U.S. Air Force
Medal of Honor Awards
Compiled and Edited
C. Douglas Sterner
U.S. Air Force
Awards Of The
Medal of Honor
Compiled & Edited
C. Douglas Sterner
Copyright © 2006 by HomeOfHeroes.com
All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents & Index of Recipients
Korean War 2
*Davis, George Andrew, Jr. 2
*Loring, Charles Joseph 2
*Sebille, Louis Joseph 3
*Walmsley, John Springer 3
Vietnam War 4
*Bennett, Steven Logan 4
Day, George Everett "Bud" (POW) 4
Dethlefsen, Merlyn Hans 5
Fisher, Bernard Francis 5
Fleming, James Phillip 6
Jackson, Joe Madison 6
*Jones, William Atkinson 7
Levitow, John Lee 7
*Pitsenbarger, William H. 8
*Sijan, Lance Peter (POW) 8
Thorsness, Leo Keith (POW) 9
*Wilbanks, Hilliard Almond 9
Young, Gerald Orren 10
Recipients by Home Town 11
*Davis, George Andrew, Jr.
Major, U.S. Air Force
334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing, 5th Air Force
Date of Action: February 10, 1952
The Medal of Honor is presented to George Andrew Davis, Jr., Major, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing, Fifth Air Force in action near Sinuiju-Yalu River, Korea. While leading a flight of four F-86 Saberjets on a combat aerial patrol mission near the Manchurian border, Major Davis' element leader ran out of oxygen and was forced to retire from the flight with his wingman accompanying him. Major Davis and the remaining F-86's continued the mission and sighted a formation of approximately twelve enemy MIG-15 aircraft speeding southward toward an area where friendly fighter-bombers were conducting low level operations against the Communist lines of communications. With selfless disregard for the numerical superiority of the enemy, Major Davis positioned his two aircraft, then dove at the MIG formation. While speeding through the formation from the rear he singled out a MIG-15 and destroyed it with a concentrated burst of fire. Although he was now under continuous fire from the enemy fighters to his rear, Major Davis sustained his attack. He fired at another MIG-15 which, bursting into smoke and flames, went into a vertical dive. Rather than maintain his superior speed and evade the enemy fire being concentrated on him, he elected to reduce his speed and sought out still a third MIG-15. During this latest attack his aircraft sustained a direct hit, went out of control, then crashed into a mountain 30 miles south of the Yalu River. Major Davis' bold attack completely disrupted the enemy formation, permitting the friendly fighter-bombers to successfully complete their interdiction mission. Major Davis, by his indomitable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness, and superb courage in engaging the enemy against formidable odds exemplified valor at its highest.
Born: 12/1/1920 at Dublin, Texas
Home Town: Lubbock, Texas
Other Award: Distinguished Service Cross (Korea)
After flying with Neel Kearby in World War II, George Davis flew combat during the Korean War. On November 30, 1951, he became the fifth JET ace by downing three Tu-2 bombers and a MiG-15 in a single sortie.
*Loring, Charles Joseph
Major, U.S. Air Force
80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 5th Air Force
Date of Action: November 22, 1952
The Medal of Honor is presented to Charles Joseph Loring, Major, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force in aerial combat at Sniper Ridge, North Korea. While leading a flight of four F-80 type aircraft on a close support mission, Major Loring was briefed by a controller to dive-bomb enemy gun positions which were harassing friendly ground troops. After verifying the location of the target, Major Loring rolled into his dive bomb run. Throughout the run, extremely accurate ground fire was directed on his aircraft. Disregarding the accuracy and intensity of the ground fire, Major Loring aggressively continued to press the attack until his aircraft was hit. At approximately 4,000 feet, he deliberately altered his course and aimed his diving aircraft at active gun emplacements concentrated on a ridge northwest of the briefed target, turned his aircraft 45 degrees to the left, pulled up in a deliberate, controlled maneuver, and elected to sacrifice his life by diving his aircraft directly into the midst of the enemy emplacements. His selfless and heroic action completely destroyed the enemy gun emplacement and eliminated a dangerous threat to United Nations ground forces. Major Loring's noble spirit, superlative courage, and conspicuous self-sacrifice in inflicting maximum damage on the enemy exemplified valor of the highest degree and his actions were in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Air Force.
