WO5 Greg McManus

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As a young boy of five or six years of age, Greg McManus (pictured left) recalls attending an aviation event in the Kansas City area and growing infatuated by the aircraft and the pilots who flew them. It was at this event, he noted, that a pilot picked him up, placed him in the cockpit of his plane, and explained to him the controls of the aircraft, which became the initial inspiration that would lead to his lengthy career in aviation.

“I can still remember vividly the details of that experience and how it provided me the interest to someday pursue becoming a pilot,” McManus said.

“They sent me to basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, in March of 1968,” he said, “and then on to Ft. Wolters, Texas, for primary flight training.” He added, “When I arrived at Texas, I was thinking the entire time I would be flying airplanes, but when they placed me in rotary wing (helicopters), I said ‘something’s wrong’ because I signed up to fly airplanes.”

As McManus discovered, the needs of the Army generally prevail and he remained in rotary-wing training for the next several weeks. After learning to pilot helicopters such as the OH-23 Hiller and TH-55, he transferred to Hunter-Stewart, Georgia, where he was introduced to the aircraft that would see wide use in the Vietnam War—the UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter.

“It certainly had a lot more power than the other helicopters we flew in training,” said McManus of his early experience aboard the Huey.

With his training complete in the early weeks of 1969, the young pilot was pinned a warrant officer and returned home to visit his family on two weeks of leave before making the trip to California for deployment to Vietnam. Shortly after his arrival overseas, he was assigned to 162nd Assault Helicopter Company stationed in Dong Tam, Vietnam.

As the veteran recalled, his introduction to overseas service was rather brusque. “My second week there, I was co-pilot aboard a Huey and we got shot down,” McManus recalled. “The caution lights came on and we were able to land in an open area.” He added, “We yanked the radios and weapons from our helicopter and a helicopter in our formation followed us down and picked us up.”

In the weeks after his arrival, the young pilot began flying missions as the primary pilot on a UH-1C—a variant of the helicopter designed for the gunship role and equipped with two 7.62mm mini-guns, 2.75-inch rocket launchers, 40mm cannon and two door gunners firing M-60 machine guns.

“We were kind of on-call and would support a number of missions that included troop insertions, troop extractions and providing cover for medevacs,” he said. “Our gunship was also equipped to lay down smoke screens prior to the troop ships landing to insert troops.”

On March 5, 1970, the young warrant officer participated in a flight that later earned him the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. On this date, he was flying a single gunship at night on a mission north of Chau Duc, when he discovered an enemy convoy infiltrating South Vietnam along a trail from the Cambodian border.

“Without hesitation, (McManus) attacked the enemy, completely disregarding the hail of tracers which rose to meet him,” noted the orders dated June 25, 1970, which announced the presentation of the award to McManus. “He fired his rockets the entire length of the convoy, confusing the enemy and scattering the troop column.”

The aviator would go on to attack and destroy an armored vehicle towing a large artillery piece all while negotiating the helicopter through continued machine gun fire. He eventually expended all his ordnance and sustained significant damage to the aircraft, necessitating it be flown to a remote Special Forces site where it was later recovered.

His tour in Vietnam ended early April 1970, the closing moments of an experience that resulted in the award of 37 Air Medals, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses and nearly 1,000 combat flight hours. Returning to the United States, McManus later enlisted in the Missouri National Guard and went on to complete the second combat tour of his career while in Iraq from 2006 to 2007.

He finished his career in 2009 as a chief warrant officer 5 and with 41 years of service and 16,200 flight hours, possessing a legacy that includes several fascinating experiences on which he can now reflect in his retirement. He asserts, however, that some of the most enjoyable moments have been when he was able to inspire a new generation of aviators … just as he was inspired as a child.

“I was very lucky to have been part of the military and to have worked with such a great group of people who were always there for you when you needed them,” he explained.

He added, “Many times in the past, the National Guard participated in public events where we would demonstrate our aircraft to the public. These events,” he continued, “were very important to me because it gave me the opportunity to teach children and our youth a little about aviation and hopefully inspire some of them to consider pursuing it as a career someday.

“For me, carrying forth that inspiration I received as a child was both rewarding and memorable.”

We honor you, Greg McManus.

(Submission by: GP Cox. #Repost @War History Online)

Capt Edward A Nachowitz

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Nachowitz was assigned to 93TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF. He completed 4 x combat missions, with 500+ combat hrs. He failed to Return (FTR) on a re-supply mission to Bastogne, towing 2 Waco gliders.He was hit by flak in fuel tanks, broke formation and released gliders, allowing crew to bale. Nachowitz remained at controls to ensure crews departure, and was subsequently killed in the crash.

We honor you, Edward Nachowitz.

(#Repost @American Air Museum in Britain)

Lt. Col. Jimmy Kilbourne Sr.

