Posted Tuesday August 20, 2019 by ffvfadmin



On This Day in Medal of Honor History:

Recipients We Lost in 2019

 

Four Medal of Honor recipients passed away in 2019: Joe Madison Jackson, Charles Seymour Kettles, Howard Vincent Lee and Robert Dale Maxwell. They had been on our list to honor as we told the stories of the living recipients throughout the year, and we present their Medal of Honor citations today in this special in memoriam post.

We thank them and their families for their service, their sacrifices, their patriotism, and their commitment to this great country.

Joe Madison Jackson (Air Force, Vietnam)

For actions taken on May 12, 1968, over Kham Duc, South Vietnam.
He is honored in the Georgia Area of the Medal of Honor Grove.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Lt. Col. Jackson distinguished himself as pilot of a C-123 aircraft.

Lt. Col. Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of a three-man US Air Force Combat Control Team from the Special Forces camp at Kham Duc. Hostile forces had overrun the forward outpost and established gun positions on the airstrip. They were raking the camp with small arms, mortars, light and heavy automatic weapons, and recoilless rifle fire.

The camp was engulfed in flames and ammunition dumps were continuously exploding and littering the runway with debris. In addition, eight aircraft had been destroyed by the intense enemy fire and one aircraft remained on the runway, reducing its usable length to only 2,200 feet. To further complicate the landing, the weather was deteriorating rapidly, thereby permitting only one air strike prior to his landing.

Although fully aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt. Lt. Col. Jackson elected to land his aircraft and attempt to rescue. Displaying superb airmanship and extraordinary heroism, he landed his aircraft near the point where the combat control team was reported to be hiding.

While on the ground, his aircraft was the target of intense hostile fire. A rocket landed in front of the nose of the aircraft but failed to explode. Once the combat control team was aboard, Lt. Col. Jackson succeeded in getting airborne despite the hostile fire directed across the runway in front of his aircraft.

Lt. Col. Jackson’s profound concern for his fellow men, 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.

Howard Vincent Lee (Marines, Vietnam)

For actions taken on Aug. 8-9, 1966, near Cam Lo, South Vietnam.
He is honored in the Virginia Area of the Medal of Honor Grove.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

A platoon of Maj. (then Capt.) Lee’s company, while on an operation deep in enemy territory, was attacked and surrounded by a large Vietnamese force. Realizing that the unit had suffered numerous casualties, depriving it of effective leadership, and fully aware that the platoon was even then under heavy attack by the enemy, Maj Lee took seven men and proceeded by helicopter to reinforce the beleaguered platoon.

Maj. Lee disembarked from the helicopter with two of his men and, braving withering enemy fire, led them into the perimeter, where he fearlessly moved from position to position, directing and encouraging the overtaxed troops. The enemy then launched a massive attack with the full might of their forces.

Although painfully wounded by fragments from an enemy grenade in several areas of his body, including his eye, Maj. Lee continued undauntedly throughout the night to direct the valiant defense, coordinate supporting fire, and apprise higher headquarters of the plight of the platoon.

The next morning he collapsed from his wounds and was forced to relinquish command. However, the small band of Marines had held their position and repeatedly fought off many vicious enemy attacks for a grueling six hours until their evacuation was effected the following morning.

Maj. Lee’s actions saved his men from capture, minimized the loss of lives, and dealt the enemy a severe defeat. His indomitable fighting spirit, superb leadership, and great personal valor in the face of tremendous odds reflect great credit upon himself and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.

Charles Seymour Kettles (Army, Vietnam)

For actions taken on May 15, 1967, near Duc Pho, South Vietnam.
He is honored in the Michigan Area of the Medal of Honor Grove.

Maj. Charles S. Kettles distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving as Flight Commander, 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light}, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam.

On 15 May 1967, Maj. Kettles, upon learning that an airborne infantry unit had suffered casualties during an intense firefight with the enemy, immediately volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1D helicopters to carry reinforcements to the embattled force and to evacuate wounded personnel.

Enemy small-arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire raked the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters; however, Maj. Kettles refused to depart until all helicopters were loaded to capacity. He then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival, to bring more reinforcements, landing in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft.

Upon departing, Maj. Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.

Later that day, the Infantry Battalion Commander requested immediate, emergency extraction of the remaining 40 troops, including four members of Maj. Kettles’ unit who were stranded when their helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire. With only one flyable UH-1 helicopter remaining, Maj. Kettles volunteered to return to the deadly landing zone for a third time, leading a flight of six evacuation helicopters, five of which were from the 161st Aviation Company.

During the extraction, Maj. Kettles was informed by the last helicopter that all personnel were onboard, and departed the landing zone accordingly. Army gunships supporting the evacuation also departed the area.

Once airborne, Maj. Kettles was advised that eight troops had been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire. With complete disregard for his own safety, Maj. Kettles passed the lead to another helicopter and returned to the landing zone to rescue the remaining troops. Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft, which was immediately damaged by a mortar round that shattered both front windshields and the chin bubble and was further raked by small-arms and machine-gun fire.

Despite the intense enemy fire, Maj. Kettles maintained control of the aircraft and situation, allowing time for the remaining eight soldiers to board the aircraft. In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Maj. Kettles once more skillfully guided his heavily damaged aircraft to safety. Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield.

Maj. Kettles’ selfless acts of repeated valor and determination are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

Robert Dale Maxwell (Army, World War II)

For actions taken on Sept. 7, 1944, in Besancon, France.
He is honored in the Colorado Area of the Medal of Honor Grove.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 7 September 1944, near Besancon, France.

Technician Fifth Grade Maxwell and three other soldiers, armed only with .45 caliber automatic pistols, defended the battalion observation post against an overwhelming onslaught by enemy infantrymen in approximately platoon strength, supported by 20mm. flak and machinegun fire, who had infiltrated through the battalion’s forward companies and were attacking the observation post with machinegun, machine pistol, and grenade fire at ranges as close as 10 yards.

Despite a hail of fire from automatic weapons and grenade launchers, Technician Fifth Grade Maxwell aggressively fought off advancing enemy elements and, by his calmness, tenacity, and fortitude, inspired his fellows to continue the unequal struggle.

When an enemy hand grenade was thrown in the midst of his squad, Technician Fifth Grade Maxwell unhesitatingly hurled himself squarely upon it, using his blanket and his unprotected body to absorb the full force of the explosion.

This act of instantaneous heroism permanently maimed Technician Fifth Grade Maxwell, but saved the lives of his comrades in arms and facilitated maintenance of vital military communications during the temporary withdrawal of the battalion’s forward headquarters.