Medal of Honor Monday: USAF 1st Lt. James P. Fleming

by Guest Author Tara Ross

During this week in 1968, an Air Force helicopter pilot makes a daring rescue. When James P. Fleming rescued an Army Special Forces unit that day, he left enemy territory with one Army commando dangling from his helicopter by a rope!

Sounds like a scene from a movie, doesn’t it? One military historian has labeled Fleming’s heroics “one of the most dramatic rescues of the entire Vietnam War.”

On November 26, Fleming was dispatched on a mission to insert a Special Forces recon team (RT Chisel) deep into enemy territory. “Before you took off, you would brief, you would go over, and you would shake hands and hug,” Fleming later remembered, “the team members and the crew members. . . . What you’re doing is you’re saying, ‘I’m going to take you, and I’m going to put you out in the middle of hell. If you have to come home, I’ll bring you home.’ I’m telling him that. That’s my duty; it’s my honor. That’s what I do.”

Little did Fleming know that he’d end up putting his own life on the line in order to keep his unspoken promise that day.

Things were going smoothly at first. The recon team members were inserted safely, but they unfortunately ran into an ambush a few hours later. The team radioed back for an emergency extraction. A group of five Hueys immediately left to retrieve RT Chisel: two gunships and three “slicks.” Fleming was piloting one of the Huey slicks.

Unfortunately, one of the gunships was hit early in the rescue attempt. It went down, but its crew was quickly retrieved by one of the slicks. The slick left the area, carrying the rescued crew to safety. Another slick followed, as it was running low on fuel.

Thus, only two helicopters remained to extract RT Chisel: one gunship and Fleming’s slick. Fleming was worried about his fuel levels, too, but he knew that he couldn’t leave his men on the ground. He was their only hope.

The first attempt to rescue RT Chisel failed. The Vietnamese in the area opened a barrage of fire just as the Huey came in the area. The Special Forces team was forced away from the helicopter and back toward a river. The fire was so intense that the commander of RT Chisel radioed Fleming: “They’ve got us. Get out!”

The gunship was injured by then, but its pilot told Fleming that he would try one more pass before heading back. The gunship flew ahead, unloading fire in all directions. Fleming’s slick came in behind him, finally hovering just above the river near the Special Forces team. “Hostile fire crashed through his windscreen as the patrol boarded his helicopter,” Fleming’s citation notes. But Fleming held his helicopter steady, waiting as each member of RT Chisel was pulled aboard.

Finally, everyone was aboard except for one soldier. He’d stayed behind, spraying machine gun fire to keep the Vietnamese at bay as his team boarded the helicopter. Now that last man sprinted for the Huey as Fleming waited.

Finally, the last soldier lunged at the helicopter, grabbing a rope ladder. Fleming knew he had his man, and he took off. The final member of RT Chisel was still hanging beneath the chopper, and the Vietnamese were still firing as the Americans pulled away from the river!

When Fleming finally landed his Huey in safe territory, his fuel gauge read “empty.” Everyone had made it out. But barely.

Fleming received the Medal of Honor not too long afterwards. “How many helicopter pilots did what I did,” he later said, “and got shot down and died and no one saw it. Hundreds? I know that. I was recognized. And I owe a lot to those that weren’t.”


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Then 1st Lt. James P. Fleming went on to an illustrious 30-year career in the US Air Force prior to retiring in 1996 as a Colonel. In addition to his MoH, Colonel Fleming also earned the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Meritorious Service Medals and EIGHT Air Medals and other military awards. He is still alive and is 77 years old.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.

History posts are copyright © 2013-2020 by Tara Ross. Please use the share feature instead of cutting/pasting. #TDIH#OTD#History#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

Medal of Honor Recipient: Navy LT(jg) Tom Hudner

 

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On this date 68 years ago, December 4, 1950, a young US Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade risked his life to save a fellow naval aviator.

