L. Levitow Award" named after him, which is the highest award given to the top graduate of every Air Force enlisted Professional Military Education class.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, 3d Special Operations Squadron.
Place and date: Long Binh Army post, Republic of Vietnam, 24 February 1969.
Entered service at: New Haven, Conn.
Born: 1 November 1945, Hartford, Conn.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Levitow (then A1c.), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while assigned as a loadmaster aboard an AC-47 aircraft flying a night mission in support of Long Binh Army post. Sgt. Levitow's aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole 2 feet in diameter through the wing and fragments made over 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants of the cargo compartment were wounded and helplessly slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion tore an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Sgt. Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering from over 40 fragment wounds in the back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him who had been knocked down and was bleeding heavily. As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the opened cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Sgt. Levitow started toward the burning flare. The aircraft was partially out of control and the flare was rolling wildly from side to side. Sgt. Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood from his many wounds and the partial loss of feeling in his right leg. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly device to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. Sgt. Levitow, by his selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction. Sgt. Levitow's gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
04-13-2008, 04:56 AM
Maj. Leo K. Thorsness
The Wild Weasel crews, flying two-seat F-105Gs, took on the most dangerous and demanding mission of the air war in Southeast Asia. Their job was to precede a strike force into the target area, entice enemy surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft radars to come on the air, and knock them out with bombs or with missiles that homed on the radar's emissions. Often they were in a high-threat area for half an hour while the strike force attacked its targets and withdrew. The business of offering themselves as targets for enemy gunners was made even more hazardous by the presence of MiG fighters. Only the top pilots were selected to fly F-105Gs.
Head Weasel of the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Takhli Air Base in Thailand was Maj. Leo Thorsness. On April 19, 1967, he and his backseater, Capt. Harold Johnson, fought one of the epic solo battles of the war in a wild 50-minute duel with SAMS, AAA, and MiGs.
The target that day was an army compound near Hanoi, the most heavily defended area in the history of aerial warfare. Thorsness, leading a flight of four Weasels, heard the rattling in his headset that signaled enemy radars coming on long before they reached the target. Directing two of his F-105s to the north, Thorsness and his wingman stayed south, forcing enemy gunners to divide their attention. Johnson's scope in the back seat showed many SAMs in the area. Thorsness fired a Shrike missile at one of the sites, and moments later its radar went off the air. He then silenced another with a direct bomb hit.
Things quickly began to go sour. First, Thorsness's wingman, Tom Madison, was hit by flak. Both he and his backseater, Tom Sterling, ejected. Thorsness flew toward their chutes, somehow finding time to fire at another SAM site along the way. Then the two Weasels he had sent north were attacked by MiGs. The afterburner of one F-105 wouldn't light; the element was forced to return to Takhli, leaving Thorsness alone in a hornet's nest of SAMS, AAA, and MiGs.
As Thorsness circled the two chutes, Johnson spotted a MiG off their left wing. The big F-105, designed for delivering nuclear weapons at low altitude, was never intended for air-to-air combat. But never mind that. Thorsness attacked the MiG, destroying it with 20-mm cannon fire as another MiG closed on his tail. Low on fuel, he broke off and rendezvoused with a tanker.
In the meantime, two prop-driven A-1E Sandys and a rescue helicopter had arrived to look for Madison and Sterling. Thorsness, with only 500 rounds of ammunition left, turned back from the tanker to fly cover for the rescue force, knowing there were at least five MiGs in the area. Using the last of his ammunition, he hit and probably destroyed one of them. Then, in a wild supersonic dash at 50 feet, he shook off four more MiGs that had come up fast behind him.
Once more, Thorsness started for the rescue scene, where MiGs had downed one Sandy. Out of ammunition, he hoped at least to draw the MiGs away from the remaining Sandy in what might well have been a suicidal maneuver. In the nick of time, an element of the strike force, which had been delayed, arrived and hit the enemy fighters.
It wasn't over yet. Again low on fuel, Thorsness headed for a tanker just as one of the strike force pilots, lost and almost out of fuel, called him for help. Thorsness knew he couldn't make Takhli without refueling. Rapidly calculating that he could stretch it to Udorn, some 200 miles closer, without taking on fuel, he directed the tanker toward the lost pilot. Once across the Mekong, he throttled back to idle and "glided" toward Udorn, touching down as his tanks went dry. That four-hour mission had been, as Johnson said, "a full day's work."
Eleven days later, while Thorsness was on his 93rd mission, a MiG popped up from behind a mountain and put a missile up the tailpipe of his F-105. He and Johnson ejected at 600 knots, Thorsness suffering severe injuries. Both men spent almost the next six years in North Vietnam's prisons. Because of his "uncooperative attitude," Thorsness was denied medical attention, spent a year in solitary, and suffered severe back injuries under torture. On March 4, 1973, both men walked away from prison, Thorsness on crutches. No one could ever say that Leo Thorsness hadn't paid his dues in full.
On Oct. 15, 1973, President Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Lt. Col. Leo K. Thorsness for extraordinary heroism on that April day in 1967. Maj. Harold Johnson was later awarded the Air Force Cross. No longer able to fly fighters because of his back injuries, Leo Thorsness retired as a colonel. He is now Director of Civic Affairs for Litton Industries.
The mission was recreated by The History Channel as part of Episode 12 ("Long Odds") of its series Dogfights, and first telecast on January 19, 2007.
Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel (then Maj.), U.S. Air Force, 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Place and date: Over North Vietnam, 19 April 1967.
Entered service at: Walnut Grove, Minn.
Born: 14 February 1932, Walnut Grove, Minn.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. As pilot of an F- 105 aircraft, Lt. Col. Thorsness was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission over North Vietnam. Lt. Col. Thorsness and his wingman attacked and silenced a surface-to-air missile site with air-to-ground missiles, and then destroyed a second surface-to-air missile site with bombs. In tile attack on the second missile site, Lt. Col. Thorsness' wingman was shot down by intensive antiaircraft fire, and the 2 crewmembers abandoned their aircraft. Lt. Col. Thorsness circled the descending parachutes to keep the crewmembers in sight and relay their position to the Search and Rescue Center. During this maneuver, a MIG-17 was sighted in the area. Lt. Col. Thorsness immediately initiated an attack and destroyed the MIG. Because his aircraft was low on fuel, he was forced to depart the area in search of a tanker. Upon being advised that 2 helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew's position and that there were hostile MlGs in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Lt. Col. Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft defenses to the downed crew's position. As he approached the area, he spotted 4 MIG-17 aircraft and immediately initiated an attack on the MlGs, damaging 1 and driving the others away from the rescue scene. When it became apparent that an aircraft in the area was critically low on fuel and the crew would have to abandon the aircraft unless they could reach a tanker, Lt. Col. Thorsness, although critically short on fuel himself, helped to avert further possible loss of life and a friendly aircraft by recovering at a forward operating base, thus allowing the aircraft in emergency fuel condition to refuel safely. Lt. Col. Thorsness' extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
04-15-2008, 02:00 AM
Capt. James P. Fleming
Jet fighter pilots dive in and out of danger, barely missing enemy shells and antiaircraft fire. Most helicopter pilots live less dangerous lives, especially those flying the UH-1F light utility helicopter. But 1st Lt. James P. Fleming was the exception in 1968 as he balanced on the edge of vulnerability over the jungles of Southeast Asia, earning the Medal of Honor.
Fleming was born in March 1943 in Sedalia, Mo. He entered military service at Pullman, Wash. By 1968, he was an aircraft commander of a UH-1F transport helicopter assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Ban Me Tout, Republic of Vietnam. On Nov. 26, a six-man reconnaissance team of Army Special Forces Green Berets had been lifted into Vietnam's western highlands, near the Cambodian border and about 30 miles west of Pleiku. Hours later, they found themselves penned up next to a river, with enemy forces on the three remaining sides. The team leader called for immediate evacuation. The call was received by an Air Force forward air controller, as well as a flight of five UH-1s near the area. Fleming flew one of the transports. All five, despite being low on fuel, headed toward the coordinates while the FAC briefed them on the situation.
The berets were taking heavy fire from six heavy machine guns and an undetermined number of enemy troops. There was a clearing in the jungle about 100 yards away from them and a smaller one only 25 yards away. The furthest one was too far away for them to get to through enemy fire. As soon as the helicopters sighted the team's smoke, the gunships opened fire, knocking out two machine gun positions. One gunship was hit and crash-landed across the river, its crew picked up by one of the transports. A second transport, low on fuel, had to pull out of formation and return to base. There were only two helicopters left, Fleming's transport and one gunship that was almost out of ammunition.
Hovering just above the treetops, Fleming checked out the smaller clearing and found it impossible to land there. Looking over the battle scene, Fleming had an idea. If he hovered just above the river with his landing skids against the bank, a balancing act that required great piloting skill, especially in the middle of a firefight, the special forces troops might be able to run the few yards to his helicopter safely. But the biggest miracle of all would be keeping his transport from being hit by ground fire.
Suspended motionless against the river bank, his boom hanging out above open water, he waited for the Green Berets. Long minutes later, the reconnaissance team radioed that they couldn't survive a dash to the helicopter. Fleming rose and hastily backed his chopper over the water and flew out of range through a hail of bullets. Fleming wasn't through yet, though. The FAC directed the berets to detonate their mines as Fleming made another last, desperate attempt to rescue them. As the mines exploded, Fleming again lowered his helicopter to the river bank, balancing against it, giving the berets an open cargo door through which to leap to safety. But the enemy, knowing exactly what he was doing this time, concentrated their fire on the UH-1. The berets ran for the chopper, firing as they ran and killing three Viet Cong barely 10 feet from the helicopter. As they leaped through the cargo door, Fleming once more backed the helicopter away from the bank and flew down the river to safety.
In a ceremony at the White House May 14, 1970, President Richard Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Fleming for his heroic actions and conspicuous gallantry in the face of enemy fire.
Fleming remained in the Air Force, becoming a colonel and a member of the Officer Training School staff at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 20th Special Operations Squadron.
Place and date: Near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam, 26 November 1968.
