JAMES COCKERILL










 







                                     

                                                                THE SILVER STAR           THE DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS              

   With 2 Oak Leaf Clusters                                                              



The Silver Star, as defined by law, is 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. The required gallantry, while less than that required of the Medal of Honor or Distinguished Service Cross, must nevertheless have been performed with marked distinction.


The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States, distinguishes himself or herself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. The performance of the act of heroism must be evidenced by voluntary action above and beyond the call of duty. The extraordinary achievement must have resulted in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from his/her comrades or from other persons in similar circumstances. Awards will be made only to recognize single acts of heroism or extraordinary achievement and will not be made in recognition of sustained operational activities against an armed enemy.

 



CITATION TO ACCOMPANY THE AWARD OF

 

THE SILVER STAR

 

TO

 

JAMES W. COCKERILL


Sergeant James W. Cockerill distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force on 26 August 1972.  On that date, Sergeant Cockerill, and Aerial Combat Photographer on an HH-53C Rescue Helicopter, with full knowledge that a previous recovery attempt had been met with intense automatic weapons fire, courageously volunteered to continue the rescue mission of a downed American airman.  Although his aircraft was being riddled by bullets as it hovered within meters of North Vietnamese gunners, he willingly stood in the open and unprotected crew entry door to aid the hoist operator in recovering the downed airman.  By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Cockerill has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

 



Call Sign - Motion 02


MISSION NARRATIVE

(From James W. Cockerill)

26 August 1972

 

It was August 26, 1972.  I had just finished survival school in  the Philippines a must take course before flying in SEA.  It was my first flight in the air rescue helicopters.  We lifted off from NKP in a flight of two HH-53 helicopters to cover the daily fighter attack going on in North Vietnam.  I was on the second or high bird.  There was a beeper from a downed pilot as we lifted off the runway.  I didn’t know what to think being my first mission, but being high bird meant we would fly close in a safe area while the low bird went in for the rescue.  That would be fine for my first mission, but that isn’t how it went.  It took over and hour to fly to wher the shoot down took place.  It was a Marine F-4 with a pilot and a co-pilot that were down on the ground.  The low bird went in for the pickup of the pilot, but got caught in heavy ground fire, the photographer on the flight, Sgt. Looper, got shot in the leg.  They then flew off to a Lima site to land and see if they could fix the aircraft.  We then, without a cover helicopter, flew in to rescue the co-pilot.  The hoist operator couldn’t leave on the microphone to work hands free while the resuce mission was underway.  I had to talk to the helicopter pilot to tell him how to fly the helicopter when we were in the hover.  As soon as we were in position we got ground fire, and my cummunication line went dead.  So I put my arm in between the pilot and copilot of the helicopter to give them hand signals that the hoist operator was giving me.  I didn’t get to shoot any photos of the copilot we picked up on the hoist because I was too busy giving hand signals to our pilots.  The penetrator we lowered to ge the copilot wrapped around a tree and the hoist operator needed to lift it up to unwrap it from the tree.  The shot down copilot didn’t want to wait for it to be unwrapped and instead rode it up the tree.  We finally got him in the helicopter.  I gave the copilot my helmet and headset so he could help us to find the pilot.  We looked for the pilot but could not find him or get him to come up again on his radio.  We flew to the Lima site to get the crew of the first helicopter.  While we wer flying to the site the copilot had some bark in his eye the PJ cleaned out.  We got the crew of the damaged helicopter an flew back to base to end the missioin.

 



Call Sign - Motion 02

Here is Hank Fannin's story in his own words


MISSION NARRATIVE

(From Hank Fannin)

26 August 1972

 
This particular SAR started out routinely. We departed NKP at first light and headed North across the Mekong River to a holding zone up near the NE Laotian border to provide support for air strikes. I remember test firing our miniguns shortly after crossing the river and also remember we were flying in between two layers of clouds, one layer of morning fog and mist that blocked our view below and a higher layer that blocked the sky above. The sun was rising to the East and when it reached the clear space in between the two layers it was completely surreal.

