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Search and Rescue Legacy

Today’s search and rescue tactics, techniques, and procedures are rooted in harsh experiences and lessons learned during the war in Southeast Asia.

The ability to quickly control the airspace above and below a downed aircrew, while protecting them from enemy threats, contributed to the overall success of rescue missions.

To do this, SAR units developed innovations such as the heavy-lift helicopters, rescue escorts, airborne command and control, helicopter aerial refueling, and close integration of intelligence assets.

During the Southeast Asia War, SAR personnel had a significant positive impact on the morale and preservation of US forces and exemplified their motto: That Others May Live.

They saved approximately 4,000 people, including around 2,800 in combat situations. Their individual achievements earned them two Medals of Honor, 39 Air Force Crosses, and numerous other awards. However, the cost was high as 71 rescue personnel died and the enemy destroyed 45 rescue aircraft.

Following Southeast Asia, the US Air Force added the wartime mission back into US Air Force rescue doctrine.

Today, combat search and rescue (CSAR) is the USAF’s preferred method to recover downed aircrew. Using the most advanced aircraft technology, and constantly evolving tactics, techniques, and procedures, our CSAR forces and Airmen are organized, trained, and equipped to support our larger national commitment to personnel recovery of American and allied personnel in hostile environments worldwide.

Click here to return to Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia(SAR in SEA)

Click here to the Southeast Asia War Gallery