Entered service at: Pullman, Wash. Born: 12 March 1943, Sedalia, Mo.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Fleming (then 1st Lt.) distinguished himself as the Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F transport Helicopter. Capt. Fleming went to the aid of a 6-man special forces long range reconnaissance patrol that was in danger of being overrun by a large, heavily armed hostile force. Despite the knowledge that 1 helicopter had been downed by intense hostile fire, Capt. Fleming descended, and balanced his helicopter on a river bank with the tail boom hanging over open water. The patrol could not penetrate to the landing site and he was forced to withdraw. Dangerously low on fuel, Capt. Fleming repeated his original landing maneuver. Disregarding his own safety, he remained in this exposed position. Hostile fire crashed through his windscreen as the patrol boarded his helicopter. Capt. Fleming made a successful takeoff through a barrage of hostile fire and recovered safely at a forward base. Capt. Fleming's profound concern for his fellowmen, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
04-16-2008, 05:37 AM
Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson
A lumbering, unarmed Fairchild C-123 transport is not exactly the aircraft a pilot would choose for a rescue attempt on an enemy-held airstrip--especially a pilot like Lt. Col. Joe Jackson, who had 20 years in fighters and U-2 reconnaissance planes. As a matter of fact, it's hard to think of any bird that would have made such a venture attractive, but that's exactly what Joe Jackson, in the left seat of C-123 No. 542, was about to undertake.
On May 12, 1968, Jackson and his crew--Maj. Jesse Campbell, TSgt. Edward Trejo, and SSgt. Manson Grubbs--had been on a normal trash-hauling run combined with an annual proficiency check when they were recalled to their base at Da Nang. A Special Forces camp at Kham Duc, about 45 miles to the southwest, had been under siege for three days. C-23s and C-130s were frantically evacuating some 1,000 troops from the surrounded camp. Jackson was dispatched to help.
As he orbited at 9,000 feet in a holding pattern, the scene below was one of increasing devastation as the Viet Cong moved closer to the camp's 4,000-foot airstrip. Through the marginal and rapidly deteriorating weather, Jackson could see fires, exploding ammunition dumps, and wrecked aircraft lying just off the runway. The strip itself was littered with debris and blocked at midpoint by a burning helicopter. There were enemy gun positions a few hundred feet beyond the chopper.
The thought of flying into that grisly scene in a slow-moving C-123 that even an entry-level gunner should be able to hit was not one to gladden the heart. Then the future brightened, though only briefly. Word came that the last Special Forces survivors had been evacuated. Time to head for home--until it was discovered moments later that a three-man combat control team had been overlooked. They were somewhere near the runway, but could not be contacted by radio.
The airborne command post asked a C-123 ahead of Jackson to attempt a pickup. Supported by friendly fighters, the C-123 pilot went in under fire, failed to locate the control team, and firewalled his throttles. Just as he lifted off, the men were spotted in a ditch near the burning helicopter, but it was too late to stop. The C-123, low on fuel, returned to its base.
"Would No. 542 make a last try to rescue the team?" Without hesitation, fighter pilot Jackson peeled off from 9,000 feet in a most unconventional approach for a transport--steep dive with full flaps to reduce exposure to enemy fire. Somehow, though he exceeded flaps-down speed by a wide margin, the flaps held. A minor miracle.
Jackson leveled off just above the treetops, touched down at the end of the strip, and stood on the brakes. He couldn't reverse props, since that would automatically cut off the two small auxiliary jet engines hung on the wings. He would need them for takeoff, if skill and good fortune got them that far.
No. 542 skidded to a stop just short of the burning helicopter. Jackson swung his aircraft around, preparing for an emergency takeoff, as the three controllers dashed across the runway and were hauled aboard. As he looked down the 2,200 feet of debris-littered strip, he had an unpleasant surprise. Coming toward 542 was a 122-mm rocket, fired at zero elevation. It skidded off the runway, came to rest 10 yards from the plane, and failed to explode. A major miracle.
Ten seconds after Jackson's plane began to roll, a barrage of mortar shells hit where he had stopped to pick up the team. Ahead, the runway was crisscrossed by tracers fired from both sides. No one aboard No. 542 expected to make it, but of the thousands of rounds fired at the -123, not one found its mark. A supreme miracle.
At 5:30 p.m., that day, two hours after he had entered his holding pattern near the camp, Jackson, his crew, and the three rescued men landed safely at Da Nang.
On Jan. 16, 1969, in one of his last acts before leaving the White House, President Lyndon Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to the pilot of No. 542. Along with his own skill and valor, Jackson must have had a second Copilot when he volunteered for that desperate attempt to save three abandoned men, but he had no way of knowing that when he dropped his flaps and started a screaming, vibrating dive toward seemingly certain disaster.
Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 311th Air Commando Squadron, Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam.
Place and date: Kham Duc, Republic of Vietnam, 12 May 1968.
Entered service at: Newman, Ga.
Born: 14 March 1923, Newman, Ga.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Lt. Col. Jackson distinguished himself as pilot of a C-123 aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of a 3-man USAF Combat Control Team from the special forces camp at Kham Duc. Hostile forces had overrun the forward outpost and established gun positions on the airstrip. They were raking the camp with small arms, mortars, light and heavy automatic weapons, and recoilless rifle fire. The camp was engulfed in flames and ammunition dumps were continuously exploding and littering the runway with debris. In addition, 8 aircraft had been destroyed by the intense enemy fire and 1 aircraft remained on the runway reducing its usable length to only 2,200 feet. To further complicate the landing, the weather was deteriorating rapidly, thereby permitting only 1 air strike prior to his landing. Although fully aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt. Lt. Col. Jackson elected to land his aircraft and attempt to rescue. Displaying superb airmanship and extraordinary heroism, he landed his aircraft near the point where the combat control team was reported to be hiding. While on the ground, his aircraft was the target of intense hostile fire. A rocket landed in front of the nose of the aircraft but failed to explode. Once the combat control team was aboard, Lt. Col. Jackson succeeded in getting airborne despite the hostile fire directed across the runway in front of his aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson's profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself, and the Armed Forces of his country.
