Major Bernard F. Fisher's 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.
During the Battle of A Shau on March 10, 1966, a C-123 crew flying in the vicinity of the Special Forces Camp taped the actual rescue as it was in progress. The tape was later given to Major Fisher as a souvenir. The recording was not started until after the initial decisions to rescue Major Dafford ("Jump") Myers were made and the first recorded sentences were of Fisher telling fellow Skyraider Pilots (Captains Franciso "Paco" VASQUEZ, 29, of Puerto Rico; John LUCAS, 28, of Steubenville, Ohio; and Dennis HAGUE, 28, of Kellogg, Idaho) how he planned to land on the debris- littered strip where Myers was down. Another pair of Skyraider pilots, Jim GUNTER and Pete HOUK, arrived as the rescue was unfolding. They flew cover for the takeoff portion of the rescue and then continued to hit the Viet Cong positions after the rescue was completed.
Capr Richard Robbins composed and performed a song about Bernies mission in Ashau at a promotion party for the man he rescued, new LtCol Dafford "Jump" Meyers. In its original version, the song was not suitable for family listening. Tennessee Ernie Ford modified the lyrics slightly and his rendition appears below.
Major Fisher became the first living Air Force Medal of Honor winner when he was presented the medal at a White House Ceremony by then President Lyndon B. Johnson. President Johnson's remarks can be heard below.
Following the White House ceremony, Major Fisher answered reporters questions. This session also appears below.
The USAF's 50th Anniversary website has an extensive article about Major Bernie Fisher's Medal of Honor mission.
The USAF Museum has the A-1E Skyraider that Maj Bernie Fisher flew on his Medal of Honor mission.
During the A-1 Skyraider Association's 1997 reunion in San Antonio, Texas, I had the distinct honor of conducting a one-on-one interview with Bernie Fisher. He has gratiously allowed me to present this interview here.
The fllowing items relate to Maj Bernie Fisher's Medal of Honor
- History and Criteria for the Medal of Honor
- Story of Major Fisher's Medal of Honor Mission
- USAF Museum picture of A-1E 132-649 flown by Maj Fisher on his Medal of Honor mission
- Hello AShau Tower, a song written by Capt Rich Robbins performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford (RealAudio 4:45) NEW
- President Lyndon Johnson's remarks on 19 Jan 67 at the Medal of Honor presentation ceremony for Major Fisher (RealAudio 5:38) NEW
- Maj Fisher answers questions from the press following the White House ceremony (RealAudio 6:43) NEW
- Listen to interview with Bernie Fisher on 3 Oct 1997 (RealAudio18:55)
- Pentagon ceremony held 9 Mar 1999 - marking the occasion of a new book being released
- Listen to Medal of Honor Mission Tape (RealAudio 4:43)
Major Fisher's Medal of Honor mission Tape Transcript
FISHER: He's about 20 feet.
LUCAS: Understand he's 20 feet?
LUCAS: Which way you gonna land?
FISHER: I'm gonna make a 180 degrees, come in to the southeast.
LUCAS: OK. Well, then, we'll come up behind you and strafe paralled to your heading with you.
FISHER: OK, I'm rolling in now.
Unknown: Make it slow or you'll lose it.
LUCAS: I'm right behind you, Bernie. I took a hit in my pitot system, and I'm smoking a little.
HAGUE: OK, I'm right back at your six o'clock, Luke.
LUCAS: OK. Ahh, do you see any smoke?
HAGUE: Negative. It looks pretty good.
LUCAS: OK, my air speed's gone to hell, and my hydraulic pressure's fluctuating.
HAGUE: All right. You want me to stay with you?
LUCAS: OK, Bernie, you gonna land out of this one?
Unknown: (garbled) in trail ???
Fighter: Five-Two, Oxford 81, over.
FAC: Oxford 81, Birddog 52?
Fighter: Roger, we're headed your position for time on target of 1240. We're ten minutes late. We have eight 500 GPs retarded and 20 mike-mike.
FAC: All right, Sir, hold on high and dry. At the present time we have A-1H's working underneath. There's an aircraft down there at the present time and we're trying to get the pilot out.
Unknown: (garbled) all aircraft
Fighter: This is (Call sign) 07-1. We're still orbiting up here at 20,000.
FAC: Roger, hold high and dry for now, Sir.
Fighter: Ahh five one, this is Congo 56 with eight napes and eight bombs and 20 mike mike.
FAC: Roger, stand by. The weather underneath is not too good for napalm at the present time.
Unknown: (Call sign) Bird Dog 52.
LUCAS: OK, Paco, you in trail with us now?
LUCAS: Hobo 51, Hobo 03.
Unknown: Zero three, uh, Shoeseller 03. ???
LUCAS: Roger, go ahead, Jim.
GUNTER: Roger, which kind of help do you need? We're about three miles up the valley.
LUCAS: OK, Jim, do you read me?
LUCAS: OK, Babe, come on down the valley. As you come down the valley you run over that airstrip, pick up a heading of one five zero. And as you run down, you can run the napalm right down the east side of the runway.
GUNTER: Understand. 150 down the east side of the runway. OK, got that. Pete?
HOUK (Jims Wingman): Roger Dodger, Jim.
LUCAS: You'll see quite a bit of smoke.
GUNTER: OK, I see an aircraft down there to the left. Who's that? You?
LUCAS: No, I'm coming down the east side of the runway now. Why don't you come down one time and look it over.
Fighter: OK, this is Hobo 21, we're up here Luke.
Birddog 52: Hobo 21, Bird Dog 52.
FAC: Roger 52, we're orbiting the airfield to the North at 6000 feet.
LUCAS: OK, let's hit everything Denny, except the Fort.
HAGUE: Roger, I gotcha....I'm winchester (out of ammo).
LUCAS: OK, so am I. Let's keep making pases though. Maybe they don't know it.
LUCAS: OK, Jim, the area's smoking pretty badly, and you'll see an airacraft burning on the runway. Bernie's taking off to the north.
GUNTER: OK, understand to the north. OK, I can see him. Is he rolling now?
HAGUE: Roger - Roger.
LUCAS: OK, get the east side Denny.
HAGUE: Roger - Roger, Babe.
GUNTER: OK, where do you want those trenches strafed, Jon?
LUCAS: OK, you got us in sight? We're breaking off. I'm coming left.
GUNTER: OK, Where you want the strafe here? Right on the east end of the runway?
LUCAS: Yeah, put it all down the east side of the runway, in the grass area. Put a couple of bursts in there and then get hold of Barry.
GUNTER: OK. Get a hold of who?
LUCAS: Correction, it'll be Hound Dog 23 if he's still up.
GUNTER: OK, right here, we'll be going right in now.
LUCAS: OK, all the gun fire is over here on the East side in these trees.
GUNTER: OK, Luke, you got a chopper comin' in up here to the north. Uh, he may be able to get the pilot out.
LUCAS: We already got him out.