Tag Archives: Air Force Cross

TFH 2/18: Sergeant Michael E. Fish, USAF

The members of the United States Air Force aren’t typically associated with ground combat. That doesn’t hold for those brave airmen who volunteer for Pararescue duties and become “Pararescue Jumpers” or “PJs”.

On February 18, 1969, a Kaman HH-43 Huskie of the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron was dispatched to try and recover the crew of a shot-down Army helicopter. The Army pilot couldn’t be extracted from the wreckage before darkness fell. The Pararescueman who went down into the jungle to perform the rescue elected to stay with his trapped brother in arms until the rescue could be effected.

Continue reading TFH 2/18: Sergeant Michael E. Fish, USAF

Share

TFH 2/1: Lieutenant Colonel Allan R. Baer, USAF

Two days ago, I related the story of Lieutenant Colonel Karl T. Feuerriegel and Captain Kenneth H. Sellers, two pilots with the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron who were decorated with the Air Force Cross for their heroism on the day the communist Tet Offensive was launched in Vietnam. For a three-day period from January 30 to February 1, 1968, another of their fellow Cessna O-2 Skymaster pilots was similarly recognized for his aerial efforts over Nha Trang.

Continue reading TFH 2/1: Lieutenant Colonel Allan R. Baer, USAF

Share

TFH 12/5: Major Thomas E. Dayton, USAF

Thomas E. Dayton was born in New York on June 3, 1933. He began his military service on July 7, 1953 when he entered the United States Military Academy, West Point. As the United States Air Force hadn’t opened their own service academy yet, he opted to join that service and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant after graduating in June of 1957. Dayton earned his pilot’s wings and in various roles flew the North American F-86 Sabre, the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, and the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.

When it came time for Dayton to fly into battle over Southeast Asia with the 22nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, he piloted a Douglas A-1 Skyraider. The 22nd’s primary mission was to interdict and destroy enemy forces and supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as well as other attack missions and the vital role of escorting and coordinating search and rescue missions for downed American fliers. Continue reading TFH 12/5: Major Thomas E. Dayton, USAF

Share

TFH 6/27: Sergeant Charles D. McGrath, USAF

Charles Damian McGrath was born on December 16, 1948 in Maryland. He enlisted in the United States Air Force on January 6, 1970 and completed basic training that March. He volunteered for service as a Pararescueman.

Air Force Pararescue Jumpers (“PJs”) are elite troops trained in search and rescue, parachute jumping, SCUBA diving, combat medicine, and other specialty areas. They’re the men who go in on the ground to rescue and evacuate downed airmen, often right from the teeth of the enemy.

Continue reading TFH 6/27: Sergeant Charles D. McGrath, USAF

Share

TFH 4/15: 2 Air Force Crosses – Caldwell & Shaub

The United States Air Force‘s 776th Tactical Airlift Squadron flew the Lockeed C-130 Hercules for air logistics missions across Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam. With the beginning of North Vietnam’s Easter Offensive, some besieged friendly forces could only be resupplied by airdrop.

On April 15, 1972 – 40 years ago – one C-130 from the 776th was struck by heavy antiaircraft artillery en route to its drop zone. The critically wounded aircraft was aflame. The cargo of ammunition was seconds away from detonating. The gallant pilot struggled to regain control of the damaged plane and save it. The loadmaster knew that the fire would be their doom if the cargo remained aboard the plane. Both men received the Air Force Cross for their heroism. They were Captain William R. Caldwell and Staff Sergeant Charles L. Shaub. Continue reading TFH 4/15: 2 Air Force Crosses – Caldwell & Shaub

Share

TFH 3/18: Captain John Edgar Lackey, USAF

CSAR – Combat Search And Rescue. One of the more dangerous jobs in combat, as if any job is safe. CSAR forces have the role of rescuing shot-down airmen before they can be captured by the enemy. Think about it. An aircraft is shot down and the crew bails out. It reasons to believe that the helicopters that will do the extraction and the fighters and/or attack planes that will fly cover are going to encounter the same anti-aircraft batteries that shot our plane down in the first place – only the rescue forces are at even greater risk because they’ve got to get down close to the ground. These brave men and women don’t care; the lives of their comrades on the deck and running are worth it.