Born: 10/2/1918 at Portland, Maine
Home Town: Portland, Maine
*Sebille, Louis Joseph
Major, U.S. Air Force
67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 5th Air Force
Date of Action: August 05, 1950
The Medal of Honor is presented to Louis Joseph Sebille, Major, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force in action near Hanchang, Korea. During an attack on a camouflaged area containing a concentration of enemy troops, artillery, and armored vehicles, Major Sebille's F-51 aircraft was severely damaged by antiaircraft fire. Although fully cognizant of the short period he could remain airborne, he deliberately ignored the possibility of survival by abandoning the aircraft or by crash landing, and continued his attack against the enemy forces threatening the security of friendly ground troops. In his determination to inflict maximum damage upon the enemy, Major Sebille again exposed himself to the intense fire of enemy gun batteries and dived on the target to his death. The superior leadership, daring, and selfless devotion to duty which he displayed in the execution of an extremely dangerous mission were an inspiration to both his subordinates and superiors and reflect the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the armed forces of the United Nations.
Born: 11/21/1915 at Harbor Beach, Michigan
Home Town: Chicago, Illinois
*Walmsley, John Springer
Captain, U.S. Air Force
8th Bombardment Squadron, 3d Bombardment Wing, 5th Air Force
Date of Action: September 14, 1951
The Medal of Honor is presented to John Springer Walmsley, Captain, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty serving with the 8th Bombardment Squadron, 3d Bombardment Wing, Fifth Air Force in action over Yangdok, Korea. While flying a B-26 aircraft on a night combat mission with the objective of developing new tactics, Captain Walmsley sighted an enemy supply train which had been assigned top priority as a target of opportunity. He immediately attacked, producing a strike which disabled the train, and, when his ammunition was expended, radioed for friendly aircraft in the area to complete destruction of the target. Employing the searchlight mounted on his aircraft, he guided another B-26 aircraft to the target area, meanwhile constantly exposing himself to enemy fire. Directing an incoming B-26 pilot, he twice boldly aligned himself with the target, his searchlight illuminating the area, in a determined effort to give the attacking aircraft full visibility. As the friendly aircraft prepared for the attack, Captain Walmsley descended into the valley in a low level run over the target with searchlight blazing, selflessly exposing himself to vicious enemy antiaircraft fire. In his determination to inflict maximum damage on the enemy, he refused to employ evasive tactics and valiantly pressed forward straight through an intense barrage, thus insuring complete destruction of the enemy's vitally needed war cargo. While he courageously pressed his attack Captain Walmsley's plane was hit and crashed into the surrounding mountains, exploding upon impact. His heroic initiative and daring aggressiveness in completing this important mission in the face of overwhelming opposition and at the risk of his life, reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
Born: 1/7/1920 at Baltimore, Maryland
Home Town: Baltimore, Maryland
*Bennett, Steven Logan
Captain, U.S. Air Force
20th Tactical Air Support Squadron, 56th Special Operations Wing, Udorn Air Royal Thai Air Base
Date of Action: June 29, 1972
The Medal of Honor is presented to Steven Logan Bennett, Captain, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron, 56th Special Operations Wing, in action over Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 29 June 1972. Captain Bennett was the pilot of a light aircraft flying an artillery adjustment mission along a heavily defended segment of route structure. A large concentration of enemy troops was massing for an attack on a friendly unit. Captain Bennett requested tactical air support but was advised that none was available. He also requested artillery support but this too was denied due to the close proximity of friendly troops to the target. Captain Bennett was determined to aid the endangered unit and elected to strafe the hostile positions. After four such passes, the enemy force began to retreat. Captain Bennett continued the attack, but, as he completed his fifth strafing pass, his aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile, which severely damaged the left engine and the left main landing gear. As fire spread in the left engine, Captain Bennett realized that recovery at a friendly airfield was impossible. He instructed his observer to prepare for an ejection, but was informed by the observer that his parachute had been shredded by the force of the impacting missile. Although Captain Bennett had a good parachute, he knew that if he ejected, the observer would have no chance of survival. With complete disregard for his own life, Captain Bennett elected to ditch the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, even though he realized that a pilot of this type aircraft had never survived a ditching. The ensuing impact upon the water caused the aircraft to cartwheel and severely damaged the front cockpit, making escape for Captain Bennett impossible. The observer successfully made his way out of the aircraft and was rescued. Captain Bennett's unparalleled concern for his companion, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
GB-1007, September 6, 1974
Born: 4/22/1946 at Palestine, Texas
Home Town: Lafayette, Louisiana
Day, George Everett "Bud" (POW)
Colonel, U.S. Air Force
Misty Super FAC's F-100 Squadron, Phu Cat Air Base, Vietnam
Date of Action: August 26, 1967
The Medal of Honor is presented to George Everett "Bud" Day, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty a Pilot of Misty Super FAC's F-100 Squadron, held as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. On 26 August 1967, Colonel Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in three places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Colonel Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Colonel Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Colonel Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Colonel Day's conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity 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 U.S. Armed Forces.