04-18-2008, 04:54 AM
Capt. Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen
The target on March 10, 1967, was the iron and steelworks at Thai Nguyen in the Red River delta, 35 miles north of Hanoi. The Joint Chiefs of Staff listed it as their top industrial target in North Vietnam, but, because of constraints imposed by Washington on conduct of the Vietnam War, it had been off limits to air strikes until now. The plant was located near the small town of Thai Nguyen. It was part of a sprawling industrial complex that occupied about two square miles. Earlier in the year, US aircraft had bombed the railroad marshaling yard and supply depot at Thai Nguyen, but the main industrial complex was left untouched.
The ironworks, built by China in the 1950s, was the pride of North Vietnamese industry. The country had two other foundries, both of them smaller. For some time, Thai Nguyen had been making products with imported steel. More recently, a steel mill, the only one in North Vietnam, had been built at Thai Nguyen.
In January 1967, Adm. U.S. Grant Sharp, commander in chief of US Pacific Command, requested permission for a series of air strikes “to systematically flatten North Vietnam’s military and industrial base” with “the Thai Nguyen iron-and-steel plant at the head of the list.” President Johnson on Feb. 22 approved Thai Nguyen as a target, but Southeast Asia was in the middle of the wet season monsoon and the first strike was scrubbed eight times because of bad weather. The mission was on hold again the morning of March 10, but a break in the weather was forecast for later in the day. The strike force launched just before noon to be over the target at 3:30 p.m. The strike force included 72 aircraft from three bases in Thailand. There were F-105s from the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat, which went in first, followed by F-105s from the 355th TFW, Takhli, and F-4 Phantoms from the 8th TFW at Ubon. In addition to carrying bombs, the F-4s were responsible for protecting the strike force from MiG interceptors.
The F-105, officially Thunderchief but known to all as the “Thud”, flew most of the bombing missions against North Vietnam. It was fast at low level but was at a disadvantage in a turning fight with MiGs. The F-4, newer and more agile, could handle any of the North Vietnamese fighters, including the MiG-21. The strike force aircraft refueled in the air from tankers over Laos and entered North Vietnam. They crossed the Red River and flew down the back side of Thud Ridge, continuing on to Cho Moi before looping back toward Thai Nguyen.
The air defenses were thick in the North Vietnamese heartland, and the gunners were ready and waiting. One of the pilots that day said the flak was the heaviest he had ever seen “except in World War II movies.” Thai Nguyen was ringed by 96 anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) sites, each with several guns. North Vietnam’s main fighter base, Phuc Yen, lay nearby, between Thai Nguyen and Hanoi. US pilots were forbidden to attack the base, and the North Vietnamese knew it. The industrial complex also was protected by SA-2 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). The AAA was particularly effective at close range. US fighters could reduce their vulnerability by going to higher altitude, but that was where the SAMs were most lethal.
The Wild Weasels, flying specially equipped F-105Fs, had been created expressly to suppress the SAMs. The March 10 strike force included two flights of Weasels, one from Korat and one from Takhli. The Weasels’ tactic was to use themselves as bait. They “trolled” for SAMs, tempting them to turn on their Fan Song tracking radar or fire a missile. If they did, the Weasels would home on the signal and launch a Shrike antiradiation missile to follow the beam back to its source and destroy the radar. The site could then be finished off with guns or bombs.
The Takhli Weasels that day, call sign Lincoln, were several minutes in front of the rest of the 355th aircraft, allowing themselves time to work the SAMs before the strike flights got there. Lincoln flight consisted of two elements of two airplanes each. The element leaders flew F-105Fs, two-seat models configured with electronics and other equipment to detect and destroy the SAM radars. They were armed with Shrike missiles, CBU-24 cluster bombs, and 20 mm Gatling guns. The Lincoln wingmen flew standard Thuds, F-105Ds, which had guns and a full load of bombs. On “Iron Hand” missions, the F-105Fs found and knocked out the SAM radars and the F-105Ds came in to demolish the site.
The flight commander was Maj. David A. Everson, Lincoln 01, with Capt. Donald A. Luna, the electronic warfare officer (EWO), in the back seat. Capt. Bill Hoeft was Lincoln 02. The leader of the second element was Capt. Merlyn Dethlefsen, Lincoln 03, with Capt. Kevin A. “Mike” Gilroy as his EWO. Flying on his wing was Maj. Kenneth H. Bell, Lincoln 04. All six airmen in the Weasel flight had plenty of experience. Each of them had flown more than 50 combat missions and had been to North Vietnam many times. “We were the eyes and ears of that strike force,” Dethlefsen told Airman magazine in 1969. “That target was very important. It produced about 40 percent of the enemy’s steel. The SAM sites were there to protect it from our air strikes. The strike force would be very vulnerable to the SAMs and anti-aircraft guns. Keeping them down was our job.”