LT(jg) Tom Hudner and ENS Jesse Brown were both providing air support for US Marines on the ground in Korea.  Here is their story, as told by writer and historian Tara Ross:

By Tara Ross

During this week in 1950, Lt. (J.G.) Thomas Hudner crash lands in Korea. He was trying to save the life of Ensign Jesse Brown, the first black aviator in the U.S. Navy.

Not that Tom thought of Jesse that way. When Tom looked at Jesse, he didn’t see “the first black aviator.” He simply saw a friend. And he couldn’t leave his friend to die.

The Korean War was then waging, and Tom and Jesse were both assigned to USS Leyte. Their job was to provide air support for U.S. Marines on the ground. Unfortunately, things took a bad turn on December 4, 1950.

Jesse’s plane had taken a mortal hit. He had to land somewhere—and fast. Tom stayed on Jesse’s wing the whole way down, helping him through check lists. Then he watched his friend’s crash landing with dread, searching for signs of life.

What a relief when he saw Jesse waving from the wreckage! And what confusion when Jesse didn’t get out of the plane. What was wrong? Wisps of smoke began to waft from the plane, providing even more cause for worry.

“When I realized that Jesse’s airplane may burst into flame before [a helicopter] could get there,” Tom later said, “I made a decision to make a wheels-up landing, crash close enough to his airplane and pull him out of the cockpit and wait for the helicopter to come.”

Think about that. Tom had just witnessed a crash landing in terrible conditions. The weather was unbelievably cold, hovering around 0 degrees. Tom had been afraid that Jesse wouldn’t survive—but now he was determined to replicate the same nearly impossible feat.

“The ground seemed to rush at me as I hit,” Tom later reported, “and then I was out of control, snowplowing across the field and hoping I was going to end up somewhere close to Jesse.”

He’d done it. His back hurt so much that he thought he’d broken something, but he got out of his mangled plane, working through deep snow to find his friend.

The situation was serious. Jesse was alive, but his knee was trapped. Flames were sputtering, threatening to engulf the plane. Tom shoved snow on the fire to contain it. He pulled and pulled on Jesse, but to no avail. He wrapped Jesse’s hands and feet to ward off freezing temperatures. Both men waited, together, for a rescue helicopter.

Jesse was calm and composed. “When we were on the ground, he was calming me down,” Tom later told Daisy, Jesse’s widow, “when I should have been the one calming him down.”

Jesse seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness. Finally, he revived enough to say: “Just tell Daisy how much I love her.”

After 40 long minutes, the helicopter finally arrived. Tom got an ax and swung it at Jesse’s plane repeatedly, but to no avail. Night was falling. The helicopter pilot gave Tom a choice: stay or go?

Tom still wavered. It was suicide to stay overnight in those freezing temperatures. He was prepared to stay if Jesse were alive, but Jesse had been unresponsive for a while.

“I made the decision to go with Charlie,” Tom later said. “I told Jesse we were going back to get equipment . . . I don’t know if he heard me. I don’t know if he was alive at the time.”

Tom felt sure that he would be court-martialed! He wasn’t supposed to crash land, even to save a fellow pilot. What a surprise when he was recommended for the Medal of Honor instead?

“There has been no finer act of unselfish heroism in military history,” the captain of Tom’s aircraft carrier would say.

Captain Thomas Hudner passed away about a year ago, at the age of 93. RIP, sir.

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Editor’s Note:

Tara Ross is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! 


 

John S. McCain III: US Senator, US Naval Aviator, and Vietnam Prisoner of War dies at 81

 

 

John S. McCain III, senior Republican Senator from Arizona, passed away today from brain cancer. He was 81 years old.

Just yesterday, his family and he announced he had decided to cease taking his medications for the cancer. He must have known then that the end was near.

