|Colonel Bernard F. Fisher
Fisher was first to receive the Air Force designed Medal of Honor, which was established on April 14, 1965 (The first Medal of Honor received by an airman was awarded to Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker for aerial combat in 1918).
President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the award to then-Maj. Fisher for risking his life to save a fellow pilot shot down during action in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam in 1966.
Fisher, who volunteered to go to Vietnam, “landed his Douglas A-1E Skyraider on an airfield controlled by the enemy under the most intense ground fire, pulled the downed pilot aboard his aircraft, and successfully escaped despite several bullets striking the plane,” according to his Air Force factsheet.
Today, the aircraft is on display at the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Fisher commissioned into the Air Force in 1951 after serving in the Air National Guard for three years. He served briefly in the Navy at the end of World War II prior to becoming an airman.
Fisher had extensive experience, the factsheet says, in fighters such as the F-80, F-86, and F-101, along with hundreds of close air support missions in the A-1E.
Born in San Bernadino, California, Fisher was raised and educated in Utah before he retired as a colonel to his hometown of Kuna, Idaho.
MEDAL OF HONOR Citation
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On that date, the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800 foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the battle, Maj. Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Maj. Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Maj. Fisher’s profound concern for his fellow airman, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.