First Element Lost
If the defenders at Thai Nguyen needed any stirring up, the Korat F-105s in the first wave of the attack had done a proper job of it. “After we turned south, there was absolutely no doubt about the target location,” Bell said in his 1993 book, 100 Missions North, published by Brassey’s. “Thai Nguyen was ablaze with AAA fire and a large column of black smoke covered the area,” Bell said. “The 388th was in the thick of it, and we were a minute away from the most intense barrage of ground fire I had ever seen. Several SAM sites were up and tracking us, but their threat paled in comparison to the guns. The defenses were ready and Thai Nguyen was a boiling mushroom of ugly black flak.” After the mission was over, Gilroy remembered how some of the flak rounds, reaching the end of their range and losing velocity, rattled like pea gravel off the bottom of the aircraft’s wings.
Lincoln flight approached Thai Nguyen in combat spread formation, the four aircraft almost line abreast with Everson and Hoeft on the right and Dethlefsen and Bell on the left. Two miles out from the target, the Weasels detected a SAM radar tracking them. Everson in Lincoln 01 attacked first. He swept wide to the right, dived through the flak, and launched a Shrike missile toward the SAM site. Seconds later, Lincoln 01 took a critical hit from the AAA. Chute beepers confirmed that Everson and Luna had bailed out. They reached the ground and were captured immediately. They spent the rest of the war as POWs, returning in the general repatriation in 1973. Hoeft, Lincoln 02, followed Everson into the flak. He was also hit and put out of action. An 85 mm shell blew a four-foot hole in his left wing, just outboard of the landing gear. He was lucky to make it to Udorn Air Base in northern Thailand, where he recovered.
Dethlefsen Takes Over
That left Dethlefsen, Lincoln 03, in command of the two remaining Weasels. Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen, 32, was a former Iowa farm boy. He joined the Air Force as an enlisted man and earned his commission and navigator’s wings through the aviation cadet program in 1955. He later went to pilot training, graduating in 1960. He flew F-100s at first, then moved into F-105s. He had come to Takhli in October 1966. This was his 78th combat mission.
The prevailing wisdom among fighter pilots was not to linger in situations where the air defenses were intensive. Making more than one pass was regarded as a high risk. Merlyn Dethlefsen would make five passes at Thai Nguyen. He also would stay in the target area for 10 minutes, which must have seemed an eternity. “We were still ahead of the strike force and they were still vulnerable,” Dethlefsen said. “We had fuel and missiles and guns and bombs, and the job wasn’t done yet. Lincoln lead had seen the target and launched a missile, but it had missed. I decided we would stay. Coming around, I studied the flak pattern. It wasn’t a matter of being able to avoid the flak but of finding the least intense areas.”
On the first pass, Gilroy, operating the electronics in the back seat of Lincoln 03, got an approximate fix on the SAM site. The two Thuds emerged from the flak with numerous bullet holes. Dethlefsen, in the words of a subsequent nomination for the Medal of Honor, “was now the subject of three defensive systems - the MiGs, SAMs, and anti-aircraft artillery.” As Dethlefsen came around for the second pass, the F-105 strike flights arrived and began dropping bombs on the steel mill.
The signal from the SAM radar was strong. As Dethlefsen lined up to attack it, two MiG-21s pulled into shooting position behind Lincoln 03 and 04. Dethlefsen kept his concentration on the target. Just as one of the MiGs fired a missile, Dethlefsen launched a Shrike against the SAM site. “I broke to the right, down through the flak,” Dethlefsen said. “I figured that would give me the best chance of evading both the heat-seeking missiles and the MiG’s guns. Didn’t think the MiGs would want to follow me through that stuff. They didn’t.” The two Weasels had eluded the MiGs by going low, but that took them into the teeth of the AAA. Dethlefsen had taken several hits from the 57 mm guns and perhaps from the MiG cannon, but his engine and flight controls were still in good order. Bell, in Lincoln 04, had sustained battle damage that was much more serious. “My right wing had been damaged,” he said. “The right leading-edge flap was blown down, forcing the airplane into a left turn because of added lift from the right wing. I was able to hold the wings level with cross controls, but it added a difficult complication. ... I had to settle for cross controls and hope for turns to the left.”
The Weasels could have left Thai Nguyen when the strike force did, but that wasn’t the way Dethlefsen interpreted his duty. “I could hear the strike force withdrawing,” Dethlefsen said. “I had permission to stay there after they left. That steel mill with the related industry was a big target, too big to knock out with one strike. I knew those fighter-bombers would be back tomorrow. Same route, right over this area. My aircraft was working well enough to be effective. With the weather the way it was that day, I knew we would never have a better chance. So I made up my mind to stay until I got that SAM site or they got me.” As the Weasels turned back in to the defenses of Thai Nguyen, Dethlefsen saw a different SAM site dead ahead. He fired his second Shrike and the radar abruptly went off the air. Bell, holding close on Dethlefsen’s wing with some difficulty because of the damaged flap, did not have a good angle but dropped his bombs on the site anyway.
On the next pass, Lincoln 03 and 04 came in low, looking for the original SAM site. Dethlefsen saw the radar van and pickled his CBU-24 fragmentation bombs onto it as they roared past. Turning, Dethlefsen and Bell came back across and strafed the site with their guns. The Medal of Honor nomination continued, “As he completed the attack, a large part of the SAM site was engulfed in secondary fires. Only then did Captain Dethlefsen depart the area. Low on fuel and unable to reach his assigned base, he was forced to an emergency forward operating base where he successfully landed his battle-damaged aircraft.”
