Valor Friday

| February 18, 2022

MGEN Patrick H. Brady, USA (Medal of Honor Recipient)

This week I’ve got another legend of the US Army Dustoff community.

Patrick Henry Brady was born in 1936 in South Dakota and grew up in the Washington State area. Brady’s father, during World War II, had served with the famed Darby’s Rangers. During the war his parents became estranged though, and Brady was raised by his mother and step father, who worked as a trucker.

Having no interest in the military, Brady was disgusted when he found that he would be required to attend ROTC for the first two years of school. Though one could be commissioned after graduation through the program, if you elected not to pursue a military career, many men were still drafted into national service.

While attending Seattle University Brady was kicked out of the school’s compulsory ROTC program. He was slated to graduate in 1958 or 1959 and realized he was likely to get drafted once out of school. He decided to rejoin the Reserve Officers Training Corps program so that when his call to service came, he could at least do so as an officer.

In March 1959 Brady graduated and was commissioned a second lieutenant into the US Army’s Medical Service Corps. He went on active duty a few weeks later. During his college years, Brady married his high school sweetheart Nancy.

Brady was trained as a field medic, and spent his first couple years on active duty in West Berlin. He was there at the time that the communists were building the Berlin Wall. Brady’s medical platoon was tasked with treating the casualties of those who were escaping the communist regime. He described the treatment those fleeing received as “horrible.” Three decades later he would return to Berlin, just months after the wall was brought down. He was shocked at the stark difference between communism and capitalism. The same German people living under two forms of government showed the failures of communism.

Brady said, “The difference in the two systems was remarkable, because on the one side you have BMWs and Mercedes. On the other side you have two cars. One made out of cardboard, the other tin, they were driven by a lawnmower engine.”

Next, Brady was selected for intelligence training. While at the Army Intelligence School a background check uncovered some un-reported youthful incarcerations. Subsequently removed from that program, they slotted him into aviation training. Despite nearly washing out, Brady graduated from the course at Fort Rucker in December 1963. He immediately volunteered for and deployed to Vietnam in January 1964.

During this year-long deployment, Brady was assigned to the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) under the command of the legendary Major Charles Kelly. Kelly was a key developer of the helicopter casualty evacuation techniques that would become Army doctrine. He’s known as “The Father of Dustoff.”

Kelly was known for an aggressive flight style that focused on flying anywhere, anytime they were called. If there were soldiers on the ground in need, then they would go. He challenged his men to fly in conditions considered dangerous. In bad weather, at night, and right into the very heart of the battle. Nothing was to come between the aircrew and their patient.

On 21 June 1964, Brady, by now a captain, was co-pilot on a helicopter ambulance. They were flying in to evacuate wounded South Vietnamese troops embroiled in a vicious battle with Viet Cong. As the American aircrew came in, Brady’s aircraft commander was struck by enemy fire. Despite his wounded comrade and aircraft sustaining damage from the ground fire, Brady landed in the battle.

Through withering fire, Brady remained on the ground until the wounded were loaded. For the next thirteen hours he returned again and again into the battle to provide aid and evacuate the injured.

Brady received his first (of many to come) combat bravery decorations for that action, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

On 1 July 1964, Major Kelly would be killed in action while flying one of his characteristically aggressive medical evacuation missions. He would receive a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for the action, and Kelly’s techniques would be cemented as gospel at a time when Army brass was questioning the efficacy of the tactics.

Kelly’s final mission had him on the ground, evacuating wounded friendlies. Taking heavy enemy fire, as they screamed for him to take off and get out, Kelly’s final words were, “When I have your wounded.” An enemy round entered through the helicopter’s cargo door and struck Kelly in the chest. It pierced his heart, killing him instantly.