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Retired Lt. Col. Jimmy Kilbourne Sr. (pictured bottom right), 84, received two Silver Stars and three Distinguished Flying Crosses as an A-1E Skyraider pilot with the 602nd Fighter Squadron and later the 602nd Special Operations Squadron, in Vietnam and Thailand. His 25-year career also included service in the Korean War.

In a November 1997 interview with the late Robert Noyer, Kilbourne said he was most proud of the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster awarded for valor in leading a large-scale effort to rescue the surviving crew members of three helicopters shot down by hostile ground fire Nov. 8, 1967, on a mountainside a few miles inside Laos.

The helicopters had been shot down during their attempts to extract a 12-man reconnaissance team of American and South Vietnamese soldiers that had been ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army battalion as they returned from a secret mission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In his interview with Kilbourne, Noyer wrote that “excerpts from the citation … tell a story of a pilot who would not give up his rescue efforts in spite of enemy fire which severely damaged his A-1E Skyraider aircraft.”

“While flying at low altitude to locate the survivors, and to pinpoint enemy gun positions, he received several hits, damaging a gun pod and external fuel tank. With the enemy firing on the survivors, then-Major Kilbourne strafed the gun emplacements, receiving more hits, this time in vital areas ― generator, propeller, internal fuel tank, hydraulic system, and worst of all, the engine. He was able to escort a successful rescue helicopter from the scene in spite of his plane being almost unflyable, returning to his base with navigation equipment inoperative. The landing, almost anticlimactic, was successful in spite of the heavy damage to his aircraft.”

Kilbourne’s first Silver Star was awarded for actions in July 1967 supporting the rescue of a downed Navy pilot just 40 miles south of Hanoi.

All told, Kilbourne flew 160 combat missions during two tours of duty. Some of his decorations resulted from the many resupply missions he flew. These included “an emergency humanitarian flight to aid Father Hoa and his Swallows,” Noyer noted. “Father Hoa, a Catholic priest, operated an armed enclave in the Delta, resisting nightly Viet Cong forays.”

We honor you, Jimmy Kilbourne Sr.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson. #Repost @AirForce Times)

Maj Gen John L. Borling

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John L. Borling was born in Chicago, Illinois in March, 1940. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1963, and received his pilot’s wings in 1964. By 1966 then-Lieutenant Borling was flying combat missions from a base in Thailand over North Vietnam. His F-4 Phantom was shot down on June 1, 1966 while flying his 97th mission. Borling spent the next six and a half years in enemy prison camps, including the notorious Hanoi Hilton. During the first few years as a prisoner of war (POW) he was kept in solitary confinement, subjected to torture and barely survived on a Spartan diet. In order to keep his mind active, Borling wrote poetry and passed it along to his fellow POWs by tapping them on the walls using a code system they developed themselves. Treatment of the POWs improved in the early 1970s. He and the rest of fellow captives were released on February 12, 1973.

Following his release, Borling received pilot refresher training, then was selected to be a White House Fellow from August 1974 to August 1975, serving during the Gerald Ford administration. He then attended the Armed Forces Staff College and following that he was assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron, the famed Hat in the Ring squadron, which he soon commanded.  Borling attended the National War College, and he followed this with a tour at the Pentagon where he served as the chief of Checkmate Strategic Studies Group. In February of 1982, he was sent to Ramstein, West Germany where he commanded the 86th Fighter Group. He followed this assignment with a tour at the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers – Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium.

In June of 1986 then-Colonel Borling was assigned to Headquarters, Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska. By June, 1987, he was the commander of SAC’s 57th Air Division, based at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. He followed this with senior level assignments in SAC before returning to the Pentagon as a Major General, serving as the director of operational requirements from January 1991 to January 1992. Major General Borling finished his military career with a four-year tour at Allied Forces North (AFNORTH), NATO in Norway, first as the Deputy Chief of Staff-Air, and then as the Chief of Staff for AFNORTH-Europe in Stavanger, Norway. He retired on August 1, 1996 after thirty-three years of service.

We honor you, John Borling.

(#Repost @Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

Col Eileen Collins

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As a young child, Eileen Collins loved to sit with her dad in the family car and watch airplanes take off and land. The roar of the powerful engines and the grace of the aircraft as they seemed to float in the air always held excitement and enchantment for the young daughter of Irish immigrants. That love of flying would lead the Air Force colonel to be honored as the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, STS-93, in July of 1999, and place the NASA astronaut into the history books.

Colonel Collins joined the Air Force in 1979 and served as a T-38 flight instructor until 1982. From 1983 to 1985 she was a C-141 Starlifter aircraft commander and instructor pilot. She was assistant professor of mathematics and T-41 instructor pilot at the Air Force Academy from 1986 to 1989 and graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School in 1990. While attending the Test Pilot School, Collins was selected by NASA for the astronaut program and became an astronaut in July 1991. In 1995 Col. Collins became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle and in 1999 she was the first woman shuttle commander. She has over 5,000 hours in 30 different types of aircraft and has spent over 537 hours in space.