Medal of Honor
Lt. Col. Phil Gast, who led the Takhli strike force that day, knew that the Weasel engagement at Thai Nguyen had been something special. He asked Maj. Hal Bingaman to look into the details of what happened. Dethlefsen did not fit the stereotype of the flamboyant fighter pilot, Bingaman said. Dethlefsen and Gilroy explained to Bingaman that it had been a tough mission, but they did not embellish it. They were reluctant to depict their achievements as having been that dramatic or extraordinary. “I had to drag it out of them,” Bingaman said. He was struck by how well the pilot and EWO had worked together. “Without Mike Gilroy’s instant inputs there’d not have been the timing there for even the first pass, much less the other four,” Bingaman said.
The wing thought Dethlefsen’s actions were worthy of the Medal of Honor and nominated him for it. Gilroy and Bell were put in for awards as well. Meanwhile, operations against Thai Nguyen continued. It was the Air Force’s leading target in North Vietnam for the next month and a half. By the end of April, air strikes had put the iron and steelworks out of business. Six aircraft were lost, all in the first two days. Lincoln 01 was lost on Day 1, as were two F-4s from Ubon. Three more F-105s from Takhli were shot down the next day. One of the F-105s was brought down by a SAM. AAA accounted for the other five.
Merlyn Dethlefsen finished his combat tour, 100 missions over North Vietnam, in May and returned to the States as a flight instructor at Vance AFB, Okla. Dethlefsen was there when he learned that he was to receive the Medal of Honor. The presentation was made by President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House on Feb. 1, 1968. Johnson noted that Dethlefsen’s actions had not been a momentary impulse. “He had plenty of time to think about the danger to himself, to figure the odds, even to turn away,” Johnson said, “but his courage was calculated. It came not from desperation, but dedication. He answered a call far beyond duty.” Gilroy was awarded the Air Force Cross and Bell the Silver Star.
After his tour at Vance, Dethlefsen went to the Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Ala., and from there was assigned to the faculty at Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. In 1974, he went to Beale AFB, Calif., as assistant director of operations for the SR-71 wing. In 1975, he was assigned to Dyess AFB, Tex., as director of operations for the B-52 wing. He retired from there as a colonel in 1977. He then relocated to Fort Worth, Tex., where he headed his own small business, Home Medical Equipment Co., until 1986. He died in 1987 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Doing His Job
When Merlyn Dethlefsen spoke of the events at Thai Nguyen, it was with understatement and a strong sense of duty. “He was very modest and unassuming,” said his son, Jeff Dethlefsen. “He always just felt that he had a job to do and did it the best he could. I don’t think he ever thought of himself as anything special. When we talked about his Medal of Honor mission, he would kind of laugh and say it was just a routine mission. He always said there were other missions that were really tough.”
“I didn’t consider the mission extraordinary,” Dethlefsen told Airman in 1969. “I had been up that way before, and I knew what to expect. I expected to get shot at a lot, and they shot at me a lot. I expected MiGs to be airborne and SAMs to be launched. And these things did occur. It was one of the more difficult of my 100 missions, and the ground fire was a little more intense. “All I did was the job I was sent to do. It had been quite a while since we had been able to go to the Hanoi area. So while the weather held, we were able to do some pretty good work. It was a case of doing my job to the best of my ability. I think that is what we mean when we call ourselves professional airmen in the Air Force.”
Rank and organization: Major (then Capt.), U.S. Air Force.
Place and date: In the air over North Vietnam, 10 March 1967.
Entered service at: Royal, Iowa. Born: 29 June 1934, Greenville, Iowa.
Born: 14 March 1923, Newman, Ga.
Citation: Maj. Dethlefsen was 1 of a flight of F-105 aircraft engaged in a fire suppression mission designed to destroy a key antiaircraft defensive complex containing surface-to-air missiles (SAM), an exceptionally heavy concentration of antiaircraft artillery, and other automatic weapons. The defensive network was situated to dominate the approach and provide protection to an important North Vietnam industrial center that was scheduled to be attacked by fighter bombers immediately after the strike by Maj. Dethlefsen's flight. In the initial attack on the defensive complex the lead aircraft was crippled, and Maj. Dethlefsen's aircraft was extensively damaged by the intense enemy fire. Realizing that the success of the impending fighter bomber attack on the center now depended on his ability to effectively suppress the defensive fire, Maj. Dethlefsen ignored the enemy's overwhelming firepower and the damage to his aircraft and pressed his attack. Despite a continuing hail of antiaircraft fire, deadly surface-to-air missiles, and counterattacks by MIG interceptors, Maj. Dethlefsen flew repeated close range strikes to silence the enemy defensive positions with bombs and cannon fire. His action in rendering ineffective the defensive SAM and antiaircraft artillery sites enabled the ensuing fighter bombers to strike successfully the important industrial target without loss or damage to their aircraft, thereby appreciably reducing the enemy's ability to provide essential war material. Maj. Dethlefsen's consummate skill and selfless dedication to this significant mission were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
04-19-2008, 08:52 PM
Maj. Bernard F. Fisher
Born in 1927, the native of Idaho served briefly in the Navy at the end of World War II and then spent the period from 1947 to 1950 in the Air National Guard before receiving his Air Force commission in 1951. After pilot training, Bernie Fisher served as a jet fighter pilot in the Air Defense Command until 1965 when he volunteered for duty in Vietnam. From July 1965 through June 1966, he flew 200 combat sorties in the A-1E/H "Spad" as a member of the 1st Air Commando Squadron located at Pleiku Air Base, South Vietnam.