Captain Brady was the next ranking officer in the unit at the time of Kelly’s death and took over command of the 57th Medical Detachment. The next day a senior officer walked into Brady’s office and tossed a bullet on his desk. The officer told him that was one of the bullets that killed Kelly and asked if he was going to stop flying so recklessly. Picking up the bullet, Brady replied, “We are going to keep flying exactly the way Kelly taught us to fly, without hesitation, anytime, anywhere.”

Brady proved it days later when he was aircraft commander responding to the area of Vinh Cheo on 11 July. They had received a call for assistance from South Vietnamese Army (RVN) troops engaged in a firefight with Viet Cong (VC). Coming into the area, the American aircraft immediately became an easy target for the enemy.

Flying into the hostile fire, Brady repeatedly made low-speed, low-altitude flights into the landing zone to aid the friendly forces. On trip after trip into and out of the battle, Brady proved that he was willing to put Major Kelly’s “anytime, anywhere” mantra into practice. He flew through the day and past midnight into the 12th of July, scouring the battlefield for more wounded to evacuate.

At the end of the day’s action, Brady’s performance had led to the successful rescue of 111 wounded RVN soldiers. This earned him his second DFC.

After his year-long tour in Vietnam, Brady was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia. He flew medical evacuation missions there until 1967 when he again volunteered for Vietnam. Now a major, he was second in command of the 54th Medical Detachment, flying out of Chu Lai.

In the two years since he was last in-country, the mission of Dustoff had gone from supporting 16,000 American troops to a half-million. The war itself had decidedly intensified. The American involvement in the conflict had gone from advisory and support to full participation. The successes of the Dustoff operations, which Brady had played a role in cementing into doctrine, had meant that all major Army organizations had organic medical helicopter evacuation elements.

On 29 September 1967, while serving as aircraft commander, Major Brady answered the call to evacuate nine critically injured soldiers who were still heavily engaged with North Vietnamese forces near Tam Ky. The ground commander advised that the battle was ongoing and there was not a secure landing zone. Despite this, Brady immediately volunteered to conduct the mission.

Flying into heavy enemy fire, Brady continued to land despite his aircraft being targeted by the enemy. Two of Brady’s crew were wounded in the landing and the ground commander called to Brady and said he should immediately take off to save his crew and the aircraft. Brady demurred, insisting that he remain on the ground until all the wounded were loaded. Only then did he take his damaged aircraft into the sky, flying several soldiers to critically needed medical care.

Brady earned his third Distinguished Flying Cross that night. Days later, also near Kam Ty, he would again answer the call for help.

On 2 October, a friendly force called for evacuation of wounded. The wounded were in a mountainous area and heavy storms were severe enough that they had grounded several other rescue attempts. Despite this, Brady volunteered to fly the mission.

The weather was bad enough that he had to fly on radar and instruments alone. Arriving over the tight landing zone, Brady descended vertically by light of a handful of flares, only able to see a few feet outside of his aircraft.

Loading his aircraft to capacity, Brady evacuated the wounded. While doing so, the already treacherous weather had turned even more sour. Despite that, Brady returned to attempt another rescue.

Arriving in the area of the friendly forces, Brady’s helicopter drew intense enemy machine gun and small arms fire. He flew low, continuing to take enemy fire, for 45 minutes before he was able to locate the landing zone again.

Guiding his aircraft down, he zeroed in on the landing zone by watching the muzzle flashes from the enemy guns. Loading another eight wounded, he took off through the “curtain of fire” as his award citation reads, to bring them to safety.

Brady again returned, now past midnight into the 3rd, to make a third evacuation run. Once more into the breach, Brady brought his airship in to bring another load of casualties to safety. For his indomitable courage under fire, Brady was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery.

Not even a week later, on the 8th of October, an airborne infantry unit had made contact with the enemy and were in need of medical evacuation for several wounded. Three other helicopters had attempted to make the rescue and all had been turned away. Major Brady again volunteered.