 
Before we even reached the area where we were supposed to do our holding pattern we heard a "May Day, May Day, I've got two chutes" and then some coordinates. A Marine F-4 fighter had just been shot down by a NVAF Mig-21 and the two pilots had bailed out and were floating down into an area full of bad guys. The second F-4 was still somewhat busy making sure there weren't any other MiG's on his tail and for a while things were just a little frantic.

 

Meanwhile the Marine Pilot, Capt. Sam Cordova, was talking to US Aircraft over his survival radio and then later radioed that he had fallen into a ravine and could hear bad guys approaching. (This was the only Marine jet to be shot down by enemy aircraft during the Vietnam War)

 
We were in the area shortly after the two fighter jocks hit the ground. Our A-1 Sky Raiders escorts trolled over the Pilots reported position and met heavy ground fire. Several attempts to raise Capt. Cordova on his radio were unsuccessful and it was sort of a given that he had been captured or worse.

 

(I've found out later that Capt. Cordova's remains were returned for burial in 1988. Wish we could have gotten to him in time).

 
The F-4 back seater, Lt. Darrell Borders, landed his parachute on a small ridge and then high tailed it away looking for better cover. By the time our two HH-53's got to his location the Sandy Pilots were laying down fire trying to keep the bad guys away and buying us some time.

 

On the low bird, Pilot Capt. Thomas Laud decided to give it a go and headed down and into a hover over the survivor only to be hit with extremely heavy small arms fire. The Combat Photographer, TSgt. Don Looper, was wounded in the leg; they had several leaking hydraulic lines and possibly damaged flight controls as they pulled up and away. (Later, MSgt. David McLeod told me he was thinking he was on his last mission and couldn't believe only one guy got hit. About everywhere he looked there were bullet holes and battle damage)

 
The pilot on my chopper, Capt. Mike Swager, (about as cool a Pilot I've flown with) asked us all if we wanted to give it a try. I think he already knew the answer. He set up our approach and as we headed downwind in a very fast approach. The Sandy Pilot's were laying down about everything they had as close to the survivor as they dared.

 

As soon as we got into a hover all hell broke loose with small arms fire hitting us from all directions. The two PJ's, TSgt Mike Walker, on the ramp gun, and Sgt. Charles McQuoid, in the left window, were returning fire and it sounded like we were in the middle of a war.

 

Just after I spotted the survivor and started the tree penetrator down I felt a blow on the right side of my flight helmet and then lost intercom. A small arms round had hit my boom mike and severed the comm. line. I signaled the Combat Photographer, Sgt. Jim Cockerill, who happened to be standing right behind me, trying to take pictures I think, and he jumped up into the FE seat and started relaying hand signals to the Pilot.

 

The damn penetrator got tangled in some bamboo and I had to spend a minute or so, (seemed like an hour) getting it free. I could see the survivor slipping and sliding in the mud and finally managed to place the penetrator right into his hands. Luckily he had the strength and resolve to hang on for dear life because, believe me, I was reeling that cable in at max speed. I think it took me all of five seconds flat to get him in the door, onto a seat and get my minigun swung out the door and firing.

 

We were still taking lots of small arms fire and as Capt. Swager rolled the nose over and started pulling up and out of there I could see at least two dozen bad guys that had reached a point in a trail that put them close enough I could see their eyes. Lucky for us, one of the Sandy's was making a run straight at them and they were ducking for cover instead of firing at us. I lost sight of them as we made a turn but I doubt many were left intact after that Sandy rocked their world.

 
As soon as we were in the clear we did a quick personal assessment and were truly surprised to find out that not one of us had been hit. Our chopper was riddled with holes. It looked like Swiss cheese around my door position and we were dripping hyd. fluid in several places plus streaming JP-4 from our fuel tanks. I tried to transfer fuel from the tank that was losing the most fuel into the undamaged tank but that didn't work. We contacted a C-130 tanker, plugged in for some air to air refueling and took on enough fuel to make it back home.

 
On the way out of there we had to make a stop at one of the LIMA Sites on top of a Karst in Laos where we picked up the crew from our shot up low bird. As luck would have it they had made it to a relatively safe and friendly (at the time) LIMA site. Their chopper had so much battle damage that they barely made it to the landing site and we had to leave the chopper to be repaired and flown out later. (Actually I'm not sure that Chopper was ever recovered. It might have been destroyed).