Majors Fisher and Meyers after the rescue (USAF Photo)On March 10, 1966, he led a two-ship of Skyraiders to the A Shau Valley in support of friendly troops in contact with the enemy. A total of six "Spads" were striking numerous emplacements when the A-1 piloted by Major D. W. "Jump" Myers was hit and forced to crash-land on the airstrip of the CIDG-Special Forces camp. Myers bellied in on the 2,500-foot runway and took cover behind an embankment on the edge of the strip while Major Fisher directed the rescue effort. Since the closest helicopter was 30 minutes away and the enemy was only 200 yards from Myers, Fisher quickly decided to land his two-seat A-1E on the strip and pick up his friend. Under the cover provided by the other A-1s, he landed in the valley, taxied to Myer's position, and loaded the downed airman into the empty seat. Dodging shell holes and debris on the steel planked runway, Major Fisher took off safely despite many hits on his aircraft by small arms fire.
It is noteworthy that Maj. Fisher earned a Silver Star the day before while flying support for the same battle.
Major Fisher returned to the United States, and, on January 19, 1967, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Major Bernie Fisher returned to the Air Defense Command and jet interceptors until he retired to his hometown of Kuna, Idaho, where he lives today with his wife Realla. He is a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Colonel Bernard Fisher Veteran's Memorial Park, in Kuna, was named after Bernie. Also, the Bernard F. Fisher Room, located at the 353d Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base, Japan, is named in his honor. This room displays military memorabillia for special operations.
The A-1 Skyraider that Major Fisher flew into the A Shau Valley was saved and restored and is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Colonel Fisher's son, Steven is also a pilot in the USAF. He holds the rank of Major, and flies the KC-135.
In 1985 and again in 2005, Fisher was inducted into the Gathering of Eagles program and told the story of the rescue during the Battle of A Shau to groups of young military officers.
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 1st Air Commandos.
Place and date: Bien Hoa and Pleiku, Vietnam, 10 March 1966.
Entered service at: Kuna, Idaho. Born: 11 January 1927, San Bernardino, Calif.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On that date, the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800 foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the battle, Maj. Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Maj. Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Maj. Fisher's profound concern for his fellow airman, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
04-26-2008, 02:34 AM
Capt. John Springer Walmsley Jr.
John Walmsley enlisted at his home town in Sept. 1942, and took pilot training at Maxwell Field, Ala.; Orangeburg, S.C.; and Bush and Turner Fields, Ga., getting his wings and commission in November 1943.
He served throughout WWII as a flying instructor at Turner Field. In mid-1946, he went to Japan and spent three years as a pilot for various bomb squadrons. He returned to the U.S. to attend the Air Tactical School at Tyndall AFB, Fla, graduating in July 1949.
As a captain he became a specialist with a series of air control and warning squadrons, and for a while was on loan to the Army at Fort Bragg, N.C., for its training exercises, including Operation Swarmer.
In February 1951, Captain Walmsley was assigned as an all weather fighter pilot at McGuire AFB, N.J., and in June went to Korea for duty with the 3rd Bomb Group's 8th Bomb Squadron, flying B-26 Night Intruders. He flew 25 missions before being killed in action the night of Sept. 14, 1951, while piloting a B-26 which crashed near Yangdock, Korea.
The mission was to develop new combat tactics and hit targets of opportunity. Captain Walmsley sighted an enemy supply train which had been assigned top priority as such a target and he immediately attacked, producing a strike which disabled the train. When his ammunition was expended, he radioed for friendly aircraft in the area to complete destruction of the target. For this and the heroics that cost him his life, Walmsley was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Captain Walmsley was one of four airmen in Korea to receive the nation's highest combat decoration, the Medal of Honor.
The Citation (posthumous)
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 8th Bombardment Squadron, 3d Bomb Group.
Place and date: Near Yangdok, Korea, 14 September 1951.
Entered service at: Baltimore, Md.
Born: 7 January 1920, Baltimore, Md.
Citation: Capt. Walmsley, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While flying a B-26 aircraft on a night combat mission with the objective of developing new tactics, Capt. Walmsley sighted an enemy supply train which had been assigned top priority as a target of opportunity. He immediately attacked, producing a strike which disabled the train, and, when his ammunition was expended, radioed for friendly aircraft in the area to complete destruction of the target. Employing the searchlight mounted on his aircraft, he guided another B-26 aircraft to the target area, meanwhile constantly exposing himself to enemy fire. Directing an incoming B-26 pilot, he twice boldly aligned himself with the target, his searchlight illuminating the area, in a determined effort to give the attacking aircraft full visibility. As the friendly aircraft prepared for the attack, Capt. Walmsley descended into the valley in a low level run over the target with searchlight blazing, selflessly exposing himself to vicious enemy antiaircraft fire. In his determination to inflict maximum damage on the enemy, he refused to employ evasive tactics and valiantly pressed forward straight through an intense barrage, thus insuring complete destruction of the enemy's vitally needed war cargo. While he courageously pressed his attack Capt. Walmsley's plane was hit and crashed into the surrounding mountains, exploding upon impact. His heroic initiative and daring aggressiveness in completing this important mission in the face of overwhelming opposition and at the risk of his life, reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
04-26-2008, 02:54 AM
Excellent posts. My dad was a 1st Lt. in the 15th Air Force in WW II. His B-24 was shot down in March, 1945. I still have the telegram the USAAF sent to my grandmother, advising dad was shot down and presumed dead. Man, the stories my pop could tell ......