Continue reading TFH 3/18: Captain John Edgar Lackey, USAF

Share

TFH 3/4: Two Gallant Airmen – Chapman & Cunningham – 10 Years

Ten years ago today, United States special operations forces commenced the Battle of Takur Ghar, also known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge, so named for a US Navy SEAL (Neil Roberts) who became the first casualty of the engagement.

Three members of the United States Air Force accompanied traditional ground forces on the helicopters that brought them to the battle area. Two of the three gave their lives for our country, and in their sacrifices exhibited courage and fighting spirit worthy of the second-highest award they could have received: the Air Force Cross.

The first was a Combat Air Controller responsible for coordinating air support who took it upon himself to lead a rescue of his Navy colleagues. The second was a Pararescue Medic who first stayed aboard a burning helicopter to care for the wounded and then repeatedly ventured into danger multiple times to care for his comrades. Their names were John A. Chapman and Jason D. Cunningham.

Air Force Cross Citation for Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman, USAF:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operation against an armed enemy of the United States as a 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Combat Controller in the vicinity of Gardez, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, on 4 March 2002. On this date, during his helicopter insertion for a reconnaissance and time sensitive targeting close air support mission, Sergeant Chapman’s aircraft came under heavy machine gun fire and received a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade which caused a United States Navy sea-air-land team member to fall from the aircraft. Though heavily damaged, the aircraft egressed the area and made an emergency landing seven kilometers away. Once on the ground Sergeant Chapman established communication with an AC-130 gunship to insure the area was secure while providing close air support coverage for the entire team. He then directed the gunship to begin the search for the missing team member. He requested, coordinated, and controlled the helicopter that extracted the stranded team and aircrew members. These actions limited the exposure of the aircrew and team to hostile fire. Without regard for his own life Sergeant Chapman volunteered to rescue his missing team member from an enemy strong hold. Shortly after insertion, the team made contact with the enemy. Sergeant Chapman engaged and killed two enemy personnel. He continued to advance reaching the enemy position then engaged a second enemy position, a dug-in machine gun nest. At this time the rescue team came under effective enemy fire from three directions. From close range he exchanged fire with the enemy from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds. His engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second position enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact. In his own words, his Navy sea-air-land team leader credits Sergeant Chapman unequivocally with saving the lives of the entire rescue team. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and the dedication to the service of his country, Sergeant Chapman reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Air Force Cross Citation for Senior Airman Jason Dean Cunningham, USAF:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Senior Airman Jason Dean Cunningham, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as a Pararescueman of the 38th Rescue Squadron, 247th Operations Group, in action near the village of Marzak in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan on 4 March 2002. On that proud day, Airman Cunningham was the primary Air Force Combat Search and Rescue medic assigned to a Quick Reaction Force tasked to recover two American servicemen evading capture in austere terrain occupied by massed Al Qaida and Taliban forces. Shortly before landing, his MH-47E helicopter received accurate rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, severely disabling the aircraft and causing it to crash land. The assault force formed a hasty defense and immediately suffered three fatalities and five critical casualties. Despite effective enemy fire, and at great risk to his own life, Airman Cunningham remained in the burning fuselage of the aircraft in order to treat the wounded. As he moved his patients to a more secure location, mortar rounds began to impact within fifty feet of his position. Disregarding this extreme danger, he continued the movement and exposed himself to enemy fire on seven separate occasions. When the second casualty collection point was also compromised, in a display of uncommon valor and gallantry, Airman Cunningham braved an intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade attack while repositioning the critically wounded to a third collection point. Even after he was mortally wounded and quickly deteriorating, he continued to direct patient movement and transferred care to another medic. In the end, his distinct efforts led to the successful delivery of ten gravely wounded Americans to life-saving medical treatment. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and in the dedication of his service to his country, Senior Airman Cunningham reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Both citations courtesy of Military Times’ Hall of Valor.