 



Call Sign - Motion 02


Information from the Book "Vietnam Air Losses"

By

Chris Hobson


26 August 1972

 

F-4J Serial Number 155811 from VMFA-232, MAG-15, USMC, Nam Phong RTAFB, Thailand. Crew; 1Lt. Sam Gary Cordova (KIA) [Motion 02 Alpha], 1Lt. D. L. Borders (survived) [Motion 02 Bravo].

 

In addition to their close air support and strike duties, the two Marine Corps Phantom squadrons based at Nam Phong also supplemented the USAF in flying combat air patrols over Laos.  It was during a BARCAP mission over northern Laos that VMFA-232 lost and aircraft on the 26th.  A flight of aircraft was orbiting over the North Vietnamese/Laotian border about 25 miles northeast of Sam Neua when it was vectored towards a MiG by Teaball, a newly-commissioned radar control facility that was not renowned for its reliability.  As the Phantoms were approaching the MiGs, Teaball had a system failure and before Red Crown could pass radar vectors to the Phantoms the MiGs had flashed past.  1Lt. Cordova's aircraft was hit by and Atoll missile that struck the Phantom's tail and set it on fire.  The crew ejected from the stricken aircraft and 1Lt. Cordova [Motion 02 Alpha] communicated with other aircraft in the vicinity on his survival radio as he was parachuting down to earth.  Apparently he landed in a ravine and reported that he could hear enemy troops nearby.  His last transmission spoke of imminent capture but it appears that he was killed either during or after capture as he did not appear in any of the know POW camps.  His navigator, 1Lt. Borders [Motion 02 Bravo], was luckier as he was rescued by and HH-53.  The mortal remains of Sam Cordova were eventually returned to the USA on 15 December 1988.  This is the only Marine Corps Phantom lost to in air-to-air combat during the war.  The North Vietnamese pilot credited with this kill was Lt Nguyen Duc Soat.  1Lt. Cordova [Motion 02 Alpha] had ejected safely from a Phantom earlier in the month while on final approach to Nam Phong.




CITATION TO ACCOMPANY THE AWARD OF

 

THE SILVER STAR

(FIRST OAK LEAF CLUSTER)

 

TO

 

JAMES W. COCKERILL


Sergeant James W. Cockerill distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force on 18 November 1972.  On that date, Sergeant Cockerill, and Aerial Combat Photographer on an HH-53C Rescue Helicopter, voluntarily participated in the daring aerial rescue of two downed American aircrew members from deep in North Vietnam.  He willingly exposed himself to hostile groundfire while not only providing photographic documentation of the mission, but also by providing suppressive fire with his rifle to cover the imperiled survivors.  By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Cockerill has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

 



Call Sign - Bobbin 05 Bravo


MISSION NARRATIVE

(From AF Form 642 “Recommendation For Decoration”, dated 3 Feb. 1973)

