Soldier to receive Medal of Honor for rescue mission in Vietnam 49 years ago

Retired Lt. Col. Charles S. Kettles (Courtesy photos)

Retired Lt. Col. Charles S. Kettles will be inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes during a July 19 ceremony, in which Kettles’ name will be added to the distinguished roster in the Defense Department’s Hall of Heroes, the permanent display of record for all recipients of the Medal of Honor.

The President will present the Medal of Honor to Kettles in a White House ceremony on July 18 in recognition of his valor during combat operations in in the Song Tra Cau riverbed in Vietnam on May 15, 1967.

While serving as Flight Commander of the 176th Aviation Company, then-Maj. Kettles led a platoon of UH-1D helicopters to provide support to the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during an ambush by a battalion-sized enemy force on May 15, 1967. After leading several trips to the hot landing zone and evacuating the wounded, Kettles returned without additional aerial support to rescue a squad-sized element of soldiers who had been left behind. He is credited with saving the lives of more than 40 soldiers and four of his own crewmembers.

“Kettles personifies the Army’s ‘Warrior Ethos’ — never leave any soldier behind,” Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning said. “I’m proud of what he did that day in 1967 and of his lifetime of service, exemplifying what it means when we speak of ‘Soldiers for Life.'”

On one particular flight out of the landing zone “just before pulling pitch an enemy machine gun found its range and hit us 26 times throughout the aircraft,” said Roland J. Scheck, an Army specialist, at the time, who served as a door-gunner on Kettles’ crew. “Major Kettles coaxed the helicopter and managed to fly us back to base camp.”

Despite a heavily damaged helicopter, Kettles remained relentless in his efforts to ensure every soldier was extracted. So much so, that he obtained a serviceable aircraft and continued until all U.S. troops were rescued.

“Kettles’ actions on that day, nearly 50 years ago, represent the best qualities of a soldier and leader — selfless service, personal courage and a dedication to duty,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley. “He was fully engaged until all soldiers were out of harm’s way and he lived the ‘Soldier’s Creed’ to never leave a fallen comrade.”


Post navigation