On this, the tenth anniversary of their courageous acts and ultimate sacrifice, a grateful Nation stands proud in salute of Chapman and Cunningham, as well as all the other brave men and women of the United States Air Force who have defended us both in the skies and on the ground since September 11, 2001.

Technical Sergeant Chapman rests in peace in Windber, PA. Senior Airman Cunningham lies among the United States’ most honored dead in Arlington National Cemetery.

Share

TFH 2/8: Four Airmen over North Vietnam

On this day in 1968, four American airmen strapped into their McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II fighters at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base as part of the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron with the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing for a mission over North Vietnam. Their target: a heavily defended enemy airfield.

Faced with deteriorating weather conditions and intense enemy anti-aircraft fire, the two F-4s descended as low as they dared to attack the target visually. They were successful in destroying several enemy aircraft on the ground. While one of the two American fighters was shot down, the second stayed on station to coordinate the rescue of the downed airmen, both of whom evaded capture and were rescued.

For their tenacity, courage, and determination to strike their target in the face of enemy action, all four of these great Americans received our Nation’s second highest honor: the Air Force Cross. All four citations are listed below, courtesy of Military Times’ Hall of Valor.


Major Larry D. Armstrong

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Major Larry D. Armstrong, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-4D Aircraft Commander in the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, in action in Southeast Asia on 8 February 1968. On that date, Major Armstrong led two aircraft against one of the largest, most important, and most heavily defended airfields in North Vietnam. Despite inclement weather, Major Armstrong descended to extremely low altitude for a visual high-speed run across the airfield. Although faced with a barrage of withering anti-aircraft artillery fire, Major Armstrong remained as top cover and directed the rescue effort, which expeditiously recovered two downed airmen. As a result of his actions, Major Armstrong was successful in neutralizing a threat to Free World forces in Southeast Asia. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Major Armstrong reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Armstrong also received four Distinguished Flying Crosses for his Vietnam service. He retired as a full Colonel in 1978, and passed away in 1997. He rests in Arlington National Cemetery.

Captain John A. Corder

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Captain John A. Corder, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-4D Pilot in the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, in action in Southeast Asia on 8 February 1968. On that date, Captain Corder led two aircraft against one of the largest, most important, and most heavily defended airfields in North Vietnam. Despite inclement weather, Captain Corder descended to extremely low altitude for a visual high-speed run across the airfield. Although faced with a barrage of withering anti-aircraft artillery fire which severely crippled his aircraft, Captain Corder resolutely and skillfully pressed his attack against the target, damaging and destroying several aircraft on the ground. Captain Corder was finally forced to eject over hostile territory. He successfully evaded hostile search parties and was subsequently rescued by a friendly helicopter. As a result of his actions, Captain Corder was successful in neutralizing a threat to Free World forces in Southeast Asia. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness, Captain Corder reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Captain Corder later served as the Deputy Commander for Operations with the Central Command Air Forces during Operation DESERT STORM in 1991. He retired from the United States Air Force as a Major General in 1992, and is still living. Included among his other decorations are three awards of the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal.

Captain Tracey K. Dorsett, Jr.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Captain Tracy K. Dorsett, Jr. (AFSN: 0-59111), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-4D Aircraft Commander in the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, in action in Southeast Asia on 8 February 1968. On that date, Captain Dorsett led two aircraft against one of the largest, most important, and most heavily defended airfields in North Vietnam. Despite inclement weather, Captain Dorsett descended to extremely low altitude for a visual high-speed run across the airfield. Although faced with a barrage of withering anti-aircraft artillery fire which severely crippled his aircraft, Captain Dorsett resolutely and skillfully pressed his attack against the target, damaging and destroying several aircraft on the ground. He was finally forced to eject over hostile territory. He successfully evaded hostile search parties and was subsequently rescued by a friendly helicopter. As a result of his actions, Captain Dorsett was successful in neutralizing a threat to Free World forces in Southeast Asia. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Captain Dorsett reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Dorsett is still living and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in September, 1980. He also received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his Vietnam Service.