As before, the weather was bad. Visibility was near zero, winds were high, and the rain was torrential. With the weather conditions as they were, Brady needed to fly at dangerously low altitude and very low speed to navigate by following streams and trails to get to the proposed landing zone.

Again into a hail of enemy fire, Brady landed in the tight mountainside clearing to evacuate the wounded. He flew them to safety and then returned, several times, to conduct the same feat of airmanship again and again. Each time bringing more wounded out. He did this into the night before he had completed the job.

Brady earned a fourth Distinguished Flying Cross for that day. His heroism in Vietnam wasn’t even half over yet.

On 21 October, during the most severe storm of the season, a group of friendly soldiers had been engaged by the enemy. Unable to locate the landing zone, Brady had to return to base to refuel. He again returned through the dangerous weather, this time finding the landing zone, by again spotting flares.

Once loaded, Brady took off and came under heavy enemy fire. The weather was bad enough it required him to fly to base on instruments alone. He returned to the “hot” landing zone again to get a second load of wounded. Flying through machine gun fire, he went to a second site to get additional casualties from another unit before returning to base.

Brady earned his fifth DFC that night.

On 6 January 1968, a group of wounded men were in need of evacuation. They were in enemy-held territory in an area that was reported to the medical evacuation unit as heavily defended and blanketed by fog.

Seven attempts had been made to get a helicopter into this outpost and all were turned away. Brady, who was off duty that day, was then approached since they knew he could fly such missions. Unsurprisingly, Brady volunteered.

Descending through the fog, Brady flew low and slow over a trail to guide him to the landing zone. Brady had, in a previous mission, stumbled upon a technique to fly into the dense fogs that the Vietnam jungles routinely developed.

Brady had, in the earlier mission, been called to evacuate a soldier from a mountaintop firebase that had been bit by a snake. Finding the cloud cover at the mountain impossible to penetrate, he made several attempts. On his fourth attempt, while disoriented, he thought he was crashing, but looked out the window and saw his rotor tip and a treetop. He knew he was right side up then, and also saw that the vortices coming off his rotor were clearing the fog. He hovered sideways up the mountain, using the rotor to clear the fog. This added several additional feet of visibility. As Brady later said, “That solved the problem of the daytime weather missions.” He just had to “turn the bird sidewards”. As if flying sideways up a mountain covered in fog is totally normal.

Brady used this technique on that January day and turned his aircraft sideways as he moved along. Coming into the dangerously confined landing zone, Brady’s aircraft again drew heavy enemy fire. Landing, Brady was able to load and evacuate two critically injured RVN soldiers.

Brady was next called to another area covered completely with fog to evacuate 60-70 American casualties just 50 meters away from the enemy they were still fighting. The wounded lay dying as several rescue attempts had earlier failed. Two helicopters had been shot down and several more turned away by the intense fire.

The area Brady was going to fly into was so dangerous, that he was not permitted to even make an attempt. He had to first land at the fire support base and convince the brigade commander that he could succeed where everyone else had failed. Not believing him, the brigade commander went to Brady’s co-pilot and asked if they could really do what Brady was suggesting. The co-pilot said something like, “Yeah we can do it. We’ve been doing it. We just did it this morning.”

The commander agreed to let Brady and his aircrew attempt to get in to get the casualties. From the fire support base on the mountain top, they watched as Brady’s aircraft descended into the fog, and triumphantly rose out of the dense cloud cover minutes later to bring the wounded to the base.

Brady was told that when he’d come flying vertically out of the valley below, the troops in the fire base would clap and cheer. The brigade surgeon met the first helicopter load of casualties and gave a salute to Brady and his crew for finally getting the men out of harm’s way.

On his first flight in, the brigade commander had sent three other aircraft with Brady, to evacuate all the wounded in one go. As Brady used his sideways flying technique to see a bit further into the fog, the other aircraft all returned to base. The conditions were just too hazardous for them to fly.

