May 9, 2017
Smoke and fire enveloped the afternoon of April 18, 1972.
The town of An Lộc in South Vietnam was under siege by the Viet Cong, who had the area surrounded. Hercules C-130s tried dropping supplies to the defenders, but the Viet Cong’s anti-air weaponry often shot at them before they could make the drops.
Spc. 4 Leonard "Bruce" Shearer, who now lives in Glendale, was part of a four-man crew manning a Bell UH-1H Iroquois or "Huey" helicopter tasked with reporting enemy troop movement. The helicopter crew had to cut its reconnaissance mission short, however, when Shearer noticed a C-130 engulfed in flames as it streaked across the sky.
It never happened — until the Air Force got involved.
In 2005, the Air Force held a ceremony in Little Rock, Ark. where it awarded Silver Stars to the six U.S. C-130 crewman. It also recognized Shearer and his former crewman — who were in attendance — for their efforts, but was surprised to learn the Army hadn’t done the same for them. Air Force officials began asking questions the rescuers had kept to themselves for decades.
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