GB-180, March 22, 1976
Born: 2/24/1925 at Sioux City, Iowa
Home Town: Sioux City, Iowa
Other Award: Air Force Cross (WWII)
George Day served in the Iowa National Guard before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. During his military service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam he received 60 medals, 40 of which were for Valor including the Medal of Honor, Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, two Silver Stars, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, four Purple Hearts and ten Air Medals.
Dethlefsen, Merlyn Hans
Major, U.S. Air Force
354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand
Date of Action: March 10, 1967
The Medal of Honor is presented to Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen, Major, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, near Thai Nguyen, North Vietnam, on 10 March 1967. Major Dethlefsen was one of a flight of F-105 aircraft engaged in a fire suppression mission designed to destroy a key antiaircraft defensive complex containing surface-to-air missiles (SAM), an exceptionally heavy concentration of antiaircraft artillery, and other automatic weapons. The defensive network was situated to dominate the approach and provide protection to an important North Vietnam industrial center that was scheduled to be attacked by fighter bombers immediately after the strike by Major Dethlefsen's flight. In the initial attack on the defensive complex the lead aircraft was crippled, and Major Dethlefsen's aircraft was extensively damaged by the intense enemy fire. Realizing that the success of the impending fighter bomber attack on the center now depended on his ability to effectively suppress the defensive fire, Major Dethlefsen ignored the enemy's overwhelming firepower and the damage to his aircraft and pressed his attack. Despite a continuing hail of antiaircraft fire, deadly surface-to-air missiles, and counterattacks by MIG interceptors, Major Dethlefsen flew repeated close range strikes to silence the enemy defensive positions with bombs and cannon fire. His action in rendering ineffective the defensive SAM and antiaircraft artillery sites enabled the ensuing fighter bombers to strike successfully the important industrial target without loss or damage to their aircraft, thereby appreciably reducing the enemy's ability to provide essential war material. Major Dethlefsen's consummate skill and selfless dedication to this significant mission were 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.
GB-51, February 8, 1968
Born: 6/29/1934 at Greenville, Iowa
Home Town: Royal, Iowa
Eventually promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Merlyn Dethlefsen went on to serve as an instructor in a Pennsylvania war college.
Fisher, Bernard Francis
Major, U.S. Air Force
1st Air Commando Squadron, 14th Air Commando Wing,
Date of Action: March 10, 1966
The Medal of Honor is presented to Bernard Francis Fisher, Major, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Pilot with the 1st Air Commando Squadron, 14th Air Commando Wing, in action near Bien Hoa and Pleiku, Republic of Vietnam. On 10 March 1966, the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800 foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the battle, Major Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Major Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Major Fisher's profound concern for his fellow airman, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country
GB-41, January 23, 1967
Born: 1/11/1927 at San Bernardino, California
Home Town: Kuna, Idaho
Major Fisher was the first person to received the newly designed Air Force Medal of Honor. Before joining the U.S. Air Force, Bernard Fisher served in the Idaho National Guard. He earned the Silver Star in an air mission on the day before his Medal of Honor action
Fleming, James Phillip
Captain, U.S. Air Force
20th Special Operations Squadron, 14th Special Operations Wing, Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam
Date of Action: November 26, 1968
The Medal of Honor is presented to James Phillip Fleming, Captain, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 20th Special Operations Squadron, 14th Special Operations Wing, in action near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam, on 26 November 1968. Captain Fleming (then First Lieutenant) distinguished himself as the Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F transport Helicopter. Captain Fleming went to the aid of a six-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 one helicopter had been downed by intense hostile fire, Captain 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, Captain 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. Captain Fleming made a successful takeoff through a barrage of hostile fire and recovered safely at a forward base. Captain 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.