18 November 1972


The crewmembers of an HH-53C Helicopter, Jolly Green 03, distinguished themselves by gallantry on 18 November 1972, while effecting the rescue of two downed American airmen from a heavily defended area of North Vietnam.  On that date, four (4) Super Jolly Green HH-53C helicopters were launched in support of Search and Rescue (SAR) activities for Bobbin 05 Alpah and 05 Brovo, two F-105 crewmembers whose aircraft had been shoot down the previous day over North Vietnam by a Surface-to-Air Missiel (SAM).  At 0200L, Jolly Green 01 and 02 were launched from Nakhon Phanom for the rescue attempt.  Thirty minutes later, at 0230, Jolly 03 and 04 were launched, to back up the first two helicopters, as a precautionary measure.  When Jolly Green 01 and 02 arrived in the area of the two downed airmen, they discovered a thick cloud deck from 1500 feet to 8000 feet completely obscurring the rescue area.  Since they were in mountainous terrain, it was decided to hold the helicopters in a safe area in the possibility that the weather might clear.  The two helicopters were moved further southwest and the Sandys, A-7 fighters, continued their efforts to pinpoint the position of the downed crewmen and suppress heavy small arms and antiaircraft fire in the ares.  Jolly Green 03 and 04 arrived on scene as Jolly Green 01 and 02 were enroute to King 21, an HC-130 tanker.  Jolly Green 03 and 04 refueled first and then proceeded to the orbit area while Jolly Green 01 and 02 took on fuel.  Because the weather did not seem to be improving, it was decided to make a rescue attempt uning Jolly Green 03 and 04.  However, this would involve some very hazardous flying as the cloud deck obscured most of the high peaks in the area.  A small open area was finally found some distance away from the survivors, but it was located over a heavily populated village.  Since this was the only open area in the vicinity the aircraft commander of Jolly Green 03, Captain John M. Gillespie, decided to attemp the penetration.  With the Copilot, First Lieutenant Bryan L. McDowell calling out altitudes and airspeeds, Captain Gillespie started a fast spiralling decent over the village.  After decending about two thousand feet, enemy 23mm antiaircraft (AAA) opened fire on Jolly Green 03 from the village and roads immediately below.  Since there were no Sandy escorts in the vicinity, Captain Gillespie initiated a climb back throught the overcast while Staff Sergeant Richard L. Simmon, the Flight Engineer, and Staff Sergeant Gary T. Osborne, a Pararescue Specialist, returned the fire with their 7.62mm miniguns.  The extremely accurate minigun fire by Sergeants Simmon and Osborne temporarily suppressed the AAA activity until Jolly Green 03 could climb to a safe altitude.  Jolly Green 03 and 04 returned to the forward holding point and then found a small break in the overcast.  After the two aircraft acquired sufficent separation from each other, they both began another descent.  Jolly Green 03 broke out of lthe clouds 1000 feet above a valley and Jolly Green 04 broke out some distance away, out of sight of Jolly Green 03.  Due to the cloud deck above and themountainous terrain all around them, Jolly Green 03 and 04 found it impossible to rejoin or establish radio communication with each other or the Sandys.  After navigating around the valleys for forty-five minutes, their fuel was getting low and they made another IFR climb through  the overcast and proceeded to the tanker.  During the climb, radar warning signals were received which indicated that they were being tracked by AAA or Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) radar, buy due to terrain and weather, evasive manuvering was impossible and this climb had to be continued.  After refueling, Jolly Green 03 and 04 returned to the forward holding point.  Jolly Green 03 made several attempts to penetrate the undercast.  At one point his radar altimeter indicated that the ground was only 200 feet below him but he didn’t have the terrain in sight and had to initiate another climb.  He finally broke through the clouds a second time, but once again radio problems, weather and navigation problems prevented Jolly Green 03 and Sandy 01 from joining up for a run-in.  Jolly Green 03 and 04 and the Sandy aircraft again returned to the tankers for much needed fuel.  At this point it had been over 6 hours since the first attempt had been made to penetrate the clouds.  During this time, enemy troops had been moving into positions around the two downed airmen, setting a trap for the Search and Rescue (SAR) forces.  Time, the constant adversary of the SAR forces, began to take its toll.  Jolly Green 03 began experiencing control problems; the cyclic trim was inoperable which compelled one of the pilots to continually have his hand on the cyclic stick at all times.  The aircraft chip detector warning lights indicated that the intermediate gear box to the tail rotor could possibly be failing.  In addition, the nozzel on the refueling probe was leaking fuel.  Captain Gillespie and Lieutenant McDowell, both extremely fatigued, were taking turns flying the aircraft and navigating.  All of the supporting aircraft, i.e. the F-4 fighters providing protection from MIG attaccks and the SAM suppression aircraft, were running our of fuel and endurance.  With the weather rapidly deteriorating all the time, it was decided that one more attempt to rescue the two downed men would be made.  Sandy 01 used his navigation system, radar altimeter and map display system to get below the undercast into the valley where he was holding.  With Lt. McDowell calling out the altitudes from the radar altimeter, monitoring engine instruments and transferring fuel, Jolly Green 03 finally broke through the cloud deck and joined up with Sandy 01in the valley.  They were more than 45 miles from the survivors position and the route to the survivors would require extremely accurate low level flying through densely populated valleys.  