Contributor: Barry Fetzer
Sources: History.com, Wikipedia
There really are super heroes, it turns out, and not the Marvel or DC Comics or video game “fake news” versions of them. They come in the form of skin and bones, flesh and blood human beings who accomplish extraordinary acts by mere force of human will, not from the bite of a radioactive spider.
From History.com and Wikipedia: “Duane D. Hackney (June 5, 1947 – September 3, 1993) was a United States Air Force pararescueman. He was the most decorated enlisted man in USAF history and the recipient of 28 decorations for valor in combat and more than 70 awards and decorations in all. He served in the Air Force from 1965 to 1991, retiring as a chief master sergeant. On September 9, 1967, Sergeant Duane D. Hackney was presented with the Air Force Cross for bravery in rescuing an Air Force pilot in Vietnam. He was the first living enlisted man to receive the medal and at the time of its award he was its youngest recipient.
Hackney enlisted in the United States Air Force on June 18, 1965, and was trained as a pararescue specialist.
Three days after arriving in Vietnam, Hackney flew his first combat mission. During that mission, a .30-caliber slug buried itself in his leg. To avoid being grounded by the medics, he had one of his PJ friends remove the slug with a probe. That incident set the tone for the more than 200 combat missions he was to fly during his three and a half years of Vietnam duty.
Five times in the months ahead, his helicopters were shot down. He did not recall how often he went down into the jungle looking for survivors or how many lives his medical training helped him save. He was awarded four Distinguished Flying Crosses, not for flying a certain number of missions but for specific acts of heroism, and 18 Air Medals. Then came the Air Force Cross, for which he was the first living recipient, the Silver Star, the Airman’s Medal, the Purple Heart, and several foreign decorations.
Hackney’s most celebrated mission was on February 6, 1967, when two HH-3 helicopters, Jolly Green 05 and Jolly Green 36, launched from the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Udorn Air Base, Udorn, Thailand. They were attempting the recovery of a downed O-1F pilot, Nail 65, near the Mu Gia Pass, North Vietnam. After Airman Hackney made one unsuccessful trip to the ground in search of the pilot, both Jollys returned to base due to foul weather. Later in the day, the helicopters launched again and located the survivor. Airman Hackney was lowered to the ground, and after securing the survivor into the Stokes litter, both were lifted out. No sooner did they reach Jolly 05’s door when ground fire erupted. As they raced to exit the area, the helicopter was hit with a 37 mm anti-aircraft round and caught fire. With complete disregard for his own welfare, Airman Hackney removed his parachute and placed it on the survivor. He lunged to grab another one from storage as the helicopter was hit by a second round. In an instant, it exploded, just as Airman Hackney slipped his arms through the harness. He was blown out of Jolly 05 by the explosion. Dangling from the harness, he managed to pull the ripcord and the chute opened just as he hit the trees, where he plunged a further 80 feet and came to rest on a ledge in a crevasse. He narrowly avoided capture while enemy troops jumped across the crevasse, mere feet above. Jolly 36 immediately made a run in to locate any survivors and found only burning wreckage, with Hackney waving his arms for pickup. He was the only survivor.
The text of Hackney’s Air Force Cross citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Airman Second Class Duane D. Hackney (AFSN: 16827003), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving with the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, 3d Air Rescue and Recovery Group, DaNang Air Base, Vietnam, as a Paramedic (Pararescueman) on an unarmed HH-3E Rescue Helicopter near Mu Gia Pass, North Vietnam, on 6 February 1967. On that date, Airman Hackney flew two sorties in a heavily defended hostile area. On the first sortie, despite the presence of armed forces known to be hostile, entrenched in the vicinity, Airman Hackney volunteered to be lowered into the jungle to search for the survivor. He searched until the controlling Search and Rescue agency ordered an evacuation of the rescue crew. On the second sortie, Airman Hackney located the downed pilot, who was hoisted into the helicopter. As the rescue crew departed the area, intense and accurate 37-mm. flak tore into the helicopter amidships, causing extensive damage and a raging fire aboard the craft. With complete disregard for his own safety, Airman Hackney fitted his parachute to the rescued man. In this moment of impending disaster, Airman Hackney chose to place his responsibility to the survivor above his own life. The courageous Pararescueman located another parachute for himself and had just slipped his arms through the harness when a second 37-mm. round struck the crippled aircraft, sending it out of control. The force of the explosion blew Airman Hackney through the open cargo door and, though stunned, he managed to deploy the unbuckled parachute and make a successful landing. He was later recovered by a companion helicopter. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Airman Hackney reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Duane D. Hackney died of a heart attack on September 3, 1993. He was 46 years old.”
Where do we get such men?