Medal of Honor, Almost 50 Years After Heroic Rescue Mission
President Barack Obama will award Lieutenant Colonol (Ret.) Charles Kettles of the U.S. Army the Medal of Honor for leading a platoon of UH-1Ds, or Huey helicopters, to provide support for an army rescue, which included a lone mission, after an enemy ambush on U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War, in 1967.

Kettles, 86, is credited with saving the lives of 40 soldiers and four of his own crew members, according to a White House statement released on Tuesday. After leading several trips evacuating the wounded, he returned in a lone mission in his helicopter without aerial support. In comparison, in the Army’s modern arsenal of weapons, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter typically flies in pairs for support.

“We were already 15 feet in the air, but we decided to go back and get the others,” Kettles told The Detroit News in 2015. “The helicopter was already overweight and it flew like a two-ton truck, but we were able to get up in the air and get everyone to safety.”

He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, and after congressional action last December that removed a ban of the Medal of Honor from being awarded after five years, the Medal of Honor will be awarded to Kettles after almost 50 years since the mission.

The president will award Kettles the medal in a ceremony on July 18.

Kettles was drafted in the Army in 1951 while in college as an engineering student. He served in Korea, Japan and Thailand before leaving.

In 1963, as the U.S. became more involved in Vietnam, he volunteered for active duty. Kettles retired in 1978.  His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit.
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