Valor Friday

| February 26, 2021

This week’s article will be brief. I can’t find much about the man other than the award citation. It’s a pretty amazing citation though that I felt needed to be shared.

Kenneth Ledford was a 1st Lieutenant US Army aviator assigned to the 58th Medical Battalion of the 68th Medical Group. This formation was part of the larger 44th Medical Brigade in Vietnam. The unit served in the Vietnam War from 1966 until December 1970.

The brigade participated in 12 campaigns during the war and was twice cited by the Army with a Meritorious Unit Citation. One of those awards was for the time frame in which Ledford was assigned. They also received the South Vietnamese Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class, during that time. They have to their credit two Medal of Honor recipients, then-Major Patrick Brady (talked about briefly in our “Most Decorated” series) and Chief Warrant Officer Michael Novosel (a man worthy of a full article).

Ledford, piloting a rescue helicopter on 15 September 1970, was attempting to medevac six seriously wounded personnel from a landing zone (LZ). Confronted with significant enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire he was forced to evacuate the area before retrieving the wounded.

Once out of the danger zone, Ledford enlisted the aid of four nearby US Navy helicopter gunships of Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron THREE (HA(L)-3) to assist in providing covering fire while he made another run into the LZ.

As the helicopters made their descent into the hot LZ, they once again came under withering fire from the enemy on the ground. The fire was so intense that two of Ledford’s covering aircraft were shot down, one was disabled, and the fourth was seriously damaged.

One of the shot down helicopters had auto-rotated (how a helicopter conducts a powerless but controlled crash) into a nearby lake. Ledford immediately moved in to rescue the downed crew. Despite the heavy fire from multiple enemy positions around the lake, Ledford was successful in saving the crew.

Rising once again into the air, Ledford moved to pick up the other two crews.

The damaged UH-1 “Huey” gunship, piloted by US Navy Lieutenant, Junior Grade Robert Baratko, remained to provide covering fire while Ledford moved in to rescue the two remaining downed Navy crews.

Landing near the two crashed aircraft. Ledford held his helicopter idling on the ground despite the heavy volume of enemy fire directed at him. He remained on the ground while his crew went to the two downed Navy aircraft and extricated the dead and wounded, a lengthy process from a wrecked helicopter.

Only after the two crews had been helped did Lieutenant Ledford take off, again into a maelstrom of enemy fire.

While providing covering fire, Lieutenant Baratko’s aircraft similarly provided a major target to the enemy. Sustaining several more hits in the process, Baratko remained to cover Ledford and his men despite the risk of crashing his own helicopter. By the time they left the crash sites, Baratko had barely enough fuel to make it to a nearby airstrip.

Both Ledford and Baratko would be awarded the Navy Cross for their bravery that day. Ledford was the only member of the US Army to receive the Navy’s highest service-specific honor (second only to the Medal of Honor). Ledford remained in the Army after the war, retiring as a colonel. At least one of his later assignments was as a Junior ROTC instructor. One of his students said he never spoke of this award-winning mission, but did tell the students about the first time he was shot down in Vietnam (a story I’d love to hear).

Searches on Ledford lead directly to more stories about his son. Andrew Ledford, now a commander in the US Navy, was a graduate of the US Naval Academy in 1995. He’d go on to become a SEAL and serve in combat in Iraq. While there in 2003, he and his team were accused of mistreating a prisoner. The younger Ledford was acquitted of all charges at a general court martial. He is now a Permanent Military Professor of leadership in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the United States Naval Academy after having received a PhD in sociology from Princeton. A true warrior scholar this one.

Category: Army, Historical, Navy, Navy Cross, Valor, Vietnam, War Stories, We Remember

Comments (7)

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  1. ninja says:

    Mason,

    Thank You for sharing another story about a humble Hero.

    Colonel Ledford and his wife, Angela, also have a daughter who served in Iraq in 2003 as an Apache helicopter pilot and a Commander of Delta Company, part of an Aviation Battalion:

    “Caring Holly Neighbors Help Military Personnel In Iraq”

    https://www.tctimes.com/caring-holly-neighbors-help-military-personnel-in-iraq/article_c3cc984f-8fcc-5d22-8548-9475a5efd8ca.html

    “Capt. Kristie Ledford, their daughter, is a University of Michigan graduate. She is an Apache helicopter pilot and commander of Delta Company, part of an aviation battalion. The captain has been in Iraq the last six months.”

    Salute to Colonel Ledford and his Family.

  2. Sparks says:

    Thank you for this Mason. True hero.

  3. Green Thumb says:

    Hardcore.

  4. ChipNASA says:

    Balls, I mean HUGE, Fucking, TRUCK, no HOUSE sized balls and humility, I mean shit…Hollywood couldn’t make up shit like this.
    And this was REAL!!
    Did I say BALLZ!!!?????
    Motherfucker had some kinda secret flux capacitor anti gravity shit in his helo no one knew about to lift his North Atlantic right whale sized nads. (Google it if need be)

  5. KoB says:

    Battery Gun Salute for this Warrior Family and their Mentor/Role Model!…COMMENCE FIRING!

    Great Story Mason, Thanks again!

  6. Andy says:

    Damn! Ledford is Roy Benavidez level bad ass.

  7. Hondo says:

    . . . . and Chief Warrant Officer Michael Novosel (a man worthy of a full article).

    You don’t say. (smile)

    https://valorguardians.com/blog/?p=32214