With Pararescue Specialist Staff Sergeant Kenneth J. Musnicki, manning the number one minigun and Sergeant Osborne manning the number three minigun, Sergeant Simmon moved back to the number two minigun position and Sergeant James W. Cockerill an Aerial Combat Photographer, stood in the open doorway of the number two gun position with his AR-15 rifle.  The winding route down the valley subjected Jolly Green 03 to the constant hazard of ground fire.  The low hanging clouds caused frequent loss of visual contact between Jolly Green 03 and Sandy 01.  Due to Lt. McDowell’s superb navigation and Captain Gillespie’s exceptional flying ability, Jolly Green 03 arrived at the approximate position of the survivors after flying through valleys for over 25 minutes.  They were now instructed to hold approximately one mile from the survivors while Sandy 01 briefed the two downed airmen on the pickup procedures.  Jolly Green 03 was then cleared in for the rescue attempt on Bobbin 05 Bravo.  Flying at near maximum airspeed at treetop level, Captain Gillespie was constantly dodging small arms fire.  Approximately mile from the survivor, as 12.7mm antiaircraft gun began firing at Jolly Green 03 from almost point blank range.  Sergeant Simmon and Osborne immediately returned fire to the gun position and silenced it.  The run-in continued towards Bravo but due to an erroneous vector from him his position was overflown.  Jolly Green 03 started a 180 degree turn back to Bravo when Sandy 01 radioed a warning to remain below the crest of the ridge line as more AAA was located on top of the ridge.  Two more Sandys were now laying a smoke screen to block Jolly Green 03 from the heavy concentration of guns located on the rice delta in the valley.  Another smoke screen was laid on the western side of the ridge which blocked off four 37mm AAA gun positions to the southwest.  As Jolly Green 03 completed his turn, Captain Gillespie instructed Bobbin 05 Bravo to ignite his smoke flare and talk the helicopter into his position.  When the smoke flare was ignited, the survivor was imediately sighted by Captain Gillespie, and Sergeant Simmon.  Sergeant Simmon proceeded to talk Captain Gillespie into a 15 to 20 foot hover above the exposed survivor, while Sergeants Osborne and Musnicki and Cockerill returned fire directed at them from the 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions.  This quited the groundfire for the short period of time it took to get the survivor aboard and, miraculously, prevented the helicopter from being hit.  By this time Sergeant Simmon had the rescue penetrator on the ground and the survivor was strapped on.  While he was strapping himself to the penetrator, a small caliber AAA gun began firing less than 300 yards directly in front of the helicopter.  Lt. McDowell called out the gun position to the Sandys and only through the quick reaction of the Sandy flight was Jolly Green 03 able to escape severe battle damage.  When Bobbin 05 Bravo was safely aboard, Captain Gillespie, disregarding the know risk of enemy groundfire, began hovering the aircraft in search of the second survivor, Bobbin 05 Alpha.  He was located about 500 feet down from the crest of the ridge in a small cove created by two converging ridges.  Captain Gillespie hovered his aircraft towards Bobbin 05 Alpha with his tail and number one gun positions pointing towards the western valley in order to enable his gunners to return expected groundfire.  With the Sandy flying a daisy chain around Jolly Green 03, Captain Gillespie hovered over Bobbin 05 Alpha and , after an approximate two minute hover, the survivor was brought aboard.  Jolly Green 03 then egressed the area to the northwest along the ridge line and about 500 feet below the crest of the ridge.  Again small arms and AAA fire broke out at eleven, three and seven o’clock positions.  Sergeants Simmon and Osborne quickly returned the three and seven o’clock gunfire, but the number one minigun jammed because of a bent round.  Sergeant Musnicki immediately grabbed his AR-15 rifle and with the aid of Sergeant Cockerill who had an M-60 machine gun began returning the fire that was coming from the eleven o’clock position.  The Sandys quickly quieted the groundfire but during their pass Sandy 01 took a hit in his right auxiliary tank which exploded and seriously damaged the aircraft.  Sandy 01 immediately exited the area in preparation for a possible bailout, while Sandy 02 quickly responded to help Jolly Green 03 exit the area.  The exit was again low level, high speed run through the valleys to avoid weather and detection by SAMS.  Sandy 02 and flight were now beginning to lay suppressive fire on roads ahead of Jolly Green 03 to insure their safe passage.  Again due to weather, a longer-than-planned route was made to arrive at the edge of the prebriefed SAM defense area and 4 to 8 miles short of the forward orbit area.  During this time, the Sandys and Jolly Green were getting indications of SAM radar tracking, but by staying close to the ground they avoided possible launches.  Jolly Green 03 began his climb into the totally overcast deck knowing that his exposed position would now enable the enemy AAA and SAM radar to pinpoint his position.  No launches were observed by Jolly Green 03 but Jolly Green 04, orbiting above the cloud deck observed six surface-to-air missiles break through the undercast and explode.  Jolly Green 03 rejoined with Jolly Green 04 and both aircraft quickly departed the area.  Both Jolly Green helicopters made it back to Nakhon Phanom without further incident and Sandy 01 was able to divert safely to an airfield in South Vietnam.  Jolly Green 03 landed after flying 9.3 hours, the majority of that time without cyclic stick trim, which required that Captain Gillespie and Lieutenatn McDowell continually “hand-fly” the aircraft.  For almost an hour they had been constantly exposed to enemy small arms fire, AAA and surface-to-air missiles.  This daring rescue of two downed American Airmen is a testament to the great courage and devotion to duty displayed by the crew of Jolly Green 03 and I highly recommend that they be awarded the Silver Star. 

