By Tom Perkins
Special to The Ann Arbor News
on October 29, 2015
Against the odds, Kettles got the helicopter airborne, saving the eight men and his crew.
Charles Kettles poses for a photo in front of the demonstration of his stories at the Ypsilanti Historical Museum, Sunday, October 25, 2015 in Ypsilanti(Junfu Han | The Ann Arbor News)
Now, 48 years later, Kettles is up for the Medal of Honor, the US Military's highest decoration, for the rescue. Sec. of Defense Ash Carter recently approved the action, and it only needs Congress's approval before President Obama's signature makes it final.The daring rescue was something off of a movie screen – the type of war flick where one thinks "That was cool, but there's no way it ends like that in real life."
On May 15, 1967, northwest of Duc Pho Airfield in Vietnam's central highlands, orders came in for Charles "Chuck" Kettles, commander of the 176th Assault Helicopter Company's first platoon, to evacuate 44 soldiers pinned down by the North Vietnamese Army in a battle that wasn't going well for the Americans.
Eight choppers landed, the soldiers scrambled aboard, and the helicopters were airborne with minutes - mission accomplished.
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In addition to the courageous rescue, Kettles flew more than 600 missions over two tours in Vietnam while earning 27 air medals and a Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest decoration a soldier can receive.