04-26-2008, 03:10 AM
Capt. Lance P. Sijan
Sijan was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1942 from a Serbian father and Irish mother. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1965, and after attending pilot training, was assigned to the 366th Wing at Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam.
On his 52nd mission, on the night of November 9, 1967, Sijan and pilot Lt. Col. John Armstrong were tasked with a bombing mission over North Vietnam. As they rolled in on their target to release their ordnance, their F-4C was engulfed in a ball of fire, due to the six bomb's fairly new fuses which malfunctioned causing a pre-mature detonation soon after the release point. The jet then entered a banking climb before plunging into the jungle below. Sijan ejected from his aircraft, and a search-and-rescue crew, radioed to Sijan that they were attempting a rescue. After almost a whole day of locating his position and softening up air defences in the area, the SAR forces were finally able to get one of the big Jolly Green Giant helicopters roughly over Sijan's position (during this operation over 20 aircraft were disabled, due to the anti-aircraft fire, and had to return to base. Another aircraft was also shot down, though its pilot was rescued with ease by one of the Jolly Greens on station.) Sijan, refusing to put another person in danger, insisted that he crawl in to the jungle and have a penetrator lowered by the helicopter, instead of sending down the helicopter's Para-Jumpers to carry him. However, he couldn't reach the penetrator quick enough, and after 33 minutes the rescue team, which faced enemy fire and the growing darkness, had to return to base. Although search efforts continued the next day, they were called off when no further radio contact was made with Sijan, due to his unconscious state, and he was placed in MIA status.
With a fractured skull, mangled right hand, compound fracture of the left leg, without food and little water, and no survival kit, Sijan evaded enemy forces for 46 days (all the time "crawling" or rather scooting on his back down the rocky limestone karst on which he landed, causing even more wounds) before being captured on December 25, 1967. Although emaciated and in poor shape, he managed to overpower his guard and escape, but was recaptured within hours. He was transported to a holding compound in Vinh, North Vietnam, where he was put into the care of other American POWs, Bob Craner and Guy Gruters. Here, in even more pain from his wounds, he suffered beatings from his captors, but never gave any information other than what the Geneva Convention allowed. After further travel to Hanoi, Sijan suffering from exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease, died in captivity on January 22, 1968.
Sijan was promoted posthumously to captain on June 13, 1968. His remains were repatriated on March 13, 1974 and positively identified on April 22, 1974. He is buried in Arlington Park Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Medal of Honor was presented to his parents on March 4, 1976, by President Gerald R. Ford.
Because Sijan was the first graduate of the United States Air Force Academy to be awarded the Medal of Honor, a cadet dormitory, Sijan Hall was named after him. The dormitory was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1976. As part of their training, all fourth-class (freshman) cadets at the Air Force Academy are expected to learn Sijan's story.
The Citation (posthumous)
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 4th Allied POW Wing, Pilot of an F-4C aircraft.
Place and date: North Vietnam, 9 November 1967.
Entered service at: Milwaukee, Wis.
Born: 13 April 1942, Milwaukee, Wis.
Citation: While on a flight over North Vietnam, Capt. Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than 6 weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, Capt. Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner of war camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered 1 of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Capt. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Capt. Sijan's extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.
04-26-2008, 11:02 AM
It's just unbelievable what a human being can endure. I hate war for all parties involved....
05-02-2008, 05:29 AM
I've completed this thread on the Medal of Honor recipients of the modern USAF, though I am sure there will be more names to add in the future. I'll being moving on to start threads for the USAAF and its predecessors. The majority of these posts have been mere synopses of the whole stories behind the contributions and sacrifices of these airmen. Meanwhile, if you would like to read the complete stories, try the following link to the Air Force Association Magazine...
From the main page, type in the name of the airman you would like to read about.
Several results will appear, with the top-most usually being the story of interest.
Click on the link and you should be taken to a more complete story on the life, career, and events leading to their sometimes final act of courage and self-sacrifice.
You can also try the same kind of search at wikipedia.
05-02-2008, 05:35 AM
The stories on the AFA site include a lot of pictures of the airmen. Here is a sampling from the above story...
Exploring new lands...
An untimely end...
Those left behind...
05-02-2008, 06:07 AM
AW, your post http://www.forumsforums.com/3_9/showpost.php?p=148063&postcount=20 was a great addition to this thread. When you meet these older guys and gals around town, you just have no way of knowing what they may have gone through, and sometimes neither do their families. When you see an older driver slowing things down in traffic, and you note the VET, DAV, or POW plate, give him some more time and space. He may have spent four years in a hole for you.
05-02-2008, 06:10 AM
Great thread Bob. Thanks!
05-02-2008, 05:23 PM
AW, your post http://www.forumsforums.com/3_9/showpost.php?p=148063&postcount=20 was a great addition to this thread. When you meet these older guys and gals around town, you just have no way of knowing what they may have gone through, and sometimes neither do their families. When you see an older driver slowing things down in traffic, and you note the VET, DAV, or POW plate, give him some more time and space. He may have spent four years in a hole for you.
That's how I feel too. I'm constantly telling Redneck the old couple slowing up traffic is someone's parents, and he would want the same courtesy extended to his parents.
I'm still in awe of this man. 4 years like that. I would have loved to have more time with him and just talk. It's hard to explain just how greatful I am that these men went thru that for me and my family.
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