 

The crew members of Jolly Green 03:

Capt. John M. Gillespie

1st Lt. Bryan L. McDowell

SSgt. Richard L. Simmon

SSgt Kenneth J. Musnicki

SSgt. Gary T. Osborne

Sgt. James W. Cockerill

 

Signed

Ralph K. Gee, Major, USAF

Operations Officer

40th ARRSq.




Call Sign - Bobbin 05 Bravo


EYEWITTNESS STATEMENT

From Major Colin A. Clarke, USAF

Sandy 01 Pilot

(Attached to AF Form 642 “Recommendation For Decoration”, dated 3 Feb. 1973)


1.      I witnessed the following heroism and performance of Capt. John M. Gillespie, pilot of Jolly 03, during the SAR on 18 Nov 1972.  This mission resulted in the successful recovery of the two downed airmen from a very heavily defended area of North Vietnam.  As on-scene commander and escort for Jolly 03 I was witness to the acts of heroism by Capt. Gillespie that made the final rescue efforst successful.  This was the first actual rescue attempt utilizing A-7D aircraft as Sandys, escorting Jollys and protecting them and survivors.

                                                    

2.      The rescue attempt was originally planned for dawn but was delayed by extremely poor weather and fromidable enemy defenses that included several SAM sites close to the survivors.  A thick low overcast cloud layer covered the survivors’ area and the mountains to the West.  The mountains provided the only suitable protection from SAMs for the vulnerable helicopter during it’s final ingress to the survivors’ locatoin.  Almost six hours were spent searching for a way to get below the solid clouds and find a usable route to the survivors.  Twice pickup times were set and had to be called off as fuel ran low and we were unable to get A-7Ds and a Jolly together under the clouds.  On the second attempt a possible route was found but would require a rapid and well timed penetratin through thick clouds into a narrow mountain valley.  Everything hinged on this last attempt.  If it was called off we would have to give up.  All the supporting aircraft, Mig Cap and SAM suppression were running our of fuel and endurance.

 

3.      As the Sandys returned to the area from refueling Capt. Gillespie had already positioned his helicopter over the planned letdown point above the overcast.  He advised me that his radar altimeter indicated he was over the valley as I approached.  I descended under him and emerged into a cloud inclosed valley.  Capt. Gillespie then unhesitatingly decended into the clouds and with the aid of his radar altimeter and heading directions I was able to give him by using my DF equipment, Jolly emerged from the clouds into the valley.  He also must have had and urge to climb to a safe height while descending between the mountains in the clouds but knowing that our failure would surely mean the capture or death of the Bobbin crew he continued down.  We proceeded immediately towards the survivors with Jolly 03 expertly following my directions and disregarding the risk.  Normally the Jolly would have at least two Sandys marking his route and suppressing fire along it.  We could not delay and did not have the armed escort until nearing the survivors where they could get under the weather.   Often on our ingress I was forced to fly way ahead of Jolly 03 before finding a big enough valley to circle back in and provide directions.  That Capt. Gillespie was able to follow me or my directions through those cloudy valleys is amazing still.  He would see me disappear over a misty ridge and follow maybe not spotting me again for serveral miles.  As we neared the survivors I proceeded ahead to get them ready.  At that time a 51mm gun position was spotted shooting at me from the ridgetop just above one of the survivors.  While all the Sandys were completely occupied attempting to suppress the close in guns and laying a smoke screen to block the view of the big AAA guns, Capt. Gillespie flew right to the survivors.  Despite all the confusion and shooting he calmly helped the survivors vector him over their positions and had them aboard in record time.  During the hover for the second survivor Jolly 03 was having a gun duel with a gun site that was hidden from the Sandys by a low cloud.  As Jolly 03 started to egress I took a severe his and had to immediately depart.  The courage and professionalism displayed by Capt. Gillespie during this extremely hazardous rescue deserved the highest praise.

