Tag Archives: Distinguished Flying Cross

Major Bruce P. Crandall & Captain Ed W. Freeman, USA (November 14, 1965)

Today – November 14, 2015 – marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang, November 14-18, 1965. This was the first major action of the Vietnam War which saw American forces fighting the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) rather than the Viet Cong guerillas.

1st Cavalry Division patch

Ia Drang was the first time the United States Army‘s new air assault tactics as implemented in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) were really put to the test, and tested they were. The fighting during the first three days of the battle ultimately produced three Medal of Honor recipients and three recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross. Two of the Medal of Honor recipients were helicopter pilots who maintained the critical airborne lifeline between the soldiers fighting on the ground and their bases to the rear. Their names were Major Bruce P. Crandall and Captain Ed W. Freeman.

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Major Richard I. Bong, USAAF (October 10 – November 15, 1944)

Richard Ira Bong was born in Superior, Wisconsin on September 24, 1920. He was a college student and already under instruction as a civilian pilot when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet  on May 29, 1941.

Bong received his pilot’s wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant on January 19, 1942 and was posted as an aerial gunnery instructor. He would go on to become the top ace of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

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Commander David McCampbell, USN (June 19 & October 24, 1944)

With my Medal of Honor posts, I like to learn and pass along “back story” of the great men who have been decorated with our nation’s highest honor. For today’s 70th anniversary tribute to David McCampbell, the greatest United States Navy “ace” of World War II with 34 aerial victories against enemy Japanese aircraft – including five in one day and nine on another, the acts for which he received the Medal – nothing is really required besides the records of his heroism.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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