With unmatched skill and incredible heroism, Brady flew into that very hot landing zone. He was flying right over the enemy positions. Just a few feet off the ground, he could see them lying in the mud below them as he passed. The fog was so heavy though that by the time they saw the helicopter and moved to fire on it, Brady was already gone. He downplays the danger he was in by saying that because of that “It was a very safe system. It worked perfectly. We got them all out.”

Without the additional aircraft to fly in, Brady had to make the harrowing journey into the dense fog, flying feet above the enemy, and landing in the middle of the battle three more times.

On the third trip into the landing zone, he succeeded in landing through the enemy fire. The ground forces were fully pinned down by the enemy though. Brady’s controls had been partially immobilized from enemy fire. Despite that he evacuated a load of wounded and returned minutes later.

After his fourth trip, Brady had to secure a replacement helicopter and continued answering calls for help the rest of the day. His next mission required flying into a landing zone wherein he’d received poor information on the enemy’s location and weapons being used. Landing, the friendly forces weren’t standing up to load the wounded. This left the large, red cross-clad olive drab whirly bird to be one big target. The enemy opened fire on the helicopter. Bullets ricocheted off the aircraft, one going through Brady’s instrument cluster.

Brady took off, moved over some trees for a bit of cover to check his instruments and flight controls. Finding that his Huey was mostly functional, he radioed the ground troops and told them to be ready this time. He flew into the enemy-targeted landing zone once more, evacuating the wounded man.

While flying back, Brady monitored the radio chatter. He heard a call for help from the ground of Americans wounded in an enemy mine field. As Brady flew past the location he saw a Dustoff chopper leaving the area and heard the impassioned screams from the ground troops “Dustoff please come!” The Dustoff crew had been on the ground in the minefield when another mine exploded, killing some people, and so the helicopter had to make a retreat, leaving the men on the ground to scream in panic at being abandoned.

Brady had seen where the other aircraft had been parked, so he felt reasonably certain that was a safe location to land. So he did just that, landing within the minefield to carry out the wounded men. On the ground safely, the next problem was getting the casualties. The infantrymen on the ground, in the middle of a minefield literally exploding around them were understandably frozen in place.

Brady turned to his crewmen, a medic and the crew chief, and told them to go get them. He credits those men as the real heroes of the minefield mission as they ran out of the relative safety of the helicopter and across the minefield to grab the wounded. They carried several patients back to the aircraft on multiple trips through the minefield.

On their final trip through the minefield Brady’s two crewmen were carrying a dead or dying soldier on a litter back to the helicopter. As they got to within feet of the helicopter they set off a mine. Brady said he saw his crewmates go flying into the air and then felt the shrapnel of the blast pepper the side of his aircraft. Alarm lights and bells flooded the pilot’s instrument panel.

By the grace of God, neither crewman was seriously injured and the aircraft was flyable. The medic and crew chief loaded that final patient aboard the aircraft and Brady was able to fly them out. Both the medic and the crew chief received Silver Stars for their heroism.

Brady casually says that they continued flying missions that day (after he secured a third aircraft). He says he had more harrowing missions before and maybe since, but that the operations on this day were the ones that people noticed and wrote up. His take on it is that once the witness statements came in, they said “Well, we need to get this guy an award.”

In total, in that single day, Major Brady carried 51 seriously wounded soldiers off the battlefield and to safety. In all that action he had gone through three helicopters and multiple aircrews. Brady says that the missions from that January day weren’t too unusual. In fact, his record for most aircraft damaged beyond safe flying in a single day was four. He says that if someone hadn’t noticed it and taken the time to write about it, he wouldn’t have considered that day unique.

