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Selfless Determination at Thai Nguyen: Capts. Merlyn Dethlefsen and Mike Gilroy

On March 10, 1967, Capts. Merlyn Dethlefsen (pilot) Kevin "Mike" Gilroy (EWO) were No. 3 in a four-plane Iron Hand formation on the first mission against the very heavily defended Thai Nguyen steel mill, about 50 miles north of Hanoi. During the first attack run, an anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) shot down the flight leader and heavily damaged his wingman. This left only Dethlefsen and Gilroy's EF-105F and their F-105D wingman, Maj. Kenneth Bell, to support the bombers.

Though standard tactics called for only one attack pass against such heavy defenses (or two at the very most), Dethlefsen and Gilroy made several passes through intense AAA. Despite being heavily damaged by AAA fire and attacked by MiGs twice, they did not jettison their ordnance and escape. Remarkably, they flew two passes after the strikers left, silencing one site with a Shrike and destroying another with bombs and 20mm fire. Ignoring AAA and MiG gunfire damage to his F-105D, Maj. Bell remained with Dethlefsen and Gilroy through the engagement. Both aircraft made it safely back to base.

For valor in combat above and beyond the call of duty, Capt. Dethlefsen was awarded the Medal of Honor, and Capt. Gilroy was awarded the Air Force Cross.

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Medal of Honor Awards in the Air Force
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