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Air Force helicopter pilot rescues Special Forces team

Posted by Kenneth Peck on

On this day November 26th 1968

While returning to base from another mission, Air Force 1st Lt. James P. Fleming and four other Bell UH-1F helicopter pilots get an urgent message from an Army Special Forces team pinned down by enemy fire.

Although several of the other helicopters had to leave the area because of low fuel, Lieutenant Fleming and another pilot pressed on with the rescue effort. The first attempt failed because of intense ground fire, but refusing to abandon the Army green berets, Fleming managed to land and pick up the team. When he safely arrived at his base near Duc Co, it was discovered that his aircraft was nearly out of fuel. Lieutenant Fleming was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Medal of Honor Citiation

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.

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