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The Air Force is animating the name “Jolly Green Giant” for its newest action search-and-rescue helicopter, the HH-60W.

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Audie Murphy – Wikipedia | most decorated soldier ever

It’s a applicable tribute, not alone to the helicopter that adored so abounding American and affiliated lives during the Vietnam War, but additionally to the pararescue jumpers who risked their lives so that others ability live.

On Feb. 6, 1967, Airman 2nd Class Duane D. Hackney was one of those pararescuemen. While he was in the aback of one of the Air Force’s aboriginal Jolly Green Giants, an caught HH-3E, the aggregation got a alarm about a downed pilot. The pilot’s Cessna O1-F Bird Dog went bottomward abreast the Mu Gia Pass, abysmal central North Vietnam and a key bridge point into Laos for the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Dangerous missions were annihilation new for the pararescue crews of the Vietnam War, and for Hackney in particular. He enlisted as a PJ in 1965 and flew his aboriginal accomplishment mission on his third day in Vietnam. On his 10th action mission, he was actively wounded, hit in the leg with a .30-caliber annular while extracting a blood-soaked Marine.

Read: In Vietnam-Era Throwback, New Air Force Accomplishment Helo Is the ‘Jolly Green II’

To abstain accepting ashore by doctors, he asked one of his adolescent PJs to abstract the ammo for him. It would not be the aftermost time he looked assertive afterlife in the face.

Two of most decorated soldiers in history had ties to Central Texas
Two of most decorated soldiers in history had ties to Central Texas | most decorated soldier ever

During his about four-year bout in Vietnam, he would fly some 200 accomplishment missions. Hackney’s helicopters were advance bottomward bristles times. His amazing almanac of extenuative lives would acquire him added than 70 medals for bravery, including 28 for valor, 18 Air Medals, a Silver Star, a Purple Affection and an Airman’s Medal.

The mission at Mu Gia Pass, in the face of bane adversary fire, ability not accept been annihilation new for then-Airman Hackney, who was awfully acclimatized to putting his activity on the band for those he would rescue. But for this mission, he would become the aboriginal active almsman of the Air Force Cross.

Two sorties had already been accomplished in an advance to accomplishment the downed pilot, Capt. Lucius Lamar Heiskell, but angry aback because of bad weather. As the sun went bottomward that day, two HH-3s, one with Hackney aboard, went out to accomplish one aftermost attempt. Already Heiskell was located, the Jolly opened its doors and Hackney went out to elevate the blood-soaked pilot to the aerial aircraft.

According to “Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Action Search and Rescue,” the blood-soaked pilot hugged Hackney already central the Jolly and said, “You’re beautiful.”

“Hey, man,” replied Hackney, “I’m not the stewardess.”

Most decorated American soldier in US Military history
Most decorated American soldier in US Military history | most decorated soldier ever

Then all hell bankrupt loose.

Ground blaze erupted from the surrounding area, all directed at the two aerial helicopters. Back a 37mm anti-aircraft carapace hit his HH-3, Hackney anon took off his parachute and put it on his patient, with no absorption for his own safety. As he went to grab a channel for himself, addition 37mm anti-aircraft annular blew a aggressive through the bird — and hit the ammunition line, alarming Hackney out of the aircraft.

He had almost managed to get the new channel about himself afore he fell some 200 feet. Somehow, Hackney was able to cull the bond from the unstrapped channel aloof in time to hit the boscage canopy, breadth he fell addition 80 feet. He assuredly came to a stop on a ledge.

He was acutely blood-soaked by armament and covered in burns back he landed. Hackney evaded adversary troops affective in on his breadth and fabricated his way to the accident of his helicopter. He begin he was the alone survivor.

The added Jolly Green Giant had to leave the breadth due to the abundant adversary presence. Hackney waited for addition aircraft to canyon over the site. He assuredly saw an A-1 Skyraider canyon by, so he accursed a blaze to get its attention. Helicopters were again beatific in to aces him up.

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The Most Decorated General. Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov by | most decorated soldier ever

Hackney spent a absolute of 26 years in the Air Force and retired in 1991 as a arch adept sergeant. He was the best busy enlisted airman anytime to serve. He died in 1993 of a affection advance at age 46.

— Blake Stilwell can be accomplished at [email protected]

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