Spads Were Tough Old Birds and This Medal of Honor Recipient Was Cool Under Pressure.
On March 10th 1966, United States Air Force Major Bernard Fisher was flying a close air support mission with five other A-1E Skyraider pilots over the A Shau valley, near the Laotian border west -northwest of Da Nang in South Vietnam. Fisher was supporting a Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) / US Army Special Forces camp located in a position to interdict traffic along the Ho Chi Minh trail that was in danger of being overrun by more than 2,000 North Vietnamese regular troops who were surrounding it.
The situation in the valley and at the SF camp was not exactly news to Fisher and his fellow pilots- Fisher had been awarded the Silver Star for his air support role in the same battle the day before. The weather had not improved either- with a solid ceiling lower than the tops of the 1,500 foot hills around much of the valley, close air support was a risky proposition indeed.
Myers is Grounded
During one of several attack runs on the enemy emplacements one of the other Skyraider pilots, Major Dafford W. “Jump” Myers, was hit by ground fire and forced to land his crippled “Spad.” Using the 2,500 foot-long steel plank runway used to supply the camp by air, Myers was able to crash-land his A-1E and exit the aircraft on the ground with only slight injuries. He then found a spot in which to hole up and wait for a Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopter to pull him out of what was one enormous jam.
Desperate Situations Call for Heroic Measures
Meanwhile, as he orbited the downed pilot and took stock of the situation, Fisher realized that the closest helicopter was at least 30 minutes away. After witnessing the crash landing, Fisher believed that Myers was at the very least badly injured. Able to see the North Vietnamese troops closing in on Myers’ position and convinced that Myers would not last much longer on the ground, Fisher contacted the other members of his flight and notified them that he planned to land on the torn up airstrip and pick up Myers.
Only 19 Bullet Holes…
While the rest of the flight pressed covering attacks on the enemy troops, Fisher managed to land on the airstrip and taxi most of the way back down the runway while avoiding holes and debris, under enemy fire, until he was close Myers’ position. Then, while still taking enemy fire, Myers bolted from his hide, climbed onto the Skyraider’s wing and Fisher pulled Myers head-first into the right seat of his A-1E. Despite continuous heavy enemy fire, Fisher was then able to take off from the now-ruined runway and return to his base at Pleiku. Mechanics found 19 bullet holes in Fisher’s Skyraider.
The First Living MOH Recipient of the War
For his heroic action that fateful day in March 1966, Major Bernard Fisher was awarded the Medal of Honor. President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the medal to Major Fisher on January 19th 1967. Fisher was the first living Air Force recipient of the Medal of Honor for action in the Vietnam War.