James Phillip Fleming

James Phillip Fleming

Infobox Military Person
name=Col. James Phillip Fleming United States Air Force
born= Birth date and age|1943|3|21
placeofbirth=Sedalia, Missouri

caption= Colonel James P. Fleming, USAF
allegiance=flag|United States of America
branch=air force|United States
serviceyears= 1966–1996
unit=20th Special Operations Squadron
battles=Vietnam War
awards=Medal of Honor Silver Star Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal (8)

James Phillip Fleming (born 12 March 1943) was a United States Air Force pilot in the Vietnam War. Born in Sedalia, Missouri, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing a 6-man Green Beret unit, stranded within heavy enemy positions, near Duc Co, Vietnam.


Fleming was born in March 1943 in Sedalia, Mo. He entered military service at Pullman, Wash. In 1968, he was an aircraft commander of a UH-1F transport helicopter assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Ban Me Tout, Republic of Vietnam. On Nov. 26, a six-man reconnaissance team of Army Special Forces Green Berets had been lifted into Vietnam's western highlands, near the Cambodian border and about convert|30|mi|km west of Pleiku. Hours later, they found themselves penned up next to a river, with enemy forces on the three remaining sides. The team leader called for immediate evacuation. The call was received by an Air Force forward air controller, as well as a flight of five UH-1s near the area. Fleming flew one of the transports. All five, despite being low on fuel, headed toward the coordinates while the FAC briefed them on the situation.

The berets were taking heavy fire from six heavy machine guns and an undetermined number of enemy troops. There was a clearing in the jungle about convert|100|yd away from them and a smaller one only convert|25|yd away. The furthest one was too far away for them to get to through enemy fire. As soon as the helicopters sighted the team's smoke, the gunships opened fire, knocking out two machine gun positions. One gunship was hit and crash-landed across the river, its crew picked up by one of the transports. A second transport, low on fuel, had to pull out of formation and return to base. There were only two helicopters left, Fleming's transport and one gunship that was almost out of ammunition.

Hovering just above the treetops, Fleming checked out the smaller clearing and found it impossible to land there. Looking over the battle scene, Fleming had an idea. If he hovered just above the river with his landing skids against the bank, a balancing act that required great piloting skill, especially in the middle of a firefight, the special forces troops might be able to run the few yards to his helicopter safely. But the biggest miracle of all would be keeping his transport from being hit by ground fire.

Suspended motionless against the river bank, his boom hanging out above open water, he waited for the Green Berets. Long minutes later, the reconnaissance team radioed that they couldn't survive a dash to the helicopter. Fleming rose and hastily backed his chopper over the water and flew out of range through a hail of bullets. Fleming wasn't through yet, though. The FAC directed the berets to detonate their mines as Fleming made another last, desperate attempt to rescue them. As the mines exploded, Fleming again lowered his helicopter to the river bank, balancing against it, giving the berets an open cargo door through which to leap to safety. But the enemy, knowing exactly what he was doing this time, concentrated their fire on the UH-1. The berets ran for the chopper, firing as they ran and killing three Viet Cong barely convert|10|ft|m from the helicopter. As they leaped through the cargo door, Fleming once more backed the helicopter away from the bank and flew down the river to safety.

In a ceremony at the White House May 14, 1970, President Richard Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Fleming for his heroic actions and conspicuous gallantry in the face of enemy fire.

Fleming remained in the Air Force, becoming a colonel and a member of the Officer Training School staff at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

(Taken from U.S. Air Force Biography) [ [http://www.af.mil/history/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006514 Colonel James P. Fleming ] ]

Medal of Honor citation

Captain Fleming's Medal of Honor Citation:

:For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Fleming (then 1st Lt.) distinguished himself as the Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F transport Helicopter. Capt. Fleming went to the aid of a 6-man special forces long range reconnaissance patrol that was in danger of being overrun by a large, heavily armed hostile force. Despite the knowledge that 1 helicopter had been downed by intense hostile fire, Capt. Fleming descended, and balanced his helicopter on a river bank with the tail boom hanging over open water. The patrol could not penetrate to the landing site and he was forced to withdraw. Dangerously low on fuel, Capt. Fleming repeated his original landing maneuver. Disregarding his own safety, he remained in this exposed position. Hostile fire crashed through his windscreen as the patrol boarded his helicopter. Capt. Fleming made a successful takeoff through a barrage of hostile fire and recovered safely at a forward base. Capt. Fleming's profound concern for his fellowmen, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

ee also

*List of Medal of Honor recipients
*List of Medal of Honor recipients for the Vietnam War


NAME= Fleming, James Phillip
SHORT DESCRIPTION= United States Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

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