Senator McCain came from a line of distinguished naval officers. His father and his grandfather were both Admirals in the US Navy. Senator McCain also served in the Navy, flying A-1 Skyraiders on the aircraft carriers USS INTREPID (CV 11) and USS ENTERPRISE (CV 6). Later, he requested a combat assignment and flew A-4 Skyhawks aboard the USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) and USS ORISKANY (CV 34). It was while serving in FORRESTAL that his aircraft was involved in a shipboard fire that resulted in 134 Sailors dying in the fire. He was transferred to ORISKANY soon afterward. It was on October 26, 1967, while flying combat missions as a Lieutenant Commander from ORISKANY that he was shot down over Vietnam, captured, and held as a Prisoner of War. He was ultimately released from imprisonment in North Vietnam after five and a half years on March 14, 1973. He retired from the United States Navy on April 1, 1981, at the rank of Captain after 22 years of service.

Senator McCain was elected to Congress as a Republican US Representative from Arizona in 1983. Senator McCain advanced to serving in the US Senate in January, 1987, after his election in November, 1986. He frequently referred to himself as a “maverick Republican” during his time in the Senate.

He published his memoir, Faith of My Fathers, in August, 1999. He ran against Texas Governor George W. Bush in the Republican primaries, losing to Governor Bush who would go on to win the presidency in 2000. Senator McCain ran again in 2008, as the Republican standard bearer, but lost the presidency to President Barack Obama.

Senator McCain served six terms as the Republican Senator from Arizona. He last cast a vote in the US Senate in December, 2017, after which, he returned to Arizona to continue treatment for brain cancer.

He and his family announced yesterday that he would no longer undergo cancer treatment. He died today, August 25, 2018, at 4:28 p.m. local time, surrounded by his wife, Cindy (Hensley) McCain, and his family.

Rest In Peace, Shipmate. We have the Watch.

 

 

 

Always Remember, that Day in December!

December 7, 1941 photo

Today, December 7, 2015, is the 74th anniversary of that “…day that will live forever in infamy” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it.  The below was written by my good friend, Jeff Morley.  He has described that day and its remembrances far better than I could.  His essay is published here with his permission.

By Jeff Morley, Guest Contributor

Today some 74 years ago in history, the USA was dragged kicking and screaming into war. Before then, we told the Axis powers to leave us alone and Churchill told us he needed our help. If the Axis Powers had paid attention to what we’d told them, England, France, and practically all of Western Europe with a good portion of Eastern Europe along with Africa would have had a drastically different history, a much darker history at that for most of those places. But the Axis Powers paid us no heed. We said don’t mess with us and they delivered one hell of a sucker punch to us in Hawaii on a sleepy Sunday morning. They should not have done that. They should have left this peace loving nation alone.

The world should never forget December 7th of 1941…unfortunately, most of the world has, to their peril. The United States should not either…unfortunately too many of our people have, to our peril.

I thank the US Navy for their sacrifice that day and I honor the sacrifice of our service men and women today in remembrance of that day “that will live forever in infamy”

Remember Pearl Harbor, remember the sacrifice of those brave sailors while you say a prayer for our men and women making the same sacrifices today, but most of all, teach this next generation about our past and the wounds of our predecessors.

God bless the warriors that guard our seas today, God bless the memory of those that guarded our seas yesterday.

50-Year Anniversary in the US Navy

Today is the 50th anniversary of the day I joined the US Navy.

I raised my right hand and swore to defend the US Constitution August 31, 1965. That naive 19-year old had never been out of deep East Texas, never flown on an airplane, and certainly never thought about seeing the world. It would be another 120 days due to the Delayed Entry Program, before I departed East Texas for Navy Basic Training in San Diego, arriving there the night of December 28, 1965.

Today is also the 28th anniversary of my retirement from the US Navy. I retired in 1987, 22 years after originally joining in 1965.

