Local

March 27, 2012

Medal of Honor recipient visits Luke, speaks to 308th Fighter Squadron

Tags:
Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
Pg-1-Col-Fleming-310
A monument at the Luke Air Force Base Air Park lists the names of Airmen who have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Among them is retired Col. James Fleming, who received the award for heroism as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. Fleming visited Luke AFB on March 16 to give a presentation at the 308th Fighter Squadron, recounting his experiences in the war.

A Medal of Honor recipient who earned distinction as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War visited the 308th Fighter Squadron March 16 at Luke Air Force Base.

James Fleming, 69, who retired as a colonel in 1996, is one of only five living Airmen to have earned the nation’s highest award for valor. He was in the Phoenix area for Major League Baseball spring training games and accepted the invitation to speak at the fighter squadron while he was in town, he said.

It was a rare engagement for Fleming, who said he doesn’t regularly give speeches anymore about his experience in Vietnam.

“I gave up the hero business a number of years ago,” he said.

In an informal hour-long speech to a room full of mostly fighter pilots, Fleming reminisced about his pilot training in the 1960s, told stories about his family “” many of whom serve in the military “” and recounted the events of Nov. 26, 1968, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

A 24-year-old first lieutenant at the time, Fleming was the pilot of a UH-1F Huey transport helicopter, an aircraft known as a “slick,” assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron “Green Hornets” at Ban Me Tout, Vietnam.

“Our mission was to fly special teams behind hostile lines to do strange and exotic things to the enemy,” he said. “They gave us cover stories to memorize, because if we went down and were captured, they’d kill us if they knew what we were doing there.”

On Nov. 26, a six-man team of Green Berets had been airlifted into Vietnam’s western highlands near the Cambodian border. Hours later, they found themselves trapped against a river, surrounded by enemy forces. Their team leader called for an evacuation.

The call was received by Fleming’s five-ship Green Hornet flight, which consisted of two other Huey slicks and two gunships. They found the patrol in a clearing, and the gunships immediately took out two enemy machine guns. Then one of them was hit and went down. One of the slicks rescued the crew and returned to base, accompanied by a second slick that was running low on fuel.

This left one gunship and Fleming’s slick to rescue the encircled friendly patrol. Fleming descended into the clearing, facing the jungle area where the North Vietnamese were concentrated. He started taking heavy machine-gun fire, however, and the patrol couldn’t make it to the helicopter. Fleming ascended again to assess the situation.

Though now running low on fuel, he knew he was the only hope the patrol had to be rescued. Again he descended, this time turning his slick so his side gunner could lay down suppressing fire. While he hovered over the riverbank, the patrol set off claymore mines, allowing all but one of the men to board. As enemy fire smashed into Fleming’s windshield, the final Green Beret who had been separated from the others dove into the water and swam toward the helicopter. He finally grabbed the rope ladder held by a crew member, and Fleming took off with him dangling in the air. They managed to make it safely back to base.

Fleming was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his commanding officer, and the award was presented at a White House ceremony by President Richard Nixon May 14, 1970.

The colonel’s speaking engagement at Luke was arranged by Capt. Evan Schonour, 308th FS C Flight commander.

“We’re flattered that Colonel Fleming took the time to come talk to us when he hasn’t been giving speeches in quite some time,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Colcord, 308th FS commander. “What a great opportunity for our folks here at Luke to hear about the experiences of a true war hero.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Courtesy photo

EOD called out for expertise

Courtesy photo The 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team recovers military ordnance July 4 from the rubble of a burnt down building at an auto repair facility in Phoenix. The Luke EOD team recovered nume...
 
 

Strong followers challenge authority

It’s not surprising that when I tell subordinates to challenge authority, I often get a look of confusion. Admittedly, this is a step used to provoke thought. Obviously, we don’t need subordinates undermining their leader’s authority. My intent is not to create insubordination — it is to underscore the importance of strong followership. Great leaders...
 
 

Travel access, opportunities not to be ignored

Possibly one of the greatest and overlooked gifts we have in the military is our ability to travel. More often than not, we are stationed at bases around the world where we have the access and opportunity to travel and see the local sites. However, it happens way too often that we ignore those opportunities....
 

 
Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann

Thunderbolt joins elite Thunderbirds

Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, took this photo March 15 during Luke Air Force Base’s Open House and Air Show. She had no idea at the time that just a few months later she would b...
 
 

News Briefs July 25, 2014

Wanted: Airmen selfie videos The Air Force wants to hear from Airmen with unique stories about what led them to the Air Force, who are proud of their job and how it impacts the Air Force mission, or work in an exceptional unit. The 2014 American Airman Video Contest is open to all Airmen who...
 
 

Thunderbolt of the Week

Airman 1st Class Anna Valdez 56th Contracting Squadron Contracting specialist Hometown: Moscow Years in service: One Family: Husband, Phil; mother, Natalia; and father, Oleg Education: Russian State University of Trade and Economics bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics Inspirations: My parents demonstrated excellence and success in a loving environment, taught me to never give up...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin