“I wanted to see how you could sit in that little seat with balls as big as you’ve got.”

| May 8, 2012

Generally, the USAF has the reputation of being the least “hardcore” of all of the armed services. No offense to any of our USAF brethren, but IMO that reputation is at least partly deserved. That shouldn’t really surprise anyone; a much smaller portion of the USAF directly and personally engages the enemy than the Army or USMC – or even the Navy. Proportionally more of the USAF is engaged in support. It takes a helluva lot of effort to keep those birds flying.

Still, some in the USAF do indeed personally go into harm’s way and engage. And some members of that service exhibit truly astonishing valor in combat. I’m about to relate a brief version of one such case, and link to a more detailed – and riveting – account. And in all of US military history, it is unique in two respects.

The story is that of Lt Col Joe Jackson, USAF. I won’t attempt to relate the whole story here; our friend Doug Sterner has covered that in great detail – and far better – than I ever could on his Home of Heroes website.
For full details, follow the link below to Doug’s website; the story is truly well-written, and transfixing. His story would be difficult to believe were it presented as fiction – but it’s the God’s honest truth.

Here are the bare bones of the story:

In Vietnam in 1968, MACV made the decision to abandon a particular base, Ap Bac Kham Duc. During the evacuation, three Airmen were inadvertently left behind. As the base area was literally being overrun by hostile forces, multiple attempts were made to rescue these three individuals. All but the last of these efforts were unsuccessful, resulting in numerous US casualties.

During the last failed rescue attempt, Lt Col Jackson was literally flying a routine mail delivery mission in a C-123. Hearing the last failed attempt on the radio, and realizing that he was likely his three brothers-in-arms last hope, Lt Col Jackson went to Ap Bac Kham Duc, combat landed his C-123 under fire, and rescued the three who’d been left behind.

The unique aspects? Here’s the first: it’s the only MOH action for which photographic evidence of the actual heroic act exists. An aerial photo was taken of Lt Col Jackson’s aircraft while on the ground at Ap Bac Kham Duc during the rescue.

The second? This MOH action yielded what is perhaps the ultimate compliment ever given from one warrior to another. That compliment is the title to this article. It was delivered to Lt Col Jackson by one of the men he’d rescued – Sgt Jim Lundie, USAF. It was delivered after Sgt Lundie had just spent 3 days on the ground, surrounded by enemy, hiding and/or running for his life, expecting at any moment to die or be captured. Sgt Lundie visited the cockpit of Lt Col Jackson’s plane while en route back to base after being rescued. He delivered that compliment then and there, spontaneously, in person.

After reading the detailed account of the rescue, I kinda wonder the same.

Doing this in any aircraft would be an amazing feat of both flying ability and courage. However, I’ve flown in a C-123. Doing this in a freaking C-123. . . . well, let’s just say that IMO Sergeant Lundie was absolutely on target with his compliment.

Again, Doug tells the story on his website better than I can. It’s definitely worthwhile to take the time and read his article.

This happened on May 12, 1968 – Mother’s Day. I guess you could call it a Mother’s Day present from Lt Col Jackson to the mothers of those he rescued. And tomorrow this Sunday is Mother’s Day 2012 – 44 years later.

As of this writing, this American hero is still alive. Kudos, Colonel Jackson. Kudos.

Category: Air Force

Comments (14)

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  1. LC LtC says:

    An Army buddy was one of my TAC officers when I went through the Texas Army Guard OCS and got my butter bar as an infantry platoon leader. I took that back to my Air Guard unit and into a billet as a maintenance officer. UPT later. Ah, the Guard.

    He likes to say, in the Army, the officers train and send the enlisted guys to fight, but in the Air Force, the enlisted guys support the officers as they go fight. I had never put that together myself. Different cultures, for sure.

  2. SGTKane says:

    Balls that big would be dense enough to be bullet proof, which goes a long way to explaining how the entire plane survived.

    I worked with some AF guys in the JTAC and a couple of their bomb dog teams. For as much joking as goes on about the AF, they were all top notch and professional when it came time to work.

  3. Adam_S says:

    That’s some serious shit Hondo. But the real question is, did he rock climb?

  4. OWB says:

    Kham Duc. Heard a story or three from there over the years.