First Lieutenant James Harry Hall

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to First Lieutenant James Harry Hall (AFSN: 0-81328), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-4D Pilot in the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, in action in Southeast Asia on 8 February 1968. On that date, Lieutenant Hall led two aircraft against one of the largest, most important and most heavily defended airfields in North Vietnam. Despite inclement weather, Lieutenant Hall descended to extremely low altitude for a visual high-speed run across the airfield. Although faced with a barrage of withering anti-aircraft artillery fire, Lieutenant Hall resolutely and skillfully pressed his attack against the target, damaging and destroying several aircraft on the ground. When the lead crew was finally forced to eject over hostile territory, Lieutenant Hall remained as top cover and directed the rescue effort, which expeditiously recovered the two downed airmen. As a result of his actions, Lieutenant Hall was successful in neutralizing a threat to Free World forces in Southeast Asia. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, First Lieutenant Hall reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Hall also received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his Vietnam service. He passed away in June of 2011 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. According to his Arlington burial record, he left the Air Force as a Captain.

Descendants of both the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron and the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing still fly with the Air Force in defense of liberty today. The 435th Fighter Training Squadron helps prepare the airmen of the future to follow in the footsteps of Armstrong, Corder, Dorsett, and Hall from Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph as part of the 12th Flying Training Wing. The 8th Fighter Wing currently flies in defense of our South Korean allies as well as to protect American interests in the Western Pacific from Kunsan Air Base, Korea.

Share

TFH 1/17: Colonel Robert F. Wilke, USAF

In January 1968, the 602nd Tactical Fighter Squadron (Commando) flew their A-1 Skyraider attack planes from Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base on missions against the communist enemy in Vietnam. They were most typically used for close air support and as escorts on search and rescue missions for downed airmen.

On January 16 & 17, 1968, Colonel Robert Frederick Wilke was supporting an ultimately successful mission to rescue two downed fliers. He placed his aircraft at extreme risk to accomplish the mission and was shot down. For his gallantry, he was decorated with our Nation’s second-highest honor: the Air Force Cross.

From Military Times’ Hall of Valor:

AFC-200pxThe President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Colonel Robert Frederick Wilke, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an A-1E Skyraider pilot of the 602d Tactical Fighter Squadron (Commando), Udorn Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action on 16 and 17 January 1968. On these dates, Colonel Wilke participated in the successful combat recovery of two downed aircrew members and commanded an effort to recover two other downed pilots. The latter attempted recovery required a penetration of and flight beneath an extremely low overcast condition. With complete disregard for his own safety, Colonel Wilke executed a slow spiral maneuver into the cloud formation, broke out beneath the overcast, and initiated his search in mountainous terrain with extremely limited air space. As he was conducting this low-level search in a heavily defended hostile environment, intense ground fire was being directed toward his aircraft and resulted in his being shot down over hostile territory. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Colonel Wilke reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Robert Wilke’s remains have never been recovered. He is listed on Panel 34E, Line 65 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In addition to his Air Force Cross, he was also decorated twice with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his skill in aerial combat.

 

Share

TFH 12/5: Major Thomas E. Dayton, USAF

The US Air Force’s 22nd Special Operations Squadron was based in Thailand during the Vietnam War, flying the A-1 Skyraider. They flew interdiction missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and also supported other operations, such as the rescue of downed aircrews.

On December 5-7, 1969 one gallant airman would not leave a downed comrade to the hands of the enemy. He repeatedly exposed his plane to ground fire at great risk to himself and because of his skill and courage, the rescue was ultimately successful. That airman was Major Thomas E. Dayton, and for his heroism, he received our Nation’s second-highest honor: the Air Force Cross.

Continue reading TFH 12/5: Major Thomas E. Dayton, USAF

Share