Some five decades after he led a platoon credited with rescuing dozens of soldiers pinned down by enemy fire, a Vietnam War veteran will be awarded the nation’s highest military honor for valor, the White House announced on Tuesday.
In May 1967, Army Maj. Charles Kettles led several helicopter trips to help evacuate wounded soldiers near the district of Duc Pho. He returned to the landing zone without additional aerial support to rescue stranded soldiers pinned down by enemy fire. The White House says Kettles helped save the lives of 40 soldiers.
Kettles retired from the Army in 1978 as a lieutenant colonel. He resides in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with his wife, Ann.
The Army said next month’s White House ceremony is the culmination of an effort that began in 2012.
William Vollano of the Veterans History Project launched a formal campaign to upgrade Kettles’ Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.
As part of that review, several men from his company and the 101st Airborne Division sent letters validating Kettles’ actions. Lawmakers also got involved. Longtime Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan sent a letter to the Pentagon asking for reconsideration so that Kettles could be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Then, after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter determined that Kettles’ actions merited the nation’s highest military honor, Rep. Debbie Dingell and Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, all of Michigan, introduced legislation waiving a time limitation for the award and paving the way for President Barack Obama to make the final decision.
The Army also announced that Kettles will be inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes on July 19, one day after the White House ceremony.
The Army said that despite a heavily damaged helicopter, Kettles was relentless in his efforts to ensure that every soldier was extracted.
On one particular flight out of the landing zone, a machine gun sprayed the helicopter Kettles was flying, but “Maj. Kettles coaxed the helicopter and managed to fly us back to base camp,” said Roland J. Scheck, an Army specialist who was serving as a door-gunner on Kettles’ crew.
“Kettles personifies the Army’s ‘Warrior Ethos’ – never leave any soldier behind,” said Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Main Street says
A true hero.
James Woods says
Why the hell has it taken so long for this true American Hero to be awarded the Medal of Honor?
Christopher S. O'Rourke says
It’s way too far long overdue for a Viet Nam war veteran to be awarded the Medal of Honor. There are lot more Viet Nam war veterans who
deserve to have the Medal of Honor be awarded to them. All Veterans deserve to be given first class citizenship of their own country, not the NO CLASS CITIZENSHIP they and Senior Citizens get right now. I’m a Navy veteran, I did 7 overseas cruises aboard the USS Seattle AOE-3 which was out of Norfolk, VA where I did 2 Med cruises & 2 Carribean cruises, the USS Blue Ridge LCC-19 which is the 7th. Fleet
Flagship, I did a Westpac cruise on the Blue Ridge LCC-19 in 1974-1975. I was off the coast of Viet Nam at Da Nang, Phan Rang, Kham Ron Bay in 1975 when South Viet Nam fell. I did shore duty in Pearl Harbor and San Diego, a tour of sea duty in the Philippines and on
the USS Tarawa LHA-1, which was out of San Diego, I did 2 Westpac cruises on the USS Tarawa LHA-1. At least a Viet Nam veteran is finally being given the highest military honor that he deserves to have. Let’s hope that there will be a lot more Medal of Honor awards given
in the future.
M Jane Deneen says
My cousin Leonard DeWitt has been waiting since WWII for his Medal of Honor. Sadly, he passed away at age 95 a few days ago without ever getting the medal he so aptly earned. Many many people, organizations etc have pushed for years to get it to him before he passed but all to no avail. Such a sad thing for a true hero who was given the opportunity to receive this medal but never got it.
Earnest W. Jones Sgtmaj. USMC Ret. says
This is an award that exemplifies heroic action and well deserving of the actions of LtCol. U.S. Army Ret. Charles Kettles. It should’ve not taken so long.
Mikel Rhodes says
A true hero in every sense of the word and he should have received the CMH many years ago! I do not like President Obama’s policies or political agenda but I sincerely want to Thank Him for righting this wrong and awarding Army Major Kettles Ret.
James Woods says
Semper Fi says
He was probably pressured into his decision.If he had the final say this hero would still be forgotten
David Vranish says
Way too late but good anyway!
gilbert marek says
Thank God, Our Country has forgotten about our Men and Women in the Services, They come back hurt and we walk away from them and there family’s, They need help not only by giving them money, But better health care that they aren’t getting. Obama Is telling the General Public How dam good they are getting help. He lies so dam much it hurt me. There are two things that piss me off, (1) is a Lier, The is a person whom steels stuff. And now too, You can’t use the word God In the any services, let me say this before I close off here, When I was in VC, When Men was hurt, They prayed to God, So did I to help me make it and I did. he is there with our Men and Women on the front lines helping them. So Obama. take your sorry A– – and leave our men and Women along. Cowboy
Arthur Hartsock says
On this fateful day Major Kettles rescued 40 soldiers. These 40 soldiers lived to return home, marry and have families. I’m sure that most are proud grandparents today. So rescuing 40 soldiers has probably turned into 500. So the ‘Butterfly effect’ of Mr. Kettles actions probably touches every state in the US. Good show, Major Kettles!!