  5. Hondo says:

    Sure he did, Adam_S. He had to climb on top of some truly XXXXXXL granite balls to sit in that little seat. (smile)

    Thanks for letting me put this on TAH, Jonn – and for the assist in getting this first article posted. And thanks also to Doug Sterner, for both writing the original story and for his OK regarding my summarizing and linking to same (it was his work originally, so I owed him that).

    I probably won’t post here all that often, but will try to make them something worth posting if/when I do. And I’ll try not to embarrass myself too much while “learning the ropes” of the site’s posting process.

  6. OWB says:

    Ya did fine with this one, Hondo! Great subject.

  7. Just Plain Jason says:

    Good job Hondo, I used to give the AF EOD teams crap when they showed up because we worked closely with the Navy guys for a while, but those guys are all good. As I always say nothing like seeing an A-10 flying above you.

  8. Old Tanker says:

    Nice Hondo, and thanks for sharing Doug….

  9. Marine_7002 says:

    Bravo Zulu, Hondo, nice job. And I’ll add to the chorus thanking Doug for all that he does.

  10. AF REMFER says:

    Never heard this story on active duty and I don’t remember reading about it during Basic. Shame. The guts displayed by Lt Col. Jackson deserve recognition. Hopefully it could inspire young airmen to the same sort of heroism. Normally the extent of heroism as it can be attained is through medical excellence or supply in difficult circumstance. You don’t get much of a chance to display valor in the face of the enemy.

  11. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    I’ll admit I like to give the ‘lesser’ branches a hard time. In all honesty I truly respect everyone’s service. During joint services exercises at 29 Stumps we worked with FACs and the ParaBubbas and they’re some pretty tough MoFos. The Col did the Air Force proud.

  12. Beretverde says:

    @1… yes that’s partly true. My buddy “Muff” (now ret. CMSgt) received the Silver Star at An Loc.


  13. Fighter Wife says:

    This is the first time I’ve visited your site. I had never heard of it before until tonight when I noticed a post about it on another political page that I visit quite frequently. When I saw that it was a military site I was very excited to click the link and read what you had to say but my excitement quickly turned to disappointment. My husband is a fighter pilot in the USAF and flies F-15’s. He is currently deployed and has been gone for months. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “hardcore” but I can certainly tell you one thing sir…he has put himself in harms way on several occasions and considers it an honor everytime he files a combat mission. He is the finest man I know and my heart fills with pride everytime I see him climb in his jet and take off to defend this great country of ours. I’m sure you meant no harm in your comments but they do not sit well with a wife waiting for her husband to return home safely. God bless everyone of our soldiers and their families. We live in the greatest country on earth and I love each and every man and woman who sacrifices their own lives for our safety and security.

  14. Hondo says:

    Fighter Wife: perhaps you should refer this article to your husband and ask him read and discuss it with you. I frankly doubt he’ll find it offensive. He’ll also probably be able to explain how – rather than “slam” at anyone – the article relates a tale of Air Force heroism that is truly above and beyond the call of duty.

    The “hardcore” reference refers to the fact that the USAF, in general, has the lowest probability of all the services of directly engaging the enemy in ground combat. With all due respect to pilots from all services: there’s a huge difference between dropping/firing ordnance from altitude and getting shot at from fairly close-range on the ground, dodging shrapnel from incoming mortars or rockets, or dealing with IEDs alongside a road. Air warfare is generally somewhat antiseptic and fought from a distance; ground combat is decidedly “down and dirty” and is at times “up close and personal” – or, if you prefer, “hardcore”. If asked directly, I’d guess your husband would tell pretty much anyone he’d rather be flying combat missions than personally engaging in ground combat. I’m certain that was true of my late father, who retired from the USAF after first serving in the Pacific with the Navy during World War II.

    A little background for you on this site: the vast majority here are military veterans. Many if not most of us here at one time or another have done the same thing your husband’s currently doing – e.g., put ourselves in harm’s way by deploying to and serving in a war zone. Some readers/commenters here are still serving in uniform, and a few are currently deployed themselves.

    This site’s purpose is to honor legitimate military service via protecting military honors legitimately earned through exposing false claimants to same. On occasion, an article is purely celebratory or inspirational. This article was one of the latter.

    In any case: I’m sorry if you were offended through misinterpreting the article above; hopefully this comment will help clarify. But in any case: please pass our thanks and best wishes along to your husband, and wish him Godspeed from all of us for his safe return.