GB-477, June 23, 1970
Born: 3/12/1943 at Sedalia, Missouri
Home Town: Pullman, Washington
James Fleming graduated from Moses Lake (WA) High School, alma matter of fellow Medal of Honor recipient Joe Ronnie Hooper, making that school one of the few in history to claim to Medal of Honor recipients.
Jackson, Joe Madison
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force
311th Air Commando Squadron, 315th Special Operations Wing, Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam
Date of Action: May 12, 1968
The Medal of Honor is presented to Joe Madison Jackson, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 311th Air Commando Squadron, 315th Special Operations Wing, in action at Kham Duc, Republic of Vietnam, on 12 May 1968. Lieutenant Colonel Jackson distinguished himself as Pilot of a C-123 aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of a three-man USAF 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. Lieutenant Colonel 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, Lieutenant Colonel Jackson succeeded in getting airborne despite the hostile fire directed across the runway in front of his aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Jackson's profound concern for his fellowmen, 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.
GB-40, January 27, 1969
Born: 3/14/1923 at Noonan, Georgia
Home Town: Noonan, Georgia
A photograph taken of Colonel Jackson's aircraft on the runway at Kham Duc from another American aircraft overhead, may be the only known photograph of a Medal of Honor action. Jackson was a veteran of three wars, flying B-25 bombers in World War II and 107 combat missions in Korea.
*Jones, William Atkinson
Colonel, U.S. Air Force
602d Special Operations Squadron, 56th Special Operations Wing, Nakon Phanom Royal Thai AFB
Date of Action: September 01, 1968
The Medal of Honor is presented to William Atkinson Jones, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 602d Special Operations Squadron, 56th Special Operations Wing, on 1 September 1968. Colonel Jones distinguished himself as the Pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. On that day, as the on-scene commander in the attempted rescue of a downed U.S. pilot, Colonel Jones' aircraft was repeatedly hit by heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. On one of his low passes, Colonel Jones felt an explosion beneath his aircraft and his cockpit rapidly filled with smoke. With complete disregard of the possibility that his aircraft might still be burning, he unhesitatingly continued his search for the downed pilot. On this pass, he sighted the survivor and a multiple-barrel gun position firing at him from near the top of a karst formation. He could not attack the gun position on that pass for fear he would endanger the downed pilot. Leaving himself exposed to the gun position, Colonel Jones attacked the position with cannon and rocket fire on two successive passes. On his second pass, the aircraft was hit with multiple rounds of automatic weapons fire. One round impacted the Yankee Extraction System rocket mounted directly behind the headrest, igniting the rocket. His aircraft was observed to burst into flames in the center fuselage section, with flames engulfing the cockpit area. He pulled the extraction handle, jettisoning the canopy. The influx of fresh air made the fire burn with greater intensity for a few moments, but since the rocket motor had already burned, the extraction system did not pull Colonel Jones from the aircraft. Despite searing pains from severe burns sustained on his arms, hands, neck, shoulders, and face, Colonel Jones pulled his aircraft into a climb and attempted to transmit the location of the downed pilot and the enemy gun position to the other aircraft in the area. His calls were blocked by other aircraft transmissions repeatedly directing him to bail out and within seconds his transmitters were disabled and he could receive only on one channel. Completely disregarding his injuries, he elected to fly his crippled aircraft back to his base and pass on essential information for the rescue rather than bail out. Colonel Jones successfully landed his heavily damaged aircraft and passed the information to a debriefing officer while on the operating table. As a result of his heroic actions and complete disregard for his personal safety, the downed pilot was rescued later in the day. Colonel Jones' profound concern for his fellow man 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.
GB-826, June 23, 1970
Born: 5/31/1922 at Norfolk, Virginia
Home Town: Charlottesville, Virginia
William A. Jones graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1945. His book, "Maxims for Men At Arms" was published only days before his death in an aircraft accident on November 15, 1969.
