air force lt col joe jackson.medal of honor.kham duc vietnam 1968.dod

Former Lt. Col. Joe Jackson has died, a Medal of Honor recipient and Air Force legend who risked his life to save three others at Kham Duc airfield, Vietnam during the Tet offensive in 1968. The Special Forces airstrip, surrounded by mountains on all sides, came under artillery, mortar and rifle attack 11 May, and was ordered abandoned by the commander of U.S. forces, with 1000 fighters, allies, civilians and family members needing rescue. The next day when Jackson got there, eight aircraft had already been lost, the evacuation was deemed complete and the orders were to bomb the enemy hiding in the mountains. Then a C-130 transport countermanded orders, saying he’d just been told to reinsert three combat controller personnel – and Jackson, flying an older C-123, headed down for them. An “unreal” silence fell over the radio; an observation plane couldn’t find them; they were hugging dirt while enemy forces fired their big guns to take down any more rescue pilots. The observation plane, under heavy fire, landed, then fired up its engines and took right off again just as the last three Americans came running; they were sure that was their last chance. But Col. Jackson, backing up the observation craft, saw them and went down, scooped them up and ran, eluding an unexploded rocket that landed right in front of its nose. Jackson, an enlisted man, was an experienced combat pilot who earned his wings in World War II and promotions in Korea; the rescue he pulled off was called the Miracle of Kham Duc, and six months later President Lyndon Johnson draped him with America’s highest honor. (Department of Defense)

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