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Against All Odds Lieutenant Colonel William Jones III

On September 1, 1968, Lieutenant Colonel William Jones III, flying A-1H, serial number 52-139738, led a group of rescue helicopters to recover a downed pilot who ejected over North Vietnam. 

As the on-scene commander, Lt Col Jones flew multiple low-level passes near a well-defended enemy supply road in an effort to locate the downed crewman. On one pass, enemy fire hit Jones’ Skyraider which caused an explosion under the aircraft, filling his cockpit with smoke. Undeterred by the damage, Lt Col Jones continued the search.

Jones later located the downed crewman near a large rock formation; however, enemy troops were positioned near the top and firing anti-aircraft artillery at Jones. For fear of hitting the downed crewman on the first pass, Jones made two additional passes attacking the enemy with accurate fire. During his second pass, Jones’ aircraft was once again hit, this time igniting the rocket on the ejection system, setting his cockpit ablaze.

Jettisoning the canopy, Lt Col Jones was unable to eject from the aircraft due to the damage. As the fire’s intensity increased, Jones pulled his aircraft in a climb to attempt to transmit the location of the crewman, only to find that his radio transmitter was inoperative.

Despite severe burns, Jones flew his aircraft forty minutes back to his base in Thailand. Successfully landing his severely damaged aircraft, Lt Col Jones relayed the position of the downed crewman before accepting medical treatment. The rescue team successfully recovered the downed crewman later that day.

For these actions, taken with complete disregard for his own injuries, Lt Col Jones was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Unfortunately, Jones, recently promoted to Colonel, died in a private aircraft accident prior to being presented with the medal.

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