I don’t believe heroism has ever been in short supply when America has needed her warriors.
Vietnam was no exception.
A fellow who worked at the hardware store I frequent I believe typified the Vietnam Vet. I found out about Ray’s service over knowing him (across the counter) over a few years. He was not given to braggadocio.
Which as an aside, I have learned over the years generally the quieter the person, the deeper the well.
Over some conversations I learned that he was in an elite Marine Recon unit that is mentioned in a book or 2. He recently moved to Arizona, but while he was here I did notice a certain expertise in handling shoplifters.
There are Rays all across the country; quietly going about their daily lives today.
A few years ago I learned about a group of pilots who did an incredible job, which was to look for enemy anti aircraft (AA) batteries. Once they spotted a battery they encouraged them to shoot at them. During this interval they would “jink” – turn sharply – every 5-7 seconds – which happened to be the typical flight time of the 37mm AA round, the usual ordnance aimed at them. They did face everything from SA-2 missiles to small arms.
Once the battery was located, they would call in Air Force and/or Navy pilots in fighter-bombers to destroy it.
The first pilots in 1967 devised the tactics that the subsequent pilots would use.
They flew the 2 seat version of the F100 (F100F) , a pilot and a spotter. Both were pilots, and would rotate seats with each mission. They’d fly their missions at low level, 350-550 mph, looking for batteries and anything else to disrupt the enemy.
From 1967 through 1970, of the 157 Misty pilots, 34 were shot down. 7 were KIA and 4 POWs.
One was awarded the Medal of Honor, 2 became Air Force Chiefs of Staff, 6 became general officers, 1 a winner of the Collier Trophy, and 1 became the first man to fly non-stop, un-refuelled around the world.
The Medal of Honor recipient? The first commander, Bud Day (call sign Misty 01) , was directing some F105s against a SAM site 20 miles north of the DMZ in North Vietnam. His plane was hit by 37mm AA fire and in the ejection Day broke his arm in 3 places when he struck the side of the cockpit. His spotter was rescued but Day was unable to contact the helicopter with his survival radio, and was quickly captured by a North Vietnamese militia unit. Despite his serious injuries, on his fifth night of capture, Day escaped his captors, and although stripped of his boots and flight suit, made it south across the DMZ. He was within 2 miles of a U.S. Marine fire base at Con Thien, when the Viet Cong recaptured him, shooting him in the leg and hand.
He was taken back to the original camp, tortured and starved and eventually ended up at the “Hanoi Hilton”, a cellmate of John McCain. McCain nursed his atrophied arm. He remained there until March 14, 1973.
On March 4, 1976 he was awarded the MOH by President Gerald Ford for his personal bravery.