“I was very excited and happy,” said Collins, who applied for both a pilot and mission specialist slot with NASA. “But even though I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life, it really didn’t sink in until I graduated. I knew that there had never been a woman shuttle pilot before. Now, I’d be the first.”

After four successful shuttle missions, Collins retired in 2006. “I do miss being in space,” she said, “but I flew four times, and all four missions were very busy because you’re constantly working and under stress. You have a mission; your boss is the people of the country and you don’t want to disappoint the people. Usually toward the end of the mission, you can let your hair down a little bit because the primary mission’s done and everything is put away. That was when you could put your face against the glass, stretch out your arms, and you don’t even see the ship around you, just the Earth below, and you feel like you’re flying over the planet.”

We honor you, Eileen Collins.

(#Repost @Military.com)

SPC John A. Vargas

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John was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, and was raised in NYC. After his military service he earned a degree in marketing.

He was “drafted” into the U.S. Army and assigned to the 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis, Wash. while serving in Vietnam, he voluntarily transferred to the 25th Division 3/4 Air Cavalry, aka Centaurs. John was a door gunner on a Huey gunship that was consistently engaged in daily and nightly raids.

On May 19, 1967, while on a combat mission in the Hobo Woods, South Vietnam, John was seriously injured, sustaining bullet wounds to his right shoulder. In spite of his wounds, he continued to engage the enemy with M60 tracers while making their position with smoke grenades. Subsequently, he saved the other three crew members while assisting to kill at least 17 Vietcong. For his bravery and dedication to duty, along with the Purple Heart, John was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal for Valor. He is one of a few in the Army to have received the DFC, which is usually awarded to an Air Force pilot.

While in Colorado he joined the executive staff, eventually retiring from a technical college as director of placement. Always being community minded; John was a volunteer with the Colorado Springs Police Department. He is a member of Highlands Ranch, Colo., American Legion Post 1260, VVA 1106 and PH Chapter 1041.

We honor you, John Vargas.

(#Repost @The American Legion)

BGen Joseph Jacob “Joe” Foss

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Joe Foss was born 17 April 1915 on a farm near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. When he was 12, he saw Charles Lindbergh on tour. He took his first flight when he was 16 in a Ford Tri-Motor. Just before Joe’s 18th birthday, his father was killed by a downed power line leaving Joe to help care for his family: odd jobs, schooling & the occasional flying lesson followed. When he was 25 he graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

With that in hand, he joined the Marines with a wish to fly. He was winged in Miami on 29 March 1941. He served as an instructor in Pensacola & was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 10 April 1942. He joined VMF-121 & was promoted to Capt., 11 Aug 1942. VMF-121 sailed to Guadalcanal on board the USS Copahee, their Wildcats landing at Henderson Field, 9 October 1942.

For the next 3 months, “Joe’s Flying Circus” helped defend the island from extensive Japanese counter-attacks. On 7 November, he was shot down (in F4F-4 02147 or 03453 in USN/USMC AC loss list) by enemy fighters (bullets just missing his head) while strafing Japanese ships 240 kilometers north of Guadalcanal. He struggled in his life-jacket for five hours in a storm with sharks circling until members of a Catholic mission from the island of Malaita, who happened to be paddling by in canoes, rescued him. In his autobiography he said he broke a chlorine capsule to keep the sharks away. “It’s a good thing I didn’t know, as would later be proven, that chlorine doesn’t protect swimmers from shark attacks,” Sick with malaria, he was evacuated along with the rest of 121 on 19 November. He returned on 1 January 1943.

On 15 January 1943, he had matched Eddie Rickenbacker’s record of 26 planes destroyed.
He left the Island on 26 January. On 8 May 1943 he received the Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt during a special ceremony at the White House.

Promoted to Major, 1 June 1943, he became CO of VMF-115 on 17 July 1943. He held that post until 20 September 1944 when a recurrence of Malaria forced him to relinquish command. He returned to Sioux Falls, where he and a friend ran the Joe Foss Flying Service, building it into a venture with 35 airplanes.

In 1946, he left the Marine Corps to accept a Commission in the South Dakota National Guard as a Lt. Colonel. In 1948 he was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives where he served a two-year term.

When the Korean War broke out, the Marines recalled him, and he directed training. He was promoted to Colonel in 1950 & then to Brigadier General in 1954. In 1954 he was elected Governor of South Dakota (The youngest Governor the the history of the state). He was re-elected in 1956.

We honor you, Joe Foss.

(#Repost @acesofww2)