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.


 
 

 
Grace Lee

Pilot saves six Marines earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor

Grace Lee Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, pins the Air Force Combat Action Medal onto Capt. Aaron Cavazos, 61st Fighter Squadron weapons officer, Jan. 16 in Club Five Six at Luke Air Force Base. Cavazos was...
 
 

Financial responsibility — vital to readiness

In the “Band of Brothers” miniseries, there is a line in the movie where the soldiers are told to make sure they sign up for life insurance to ensure their next-of-kin gets $10,000 upon the soldier’s death. While none of us are about to make a combat jump in 1944 to fight the Nazis, Airmen...
 
 

Adapt, overcome, succeed

Change is inevitable, especially in today’s Air Force. If you’ve been serving for more than a few years, it’s likely you’ve experienced everything from new physical fitness requirements to the implementation of force management programs. Enlisted performance reports and feedback forms have been altered and changes to the promotion system are rapidly approaching. We expect...
 

 
Courtesy Photo

Chrach saves lives, earns recognition

Courtesy Photo Tech. Sgt. Steven Bruner, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Chrach, 56th SFS MWD, pose for a photo in Afghanistan during their 2012 deployment. Chrach was recently awarded the 12th A...
 
 

News Briefs January 23, 2015

VH1 concert VH1 and sponsors supporting the event are hosting a Super Bowl Blitz concert featuring Fall Out Boy and Charli XCX at 5 p.m. Jan. 30 in Hangar 999 as a “Thank you” to those who serve in the U.S. military. Members of the Luke community are invited and the concert is free. Service...
 
 
Courtesy Photo

Civilian answers AF call, gets dream job

Courtesy Photo Senior Airman Kristina Inocencio, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron engineer technician, measures the distance from the tree to the building Jan. 15 during survey training at Luke Air Force Base. One of Inocencio’s ...
 




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