 

Signed

Colin A. Clarke, Maj. USAF

Sandy 01




Call Sign - Bobbin 05 Bravo


Information from the Book "Vietnam Air Losses"

By

Chris Hobson


16 November 1972

 

F-105G Serial Number 63-8359 from Detachment 1, 561st TFS, 832nd AD attached to 388th TFW, USAF, Korat RTAFB, Thailand. Crew; Maj. Norman Maier (survived) [Bobbin 05 Alpha], Capt. Kenneth Theate (survived) [Bobbin 05 Bravo].

 

The B-52 Arc Light raid that had been pounding South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for many years were extended into the southern provinces of North Vietnam in April 1972 in response to the North's invasion of the South.  Each raid was supported by a large number of Iron Hand and ECM aircraft, chaff bombers and escort fighters.  It was on a B-52 support raid on the night of the 16th on a target near Vinh that one of the support aircraft was lost.  A Wild Weasel from an Iron Hand flight was hit by an SA-2 that suddenly emerged from cloud cover as the aircraft was escorting a cell of B-52s at 19,000 feet about 30 miles northwest of Vinh.  The Thud crew ejected a few moments later and came down near the town of Dong Xuon where they both hid until morning.  A SAR task force of 75 aircraft coordinated by Maj. Colin Arnie Clarke of the 356th TFS in an A-7D Corsair attempted a rescue the next day.  After several hours Maj. Clarke eventually found a way through the low cloud and enemy defenses into a valley where the two downed airmen were then picked up by an HH-53.  This was the first rescue mission supported by the A-7D Corsair in its new role as a Sandy replacement.  It was during this first mission for the Corsairs that the increased in speed of the RESCAP aircraft became an obvious handicap.  Unlike the Skyraider, the Corsair had to fly a race track pattern round the helicopter so as not to get to far ahead.  This used up a lot of fuel and on this occasion required four visits to a tanker for refueling.  As a result of this mission revised RESCAP tactics were worked out for the better integration of the new aircraft.  Maj. Clarke, a former Misty FAC pilot, spent a total of nine hours in the air on this mission, much of it in poor weather.  His aircraft suffered a communications malfunction and was badly damaged by AAA and tracked by a SAM site.  He received a well-earned AFC for his efforts and his aircraft is now preserved in the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB.  He was well aware of the plight of the F-105 crew as he himself had been shot down twice during the war, the first time on 18 August 1964 and the second on 22 January 1969, both times flying F-100s.

 



CITATION TO ACCOMPANY THE AWARD OF

 

THE SILVER STAR

(SECOND OAK LEAF CLUSTER)

 

TO

 

JAMES W. COCKERILL

 

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 8, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Silver Star to Sergeant James W. Cockerill, United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with the 601st Photo Squadron, Detachment 12, 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, 7th Air Force. Sergeant Cockerill distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 27 December 1972. On that date, Sergeant Cockerill, an Aerial Combat Photographer on an HH-53C Rescue Helicopter, voluntarily flew into a highly hostile area to attempt the rescue of a downed American airman. With his helicopter receiving intense ground fire, Sergeant Cockerill stood in the unprotected crew door to aid in searching for the survivor; and then, when the survivor was located, he openly stood beside the hoist operator and fired a machine gun to provide protection as the rescue device was lowered. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Cockerill has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

 



Call Sign - Jackel 33 Bravo


Information from the Book "Vietnam Air Losses"

By

Chris Hobson


22/23 December 1972

 

F-111A Serial Number 67-0068 from the 429th TFS, 474th TFW on TDY, USAF, Takhli RTAFB, Thailand. Crew; Capt. Robert David Sponeybarger (POW) [Jackel 33 Alpha], 1Lt. William Wallace Wilson (POW) [Jackel 33 Bravo].