In between, the Navy allowed me to travel the world and see cultures and things I never would have had an opportunity to see otherwise. I passed through or was stationed in: California, Florida, New York, Hawaii, Alaska, and Indiana, as well as: Japan, Guam, Okinawa (before it was given back to Japan in 1972), Nova Scotia, Scotland, England, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece, and Turkey.

My two sons were both born overseas in Scotland and Okinawa, and attended school in Italy, getting an education that would not have otherwise been possible, were it not for the US Navy.

I made friends all over the world in all five branches of the US military services, as well as other countries. Many of these remain friends of mine today.

What a wonderful ride it was. Today is an important day in my life.

Navy Veteran patch

70 Years Ago Today

Today is the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan: August 6, 1945. The below article is a great discussion of the US’ “Target Committee” and what cities they considered as the first “target” and why.

As the article says at one point: “The committee unanimously agreed that the atomic bombs should be used: (1) as soon as possible; (2) without warning; and (3) on war plants surrounded by workers’ homes or other buildings susceptible to damage, in order to make a spectacular impression “on as many inhabitants as possible.”

Government leaders, including Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Major General Leslie Groves who was the Army engineer in charge of the Manhattan Project, scientist Robert Oppenheimer, and others all had their preferred targets.

Groves fought hard for Kyoto and it was first on his “list” of targets, but Stimson wanted Kyoto removed for a purely sentimental, personal reason: Stimson and his wife had visited the beautiful city of Kyoto with its wooden bridges and structures in 1926. Eventually Stimson, as Groves’ boss and the senior member of the target committee, won out and Kyoto was off the table.

Hiroshima was ultimately picked as the target and that sealed its fate. On August 6, 1945, the US dropped a uranium gun-type atomic bomb known as “Little Boy,” virtually wiping Hiroshima from the Japanese landscape.

Three days later, a US bomber dropped an implosion-type bomb known as “Fat Man” on the city of Nagasaki. The two bombings killed an estimated up to one-quarter million Japanese people.

The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 15, 1945. Japan capitulated and surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri September 2, 1945. Less than one month after the initial bombing of Hiroshima, World War II was over.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/08/hiroshima-nagasaki-atomic-bomb-anniversary/400448/

An Awesome Anthem in Church Today

Our Praise Team Leader at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Paris, Texas, Danny White, led the Praise Team in a wonderful anthem this morning during the offertory: “Days of Elijah.” Thank you, Danny, for a great interpretation of this anthem.

The song was written by Robin Mark in 1994. As Robin explains it, the song is primarily about hope. It sings of Righteousness, Restoration, and the Days of Harvest. You can read Robin’s entire explanation behind his song here:

The Story Behind the “Days Of Elijah”

There are many versions of “Days of Elijah” on the Internet, including a beautiful one by Twila Paris, but I found one (posted below) by the US Marines especially touching. I hope you will, too.

As long as America has young men like this who not only love our Nation, but also love the Lord, all is not lost. All is gained.

Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, Jr. on Chief Petty Officers

Admiral Bull Halsey
Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, Jr., US Navy

At the end of WWII, all the towns and cities across the country were looking for a “Hero” to celebrate America’s victory with, Los Angeles chose Admiral Halsey and had a ceremony on the steps of the LA County courthouse to honor America’s hero and at the end of it when Admiral Halsey was leaving, they had a line of sideboys.


The sideboys were active duty and retired Chief Petty Officers that
had been brought in from all over the country who had served with
Admiral Halsey at one point in their careers.


Admiral Halsey approached one of the retired Chiefs, and they winked
at each other.


Later on that evening at a reception for Admiral Halsey, one of the civilian guests at the event asked the Admiral about the wink he shared with the Chief. Admiral Halsey explained, “That man was my Chief when I was an Ensign, and no one before or after taught me as much about ships or men as he did.


You civilians don’t understand. You go down to Long Beach and you see those battleships sitting there, and you think that they float on water, don’t you?”


The guest replied, “Yes, sir, I guess I do.”