Levitow, John Lee
Sergeant, U.S. Air Force
3d Special Operations Squadron, 14th Special Operations Wing,
Date of Action: February 24, 1969
The Medal of Honor is presented to John Lee Levitow, Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty serving with the 3d Special Operations Squadron, 14th Special Operations Wing, in the air over Long Binh Army Post, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 February 1969. Sergeant Levitow (then Airman First Class), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while assigned as a loadmaster aboard an AC-47 aircraft flying a night mission in support of Long Binh Army post. Sergeant Levitow's aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole two feet in diameter through the wing and fragments made over 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants of the cargo compartment were wounded and helplessly slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion tore an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Sergeant Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering from over 40 fragment wounds in the back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him who had been knocked down and was bleeding heavily. As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the opened cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Sergeant Levitow started toward the burning flare. The aircraft was partially out of control and the flare was rolling wildly from side to side. Sergeant Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood from his many wounds and the partial loss of feeling in his right leg. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly device to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. Sergeant Levitow, by his selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction. Sergeant Levitow's gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen, 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.
GB-476, June 23, 1970
Born: 11/1/1945 at Hartford, Connecticut
Home Town: New Haven, Connecticut
*Pitsenbarger, William H.
Airman First Class, U.S. Air Force
Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam
Date of Action: April 11, 1966
The Medal of Honor is presented to William H. Pitsenbarger, Airman First Class, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on 11 April 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground. On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties. Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible. In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.
Born: 7/8/1944 at Piqua, Ohio
Home Town: Piqua, Ohio
William Pitsenbarger was originally awarded the Air Force Cross, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor more than three decades later. In that upgrade he became the second ENLISTED airman to receive the Air Force Medal of Honor and the only member of the highly decorated PJs (Para Rescue Jumpers) to receive the award.
*Sijan, Lance Peter (POW)
Captain, U.S. Air Force
366th Tactical Fighter Wing, 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang AFB
Date of Action: November 09, 1967
The Medal of Honor is presented to Lance Peter Sijan, Captain, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron, as a Prisoner of War being held in Laos and North Vietnam. On 9 November 1967, while on a flight over North Vietnam, Captain Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than six weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, Captain Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner of war camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered one of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Captain Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Captain Sijan's extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.
GB-181, March 23, 1976
Born: 4/13/1942 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Home Town: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Lance Sijan graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Class of 1965, and is the only graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy ever awarded the Medal of Honor.
Thorsness, Leo Keith (POW)
Major, U.S. Air Force
357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Tuy Hoa Air Base, 7th Air Force
Date of Action: April 19, 1967
The Medal of Honor is presented to Leo Keith Thorsness, Major, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing,, in action over North Vietnam on 19 April 1967. As pilot of an F- 105 aircraft, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission over North Vietnam. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness and his wingman attacked and silenced a surface-to-air missile site with air-to-ground missiles, and then destroyed a second surface-to-air missile site with bombs. In tile attack on the second missile site, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness' wingman was shot down by intensive antiaircraft fire, and the two crewmembers abandoned their aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness circled the descending parachutes to keep the crewmembers in sight and relay their position to the Search and Rescue Center. During this maneuver, a MIG-17 was sighted in the area. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness immediately initiated an attack and destroyed the MIG. Because his aircraft was low on fuel, he was forced to depart the area in search of a tanker. Upon being advised that two helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew's position and that there were hostile MlGs in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft defenses to the downed crew's position. As he approached the area, he spotted four MIG-17 aircraft and immediately initiated an attack on the MlGs, damaging one and driving the others away from the rescue scene. When it became apparent that an aircraft in the area was critically low on fuel and the crew would have to abandon the aircraft unless they could reach a tanker, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness, although critically short on fuel himself, helped to avert further possible loss of life and a friendly aircraft by recovering at a forward operating base, thus allowing the aircraft in emergency fuel condition to refuel safely. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness' extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
GB-796, November 6, 1973
Born: 2/14/1932 at Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Home Town: Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Subsequent to this heroic action, while on another mission, Major Thorsness was shot down and captured. He was later repatriated with other Prisoners of War.