 

Although no B-52s were lost from the 30 aircraft from U-Tapao that struck POL and railway targets in Haiphong on the night of the 22nd and F-111 (call sign Jackel 33) was shot down during a strike against port facilities on the Red River on the outskirts of Hanoi.  The aircraft was hit by AAA moments after dropping its 12 x 500lb bombs but headed west to escape the intense enemy defenses.  However, the starboard engine had to be shut down due to flak damage and the crew had to eject over rugged terrain about 55 miles west of Hanoi when the aircraft caught fire and the hydraulics failed.  Capt. Sponeybarger was captured three days after being shot down and 1Lt. Wilson was almost rescued on the fourth day.

 

An HH-53C 68-10788 commanded by Capt. R. D. Shapiro of the 40th ARRS from Nakhon Phanom made the rescue attempt but took heavy ground fire and had to withdraw.  1Lt. Wilson was within inches of reaching the jungle penetrator that  had been lowered from the helicopter when he lost his balance and fell down a slope.  Jolly Green 73 had to leave the area when more enemy soldiers appeared and it then tried to refuel from an HC-130 but the helicopter's in-flight refueling probe had been damaged by ground fire.  Running short of fuel Maj. Shapiro put the helicopter down on a mountain top northeast of Ban Ban and the crew was rescued by another helicopter.  The HH-53 had to be abandoned in enemy-held territory and was then destroyed by a flight of A-7s.

 

1Lt. Wilson evaded for two more days but was finally captured as he tried to reach a container of food and water that had been dropped to him to an A-7D.  He activated a trip-wire that set off a small explosive charge that had been set by the North Vietnamese to trap the escapee.  This was only F-111 crew to become POWs during the war and they were both released on 29 March 1973

 


CITATION TO ACCOMPANY THE AWARD OF


THE DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS


TO


JAMES W. COCKERILL

 

Sergeant James W. Cockerill distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight as an HH-53C Aerial Combat Photographer near Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam on 10 December 1972.  On that date, Sergeant Cockerill voluntarily flew into a highly hostile area to attempt the rescue of a downed American airman.  When one of the helicopter’s gunners was wounded during a heated exchange of fire on egress, Sergeant Cockerill willingly and without hesitation manned this weapon which was the aircraft’s only defense.  The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Sergeant Cockerill reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force. 

 



Call Sign - Kansas 01

 

Information from the Book "Vietnam Air Losses"

By

Chris Hobson


9 December 1972

 

R-4C Serial Number 68-0597 from the 14 TRS, 432nd TRW, USAF, Udorn RTAFB, Thailand. Crew; Maj. Billy Joe Williams (KIA), 1Lt. Hector Michael Acosta (POW).

 

The last USAF casualty before the start of Linebacker II offensive was a reconnaissance Phantom from Udorn that was shot down on a road reconnaissance mission north of the city of Vinh.  Maj. Williams and 1Lt. Acosta were escorted by a flight of four Phantoms as the photographed targets in preparation for the new offensive but their aircraft was hit by a SAM near Nghai Hung, about 35 miles north of Vinh.  1Lt. Acosta ejected himself and his pilot and two parachutes were observed by the other Phantom crews.  However, the missile damaged the aircraft's cockpit and Acosta thought that Maj. Williams might already have been dead or at least severely injured.  The next day an HH-53 from the 40th ARRS was fired on as it hovered over a body, thought to be that of Maj. Williams, as it lay in a clearing near the wreckage.  Two HH-53s were damaged by ground fire and several crewmen wounded during the futile rescue attempt.  Hector 'Mex' Acosta was badly injured and was captured but spent less than three months as a POW before being released on 29 March 1973.  He had flown 92 missions and his pilot had flown 100 missions before they were shot down.  On 20 December 1990 it was announced that the remains of Maj. Williams had been returned and identified.

 


         


    



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