Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hero of the Week: LTC Joe Jackson

This week's hero is Air Force LTC Joe Jackson. He was introduced before today's Seahawk game, which was really cool. It's not every day you can see a living, breathing Medal of Honor winner, especially considering that all the most recent winners have been awarded the Medal posthumously. LTC Jackson earned his Medal of Honor in Vietnam, the details follow, thanks to

On May 12, a heavy fog hung over the camp, obscuring enemy movements in the surrounding hills. An Army CH-47 helicopter and two Air Force C-130s tried to land and takeoff with personnel, but were disabled by enemy fire. One C-130 burst into flames at the end of the runway, killing the crew and more than 150 Vietnamese civilians. Finally, a C-130 was able to land and takeoff with some passengers.That afternoon, a C-123 took off from Da Nang, bound for Kham Duc. Jackson was at the controls, along with Maj. Jesse Campbell, Tech. Sgt. Edward Trejo and Staff Sgt. Manson Grubbs, his crew. As he circled 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.Hostile forces had overrun the forward outpost and established gun positions on the airstrip. They were raking the camp with small arms, mortars and automatic weapons. The camp was engulfed in flames and ammunition dumps were exploding and littering the runway with debris. In addition, eight aircraft had been destroyed by the intense fire and one remained on the runway, reducing its usable length to only about 2,200 feet. To further complicate the landing, the weather was deteriorating rapidly. As the last C-130 was about to takeoff with the last of the men on the ground aboard, the airborne commander ordered jet fighters circling overhead to descend and destroy the camp. It looked as if Jackson's aircraft wasn't going to be needed in the rescue attempt. But then the radio crackled, informing them that the three-man combat control team, in charge of directing the evacuation, was still on the ground. As they searched the camp for anyone who had been left behind, they realized they were the only ones left.One C-123 attempted to land, but enemy fire intensified and it was forced to accelerate for take off without finding the men. Jackson and his crew began their dive from 9,000 feet at a rate of almost 4,000 feet per minute. Jackson realized that if he reversed his propellers to stop the aircraft, he would shut off the two auxiliary engines he needed for a quick escape. Instead, he jammed on the brakes and skidded halfway down the runway. As it turned in the direction to be able to take off, the three men jumped from a culvert next to the runway and leaped into the open cargo door in the rear. At that moment, from the edge of the runway came a 122 mm rocket, fired from just outside the perimeter. The men watched as the shell skidded along the asphalt, broke in half and stopped only 10 meters from the plane. It did not explode. Jackson taxied around the shell and applied full power, taking off under heavy fire from the hills on either side. The plane had been on the ground at Kham Duc for less than a minute.

Check out his official citation here. You'll find his name third from the bottom.

1 comment:

robert verdi said...

the courage men show in support for their brothers.