A U.S. Air Force pilot who landed his A-1E Skyraider aircraft on an enemy held?
A U.S. Air Force pilot who landed his A-1E Skyraider aircraft on an enemy held airstrips and made a daring rescue of a downed pilot during the Communist seige of the U.S Army Special Forces Camp at A Shau on March 10, 1966, has been awarded the nation's highest award for heroism - the Medal of Honor.
President Lyndon B Johnson made the presentation to Major Bernard F. Fisher, of Kuna, Idaho, during ceremonies at the White House today.
Major Fisher, an A-1E Skyraider pilot of the 1st Commando Squadron at Pleiku, and other A-1E pilots were striking a large force of North Vietnamese regular force attacking the A Shau Special Forces camp. 60 miles west-northwest of Da Nang in the northern highlands of Vietnam.
Communist troops had overrun most of the outpost, and the outnumbered friendly troops were squeezed into the northwest corner. Bad weather hampered close air support, but the pilots dove beneath the low-hanging clouds to strafe enemy positions.
An A-1E, piloted by Major Dafford W. "Jump" Myers of Newport, Washington, was hit by enemy ground fire while making a run against an enemy position. Myers radioed the other pilots that he was going to try to land his damaged aircraft on the enemy-held airstrip adjoining the Special Forces Camp. While making the emergency landing, the plane's belly fuel tank exploded and burning gasoline enveloped the aircraft as Myers brought the Skyraider to stop.
"I was sure he was badly burned," said, Major Fisher, "because it took him so long to get out of the burning plane."
After escaping from the burning aircraft Myers took cover in a brush-covered ditch at the side of the landing strip.
Deeply concerned for the day safety of Myers, whom he believed to be suffering from burns, Fisher decided to land and pick up the injured pilot.He relayed his decision to go after Myers and was advised not to attempt the daring rescue.
"They didn't say I couldn't go after him", says Fisher, "so I headed for the landing strip. Besides, if the enemy soldiers got him before I did, he'd be dead. I had no other choice."
Three other A-1E pilots followed Fisher to cover his landing. Major Fisher's aircraft squealed to a halt with smoking brakes only 100 feet from where Myers was hiding.
When Myers got close to the cockpit, Fisher grabbed him and pulled him in head first. In the brief time Major Fisher's aircraft was on the ground, it was hit several times by enemy fire. One round passed through the cockpit. "The striking bullets sounded like rain hitting on a tin roof," Fisher said.
Except for singed hair and eyebrows, Myers was uninjured. As other Skyraiders, now out of ammunition, buzzed North Vietnamese troops, Fisher and his scorched, but safe, passenger took off and returned to the Pleiku Air Base.
Fisher was commissioned an Air Force second lieutenant in June 1951 and was called to active duty in January, 1952. He is married to the former Realla J. Johnson of Kuna, Idaho. They have five children. His mother, Mrs. Lovina Stoddard Fisher lives in Ogden, Utah.
The citation accompanying the award follows:
"Major Bernard F. Fisher distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as an A1-E pilot near A Shau, Republic of Vietnam, on 10 March 1966. On that date, the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills.
The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800-foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the battle, Major Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Major Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air-cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Major Fisher's conspicuous gallantry, his profound concern for his fellow airman, and his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the United States Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the armed forces of his country."
This film shows Major Fisher flying a combat mission in an A-1E Skyraider while stationed in South Vietnam as a member of the 1st Air Commando Squadron. He flew 200 combat missions while stationed there.