An American soldier who saved his platoon and was killed destroying an enemy bunker during a battle in Cambodia last week was awarded the Medal of Honor (MOH) posthumously. He is one of 154 other U.S. servicemen who were similarly decorated for their valor in military combat during the Vietnam War. It is heartening to know this brave infantryman got the recognition he so valiantly earned; sadly, it came nearly 42 years to the day after he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Next week, in a special Memorial Day edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology, we will recognize every American aviator who has earned the Medal of Honor. More to the point, we will explore why no aviators have received the Medal since the early 1970s; there are far fewer than other war fighters who have fought in various wars
The article will include a description of the heroics of three living aviators who were awarded the MOH during the Vietnam War. In interviews with AW&ST, they share their views on the Medal and modern military aviation. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz also discusses why he believes the Medal has eluded modern aviators.
One of the MOH recipients featured in the article—a fighter pilot who served six years in the Hanoi Hilton—wound up a prisoner after “going downtown” on one of his many combat missions. Gen. Schwartz referenced this individual in a compelling interview.
“The missions we have had over the last 10 years are not necessarily typical of those we will have in the future,” he told me. “It is in our DNA that one of the things we do is go downtown, like Leo did. When that time comes again—and I have no doubt that it will—we will have youngsters who will strap on the machines and go there…and get the combat recognition they deserve.”
Powerful stuff. Look for it in next week’s Aviation Week & Space Technology.