Monday, October 17, 2016

That Others may Live

Last week's episode regaled the reader with a story from the "So....There I was*" chronicles and detailed my exploits when I was shot down by a dastardly communist, then E and E'd my way to a hidey hole where I was eventually extracted, under hostile fire of course, by rotary winged Angels of Goodness and Light and returned to friendly forces.  

OK, no, I am not a democrat running for office.  That was the scenario for a training exercise I participated in which involved practicing with Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) forces.  During said exercise, I learned a few things of importance.  The most important of those was to try and avoid situations where I would need their help.


Fortunately, I was able to complete my AF career and accomplish that goal.


But...As I was checking facts in writing that post, I came up with an interesting statistic.  According to this post on the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) website,  CSAR forces during the Vietnam War were awarded 190 Silver Stars, 24 Air Force Crosses and 1 Medal of Honor.  Those, in increasing order of precedence are the top 3 medals awarded for Valor in the USAF.  In other words, you won't be awarded one for a super spiffy powerpoint briefing at the Pentagon.  


So...in CSAR squadron buildings around the world, there were some seriously clanking brass ones as folks walk around.


But, juvat, to whom was the Medal of Honor awarded?


That would be this gentleman.

Source
I know, I always expect Medal of Honor Recipients to resemble the guy below also.

Medal of Honor Recipients are always Knights charging into battle, right?
Source
But, as I've worked my way through the list of USAF Medal of Honor recipients, I've come to appreciate that some of the most deserving Warriors look like ordinary humans (who performed above and beyond the call of duty when circumstances presented themselves).

So, here's an official photograph of LtCol (then Capt) Gerald O. Young.

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LtCol Young was born in 1930 and enlisted in 1947 serving until 1952 as, what would now be called "Petty Officer", but then as an Aviation Electricians Mate.  Yes...in the Navy!  Got out in 1952, but reenlisted in 1955 again, in the Navy!  He served until 1956 when he finally saw the light and joined the Air Force as part of the Aviation Cadet program. Commissioned and received his wings in 1958, then had a series of assignments flying helicopters, to include helicopter support for the A-Bomb test program in the Pacific.  Finally in 1967, LtCol Young was assigned to the 37th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Squadron at Da Nang AB, Republic of Vietnam.  

I can hear Sarge now... "Ok juvat, got it.  Navy, helicopters, A-Bombs.  Get on with it!"  

Relax, Big Guy, have another ice cold Apple Cider Oktoberfest from Vermont!  I'm gettin' there!

On the afternoon of 8 November, 1967, a small US-ARVN force was conducting reconnaissance southeast of Khe Sanh and was ambushed by an battalion of North Vietnamese.  During the ensuing battle, two helicopters were shot down while attempting to rescue the team.  

As darkness fell, the North Vietnamese fell back hoping to lure another rescue attempt into the area.

Around midnight, that was exactly what happened.  A flight of 2 HH-3Es, 3 US Army helicopter gunships and a C-130 Flareship arrived.  Low ceilings and poor visibility forced the aircraft to operate within the range of the guns on the ground.  (In case you haven't figure it out, that's bad!)

The gunships attacked and after a while, the bad guys ceased firing, so the lead Jolly Green began recovery operations.  
According to this site, above is the actual location

Terrain in the area as well as the position of the team being rescued forced the Jolly to hover over a steep side of a hill. This put the aircraft at basically the same height as the attacking forces.  As the Jolly, hovered three survivors climbed aboard.

As might be suspected, as they began  rescuing survivors, the bad guys pulled the pin on the trap and began shooting again.  The lead Jolly is badly damaged, but flyable.  It departs the area, leaving the remaining survivors, two of whom are wounded Americans.  It is too badly damaged to return to Da Nang, landing instead at the airfield at Khe Sanh.  It is out of the fight.

As it is heading to Khe Sanh, the pilot, who is also the flight lead for the mission, advises the rest of the flight to cease the rescue attempt due to the ground fire as well as the low fuel status of the gunships.

Given that, it would have been perfectly understandable, reasonable, logical (you pick the word) to escort the other helicopter to safety.

Capt Young discusses the options with his crew and they decide to make one more attempt to recover the survivors.

Capt Young brings the aircraft around and touches one wheel down on the terrain, while flying the aircraft to hold it level against the steep terrain.  When the survivors and wounded are brought on board, Capt Young begins to takeoff and as he does so, the bad guys attack shooting small arms and rifle launched grenades.  

At that range, they can't miss and don't.

The right engine explodes flipping the HH-3 on it's back and crashing it down the slope on fire.

Capt Young is upside down, hanging by the straps and on fire.  He manages to free himself and escape out the side window, tumbling to the bottom of a ravine at the bottom of the slope.  He manages to put the fire out but sustains second and third degree burns over a large portion of his body.

Also at the bottom of the ravine was another crew member who had been thrown clear and was unconscious.  Capt Young crawls over to him, puts out the flames on his clothing and drags him to a hiding place nearby.
Source

About this time, a pair of A-1s arrives on scene and circles the area, resulting in the bad guys going back into hiding.  However, none of the survivors have a radio.  

