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Silver Star

Awarded for each Citation received by US Air Force personnel for gallantry in action not sufficient to warrant the Medal of Honor or the [Air Force] Cross. The Silver Star is currently awarded by all branches of the armed forces to any person who, while serving in any capacity, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly forces against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

"The first was for getting a Thud driver out of the mouth of Mu Gia Pass on 19 February '66. It was on what amounted to my aircraft commander upgrade pre-check. We were short of IPs and I was paired up with our strongest IP, Barry Kamhoot.  ... [W]e were crewed up together and switched seats for instructional rides in the pattern on alert at NKP. Our last alert tour before my (nominal) a/c check took us into MuGia pass to pick up an F-105 driver who'd gotten stitched by a 57mm and landed within a mile or so of the gun! It was a sporty proposition. When we finally got a firm set of coordinates on the survivor from Sandy Lead, it plotted out to within a mile and a half of a big time 37 mm concentration (I didn't find out about the 57 mm until last year [1996] when we debriefed the mission ... at the reunion in Fort Walton; the wingman saw the round enter the aircraft, and it was definitely a '57!). We were very good - Barry was cool as a cucumber and didn't waste a second, the survivor, Bob Green, stretched his descent a few yards away from the worst of the enemy concentration thanks to two blown panels in his chute, and we had the best Sandy lead in the business in Elmer Nelson. We were also, as Elmer emphasizes, VERY lucky....

" The second was for digging an F-4 crew off the Kitty Hawk out of 'Happy Valley,' a delightful open spot on the Ho Chi Minh Trail between Ban Karai Pass and Tchepone, on 18 May. It was an interesting mission. The back seater landed on the edge of the valley and was spotted by the bad guys. He ran for his life -- literally -- for fifty minutes... with a serious compression fracture (he had a chute malfunction; a ,Mae West.'). The front seater was easy, though we did have to snuggle down into the trees to get the penetrator to him. We put out all 250 feet of cable and had to thread the tail rotor down between two trees for the last ten feet. Knowing that the back seater was in trouble, I elected to stay low and assist in the search; it was a violation of one of the cardinal rules, but I felt the circumstances justified it... and they did. When we got to him, the patrol chasing him was only 75-100 yards behind him. They wounded my PJ on the way in and the flight mech deputized the front seater as our door gunner and gave him the PJ's M-16! I have no conscious recollection of it, but he was blazing away while we picked up his back seater. As far as I know, I'm the only Jolly Green who had a Lieutenant Commander for a door gunner!"

John F. Guilmartin