Brady was written up for a second Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for that January day’s heroics. He received his second DSC after he had left Vietnam, while stationed at Fort Sam Houston. Some time after that, Brady was selected as Army Aviator of the Year, and days later he received a phone call from a major working in the office of the Army Chief of Staff General Westmoreland. The major congratulated Brady and notified him his second DSC was being upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Brady received the medal from President Nixon at the White House on 9 October 1969. He was impressed by Nixon giving a great speech without using notes. The president also gave the newest Medal of Honor recipients the use of Air Force One to fly to Houston for a meeting of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The CMOHS is a fraternal organization made up of, and dedicated to, Medal of Honor recipients. There Brady joined other American legends such as Eddie Richenbacher, Joe Foss, and MoH recipients from as far back as the Indian Wars.

Returning our story to the jungles of Vietnam, a few days after his Medal of Honor earning heroics, on 18 January 1968, Brady again was responding to pleas for help from the ground. Friendly forces were in heavy contact with the enemy. The landing zone was again blanketed in thick fog. With no forward visibility, Brady again flew sideways to use his rotor’s wash to help clear some of the fog so he could see.

As he approached the landing site, he had to turn on his landing light. This provided the enemy an excellent target. With enemy fire coming at his aircraft, Brady continued in and landed in a small clearing that only minutes before had been hit by ten enemy mortar rounds.

As the helicopter continued to take fire, Brady remained calm as the wounded were loaded. Only once all the injured had been secured safely aboard did he take off, bringing the casualties to the hospital.

Brady earned his sixth (and final) Distinguished Flying Cross that day. By the end of his second tour in Vietnam, Brady had conducted more than 2,000 combat missions and evacuated more than 5,000 men.

After the war, Brady remained in the Army. He received a master’s in business administration from Harvard in 1972. He has six children (including Meghan, an Iraq War veteran), 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Brady retired from the Army in 1993 as a major general after 34 years of service. His other awards and decorations include two Army Distinguished Service Medals, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals (w/ at least one “V” for valor), the Purple Heart, and 52 Air Medals (at least one of those w/ “V”).

One of the good things that comes from being a Medal of Honor recipient to Brady is how he gets to speak to schools and the young to impart to them what courage means to him. What are the key elements of that message? Brady says;

“The message that I try to bring is simply this. We’re not born equal. There’s no question about that. In terms of ability. In terms of opportunity. We’re just not all born equal. Some guys are smarter. Some guys are faster. Some guys are better looking. And so on. But there is one way in which we are all equal. Only one way. And that’s in matters of courage. All of us can have all the courage we want. And that’s the key to success in life…It’s the great equalizer. People without great ability, without great opportunity can become reasonably successful or very successful people if they take advantage of the amount of courage that’s available to them. Not combat courage. God knows that is not in any way compare to the moral courage to be a good teacher, a good policeman, a good parent. Especially a good parent, which is the foundation of our society.”

Brady also brings up the message of faith as the source of courage. He won’t define that for anyone else, but in whatever moment tests your mettle, there is a need to believe in something bigger than one’s self.

Was he ever afraid during any of the amazing acts of battlefield valor he conducted? Brady said he wasn’t. “The closest I ever came was apprehension. I’d be nervous.” The mission took all his focus and the details of flying and patient care became paramount. There was no room left in his mind for fear, which he said was “a debilitating thing.” With his faith substituting for his fear that he “just knew if [he] died doing what [he] was doing…what better way to die? What better way for a soldier to die than to be saving the lives of his fellow soldiers?”

Looking back on his time in combat, Brady says he looked forward to every day he could fly Dustoff. General Brady said, “You’re saving lives. How in the heck can anything be more rewarding than that?”

Category: Army, Distinguished Service Cross, Historical, Medal of Honor, Valor, Vietnam

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sj

I was in the same class with him at Armed Forces Staff College in ’75. What a nice guy. Very humble. True gentleman.

26Limabeans

Wow. What a read. Thanks Mason.

KoB

“…without hesitation, anytime, anywhere.” BZ Good Sir! A story of a True Hero, and a testament to the Hueys that could lift the wounded AND those big brass ones that this (GO) ARMY Aviator had. Battery Gun Salute in order here.