The A-1s hold over head, planning on a first light rescue attempt.  Replaced by a new pair of A-1s, the rescue continues as dawn breaks.  The A-1s have been making low passes all night long, but the bad guys have maintained discipline and not fired a shot.  

Two hours after dawn without seeing any enemy activities, the A-1s call for the helicopters.  While waiting for their arrival, they locate Capt Young and the survivor he rescued.  Capt Young, however, notices that the North Vietnamese are moving in his direction.  

He realizes, since he can't communicate with the A-1s, the only thing he can do is draw the North Vietnamese away from the person he'd rescued.  Although badly burned, and without a doubt, in considerable pain, he moves into the jungle away from the hiding place.

For the next 17 hours, he leads the North Vietnamese on a chase, allowing the helicopters to recover the survivor and the bodies of the remaining crewmen and team members. Finally after traveling about 6 miles, Capt Young manages to lose his pursuers, signal a helicopter and is rescued. 

Unfortunately, at best, only one other member of the helicopter and team survived.  This source leads one to believe the crew member Capt Young rescued and hid survived.  However, this source says that Capt Young was the only survivor.  In either case, Capt Young, and his crew, certainly went "above and beyond the call of duty" on this mission.

After recovering from his injuries, LtCol Young finishes out his career, retiring in 1980.  LtCol Young  passed away in 1990 and is buried at Arlington.

RIP Warrior!

LtCol Young's 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.

No Ribbons for Exceptional Powerpoint on this Warrior's chest.









20 comments:

  1. is awful young for a Brave man to die. Badger Paw Salute!

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    1. Yep and since I'm at that age right now...Gives one pause.

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  2. Next time I visit Arlington I'll stop by and pay my respects to LtCol Young.

    Great post Juvat. (As all of your posts are, the MoH ones especially.)

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    1. For those who want to know, Lt Col Young is buried in Section 7A, grave 87, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.

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    2. Thanks. It's been a while since I've been to Arlington, but I do remember a lot of headstones that indicated Medal of Honor recipients. Many with an award date the same as the second date in their lifespan.

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  3. Excellent history. Thanks for that.

    I always thought the Legion of Merit was the "powerpoint and paperwork on time without injury" award? I see a lot of those around SA.

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    1. You're exactly right. It is, what W.E.B. Griffin defines as, awarded to O-6s and above who have completed an assignment without showing up for work drunk, catching gonorrhea, or stealing from the coffee fund. The equivalent for Field Grade Officers below O-6 is the Meritorious Service Medal and Commendation Medal for Company Grade Officers. If you happen to be on the Joint Staff, the equivalent for Field Grade is the Defense Meritorious Service Medal Of the O-5 and below authorized medals, I have 1, 3 and 2 respectively. I was especially proficient at PowerPoint. Those medals and $5 allow me to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

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    2. I'm beginning to take this awards teasing seriously. W.E.B. and you have had enough fun at my expense. I've got a couple of aviation type awards to go with an LOM so quit picking on me. I've spent too much time hearing about "damned warrant officers who won't trim their mustaches." sensitively, Alemaster

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    3. I'm not sure how that plays out. Do Air Medals cancel out staff medals or vice versa? Think I'm gonna go with if the staff medals (me) are above and to the left of the "did something real" medals. Then W.E.B. Is right. Otherwise... Warrior!

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  4. Another superb post Juvat.

    I was fortunate to have flown with Gerry Carroll for a couple of years (30-40 hops). Completely unassuming fellow, extremely professional aviator, and an 0-4 at 20 years. Great teacher, great stories. At the time I thought it was just regular old navy business to be rubbing shoulders with heroes. Took time and experience to learn to appreciate the honor.

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    1. Thanks,
      Sounds like he was to you much like Ed Rasimus was to me. It also looks like I've got some more reading to do.

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    2. Interesting PA, I trained and flew quit a bit with a Commander, H-2 driver, in C-12s in our joint assignment in Turkey who was also in a squadron with LTCMR Carroll. regards, Alemaster

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    3. Ok, two positive recommendations for LCDR Carroll. Book 1 to be ordered ASAP.

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    4. @Juvat, that put a smile on my face. I think you're pretty close there.

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    5. @Alemaster, As huge as the navy was the helo community was pretty small and I think everyone in it knew or had met (and most had flown with) Gerry. He went west way to soon, way too young.

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  5. Great post, juvat. Thanks.

    I always thought that those hilos were HH-53s, thanks for straightening me out.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  6. Although very similar in appearance, there are a few differences. The primary one is that the engine intakes on the HH-3 are very close together, whereas on the HH-53 Super Jolly they're on opposite sides of the top of the fuselage (possibly to prevent the situation Capt Young encountered). Additionally, although it would be difficult to see from a photo, unless they were side by side, the Super Jolly is quite a bit bigger.

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    1. Thanks for the additional information.

      Paul

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  7. Above and beyond... And yes, go read Gerry's books. They are all good. They first one just 'might' be a 'bit' autobiographical...

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