*Wilbanks, Hilliard Almond
Captain, U.S. Air Force
21st Tactical Air Support Squadron, 21st Tactical Air Support Group, Nha Trang Air Force Base, Vietnam
Date of Action: February 24, 1967
The Medal of Honor is presented to Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, Captain, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron, 21st Tactical Air Support Group, in action over Dalat, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 February 1967. As a forward air controller Captain Wilbanks was pilot of an unarmed, light aircraft flying visual reconnaissance ahead of a South Vietnam Army Ranger Battalion. His intensive search revealed a well-concealed and numerically superior hostile force poised to ambush the advancing rangers. The Viet Cong, realizing that Captain Wilbanks' discovery had compromised their position and ability to launch a surprise attack, immediately fired on the small aircraft with all available firepower. The enemy then began advancing against the exposed forward elements of the ranger force which were pinned down by devastating fire. Captain Wilbanks recognized that close support aircraft could not arrive in time to enable the rangers to withstand the advancing enemy, onslaught. With full knowledge of the limitations of his unarmed, unarmored, light reconnaissance aircraft, and the great danger imposed by the enemy's vast firepower, he unhesitatingly assumed a covering, close support role. Flying through a hail of withering fire at treetop level, Captain Wilbanks passed directly over the advancing enemy and inflicted many casualties by firing his rifle out of the side window of his aircraft. Despite increasingly intense antiaircraft fire, Captain Wilbanks continued to completely disregard his own safety and made repeated low passes over the enemy to divert their fire away from the rangers. His daring tactics successfully interrupted the enemy advance, allowing the rangers to withdraw to safety from their perilous position. During his final courageous attack to protect the withdrawing forces, Captain Wilbanks was mortally wounded and his bullet-riddled aircraft crashed between the opposing forces. Captain Wilbanks' magnificent action saved numerous friendly personnel from certain injury or death. His unparalleled concern for his fellow man and his extraordinary heroism were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
GB-50, February 8, 1968
Born: 7/26/1933 at Cornelia, Georgia
Home Town: Atlanta, Georgia
Young, Gerald Orren
Captain, U.S. Air Force
37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam
Date of Action: November 09, 1967
The Medal of Honor is presented to Gerald Orren Young, Captain, U.S. Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Captain Young distinguished himself while serving as a helicopter rescue crew commander with the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, in action near Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam, on 9 November 1967. Captain 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 two 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 Captain Young to effect pickup. Heavy automatic weapons fire from the surrounding enemy severely damaged one rescue helicopter, but it was able to extract three of the team. The commander of this aircraft recommended to Captain 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, Captain 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. Captain Young escaped through a window of the burning aircraft. Disregarding serious burns, Captain 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, Captain Young reflected the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the Armed Forces of his country.
GB-208, May 20, 1968
Born: 5/19/1930 at Chicago, Illinois
Home Town: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Recipients by Home Town
Colorado Springs - Young, Gerald Orren
New Haven - Levitow, John Lee
Atlanta - Wilbanks, Hilliard Almond
Noonan - Jackson, Joe Madison
Kuna - Fisher, Bernard Francis
Chicago - Sebille, Louis Joseph
Royal - Dethlefsen, Merlyn Hans
Sioux City - Day, George Everett "Bud"
Lafayette - Bennett, Steven Logan
Portland - Loring, Charles Joseph
Baltimore - Walmsley, John Springer
Walnut Grove - Thorsness, Leo Keith
Piqua - Pitsenbarger, William H.
Lubbock - Davis, George Andrew, Jr.
Charlottesville - Jones, William Atkinson
Pullman - Fleming, James Phillip
Milwaukee - Sijan, Lance Peter
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Doug is a popular author, speaker, Webmaster, and historian who has dedicated his life to preserving the stories of our Nation’s greatest heroes. He has single-handedly authored more than 22,000 web pages in his popular site at www.HomeOfHeroes.com, which receives more than 10 million hits each month. A dedicated public servant in his hometown of Pueblo, Colorado; he initiated and organized several programs to introduce Medal of Honor recipients to the community, including a series of school assemblies that brought history and inspiration to more than 32,000 youth in one day of activities. He and his wife Pam’s continuing programs resulted in the Pueblo community bidding for and hosting the Medal of Honor convention in Pueblo in September 2000. Other activities have resulted in local schools promoting and passing legislation in two states authorizing distinctive Medal of Honor license plates.
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Photos and Citations of all U.S. Air Force
Recipients of the Medal of Honor