Great Story, again, Mason. Thanks!

Old tanker

Thank God that men like him lived and live.

Green Thumb

Great post.

Jay

Good LORD! Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, SIX DFCs, and Two Bronze Stars…..how did he lift off carrying all that hardware AND two giant brass balls?

Gentle Bitch, Mason: you have the good MG listed as Patrick “Brandy” is his thumbnail pic at the top. Other than that, a HELL of a read to start a Friday.

Poetrooper

Thank God he didn’t spell it Brandon 😜  😜  😜 

Martinjmpr

There is a unique tribute to Major Kelly in the form of radio call signs: After Kelly’s heroics, all medical evacuation helicopters use the call sign that Kelly coined: Dust Off.

https://www.army.mil/article/112011/matching_tradition_dustoff_lifts_patient_care_to_higher_level#:~:text=In%201963%2C%20the%20U.S.%20Army,helicopters%20took%20off%20or%20landed.

From the article: “In 1963, the U.S. Army 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) commander started using the radio call sign “Dustoff” for his medical evacuation chopper. The name arose, in part, because of the clouds of dust that would billow up when the helicopters took off or landed.

All MedEvac choppers assumed the “Dustoff” call sign; it lasted throughout the war and is still in use today.”

The term has even worked itself into popular culture: In the 1986 movie “Aliens”, the beseiged US Colonial Marines try to make remote contact with their orbiting ship so they can call for a “dustoff.”

Sparks

Thank God for men like him. Dustoff was a Godsend to us.

Last edited 9 months ago by Sparks
SgtBob

A former USMC CH-46 gunner said his helicopter was sent to a location in I Corps where a Marine Corps company was getting shot up. His chopper joined three other USMC helicopters in a race track pattern out of gun range above the grunts. The commander on the ground said he had numerous casualties and that enemy fire was very heavy. My friend said his pilot studied the terrain and the amount of enemy fire and said, “I’m not going down there.” Apparently the other USMC pilots had reached the same conclusion. The four USMC aircraft continued their circling pattern, waiting for NVA fire to lessen. “Then out of nowhere came this Army Medivac Huey,” my friend said. “It shot into a small LZ, picked up the wounded Marines and then shot out again.” The difference between USMC pilots and Army Medivac pilots, at least in that case, was the Army pilots had been trained on “This is what we do,” but the USMC pilots had not.

Roh-Dog

Holy crap!! Didn’t need an armored seat as he sits on a World Record setting pair of brass ones!

rgr1480

Unbelievable. Just … wow!

Poetrooper

Thanks, Mason, for a great and memory-stirring read. General Brady’s youthful heroism can be deeply appreciated by those who have crouched helplessly in the cargo compartment of a Huey listening to the sprangggg!!! and whackkkk!!! of incoming rounds ricocheting and impacting while the pilots and crew-chief carry on as unperturbed as if they’re about to land in front of the bleachers on a parade ground.

As ol’ Poe has mentioned here before, many of the Huey pilots were incredibly fearless, especially the peach-fuzz-faced young warrant officers coming out of the rotary-wing program at Fort Wolters who flew those birds with all the cool and poise of James Dean drag racing towards the cliff edge. What they lacked in experience they made up for in daring.

But the baddest asses of a bad-ass bunch were the Dust-offs. While many of the air assaults or inserts we made were only mildly contested, those air-ambulances could count on virtually every one of their missions being hot to (cont)

Poetrooper

(cont) one degree or another, often incredibly so. To fly into fight after fight like that required major cojones, as this account of Brady’s flying feats demonstrates.

Six decades later, ol’ Poe remains as impressed with their skills and bravery as young Poe was way back then…

Poetrooper

MG Brady was one of those outspoken retired generals who warned about Obama’s purging of militery leadership, the very same purging that got us into the woke mess we currently find ourselves:

List Of Military Elite Purged And Fired Under Obama (rense.com)