To which Admiral Halsey stated, “You are wrong. They are carried to sea on the backs of those Chief Petty Officers.”

— ADMIRAL WILLIAM F. “BULL” HALSEY, JR.

Master Chief Journalist Dennis Stanley Reinke Passes Away

I just learned tonight that retired US Navy Master Chief Journalist Dennis Stanley Reinke passed away a few months ago.  He was 71 years old. Below is Master Chief Reinke’s obituary. RIP, Shipmate.

Dennis Stanley Reinke was born Jan. 4, 1942, in Worthing, S.D., to the late William Stanley Reinke and the late Matie Stroman Reinke. He grew up in Hill City and graduated from Hill City High School in 1960. He attended the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology until he enlisted in the United States Navy in 1961.

During his 26-year career, Reinke served in assignments as a journalist at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, Alameda Naval Station, San Francisco, Calif., was a journalism instructor at the Defense Information School, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., served two tours in Vietnam; public affairs officer at Naval Air Station, Capodochino, Naples, Italy, and manager of the public affairs office at Naval Support Activity, Naples, Italy. He then served as detailer of the journalist and draftsmen communities in the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. His final assignment was in the Directorate of Freedom of Information and Security Review, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Master Chief Reinke retired from the Navy in 1987.

Following his Navy retirement, Reinke served as an operations research specialist in the Department of Defense, offices of the Joint Staff, Directorate of Information Management. He retired from that position in 2000.

Reinke was a member of the Little White Church and regularly attended Immanuel Bible Church (IBC) in Springfield, Va., until he became home bound. He co-managed the Treasure Chest Ministry at the IBC for two years. He also was a member of the Fleet Reserve Association and Naval Order of the United States.

Reinke died Sunday, March 10, 2013, at Potomac Center, Arlington, Va. He was 71.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon, of 43 years; sister, Sharon Paschke; brother-in-law, William Paschke; nephew, Rodney (Julie) Paschke, of Jordan, Mont.; niece Karla Paschke, of Murray lowa,; two grand-nieces; and one grand-nephew.

A committal service with military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

Wounded Warrior Project

From a shipmate:

Wounded Warrior Project

Surface Navy Association

GreaterWashington Chapter

For the past two years, the Greater Washington Chapter of the Surface Navy Association has conducted a campaign to assist our wounded shipmates recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  We collected more than 800 DVDs for the Sailors and Marines to enjoy during their recuperation.  The following year we collected funds and donated 155 portable DVD players.

This year we want to do something very meaningful for those of our shipmates limited in their ability to get out and around the Washington area during their convalescence.  We have determined that Operation Second Chance provides many valuable services to military men and women, and would greatly benefit from a conversion van equipped to transport wheelchair patients in and around the D.C. area to attend sporting events, concerts, and otherwise get out and about.

This is an expensive proposition, but very important for those men and women who are virtually stuck in the hospital.  We have carefully looked at Operation Second Chance and are very impressed with the organization and the services it provides.

Therefore, SNA GWC is seeking to help OSC raise $30,000 to purchase a conversion van modified by Adaptive Mobility Systems, Inc. (AMS Vans).  If interested in making a donation, please commence your contribution at the SNA website:

https://www.navysna.org/Events/OperationSecondChance.asp

After completing the SNA form, you will be directed to the OSC website fundraising page for donations.  (When prompted “How did your hear about OSC?” click on Surface Navy Association.)  Your donation will be made directly to OSC, but we want to track our progress so we can follow our progress to attaining our $30,000 goal.

Our goal is to help OSC raise the $30,000 by December 15th.  If we exceed the $30,000, the additional funds will be available to OSC for insurance, registration, maintenance and operating costs for the van.

Please share this appeal with others who share our concern for those shipmates who had made a very great sacrifice in service to their nation and security and freedom everywhere.

For information about SNA, visit  www.navysna.org

For information about OSC, visit http://www.operationsecondchance.org/About.htm