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1st Lt James P Fleming

Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam

Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam

 

On Nov. 26, 1968, Lieutenant Fleming and four other UH-1F helicopter pilots were returning to their base at Duc Co, South Vietnam, for refueling and rearming when an emergency call for help was received from a Special Forces reconnaissance team.

The homebound force of two gun ships and three transport helicopters immediately changed course and sped to the area without refueling. The six-man Special Forces team was pinned down by a large, hostile force not far from a river bank. As the gunships descended to attack the enemy positions, one was hit and downed. The remaining gunship made several passes, firing away with its miniguns, but the intense return fire from enemy machine guns continued. Low on fuel, the helicopters were being forced to leave and return to base.

Lieutenant Fleming, piloting the only remaining transport helicopter, descended over the river to evacuate the team. Unable to land because of the dense foliage, he hovered just above the river with his landing skids braced against the bank. The lone gunship continued its strafing runs, but heavy enemy fire prevented the team from reaching the helicopter. The leader advised Lieutenant Fleming by radio to withdraw.

After pulling away, Lieutenant Fleming decided to make another rescue attempt before completely exhausting his fuel. He dropped down to the same spot and found that the team had managed to move closer to the river bank. The men dashed out and clambered aboard as bullets pierced the air, some smashing into the helicopter. The rescue craft and the gunship then returned safely to Duc Co, arriving with their fuel tanks nearly empty.

For this miraculous rescue, in which not a single life was lost, Lieutenant Fleming was awarded the Medal of Honor. He received this highest decoration for valor at the White House from President Richard M. Nixon May 14, 1970.

See the
full citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.