Leo Thorsness Fighter Pilot Vietnam War Medal Of Honor Signed
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Leo Thorsness Fighter Pilot Vietnam War Medal Of Honor Signed:
SURVIVING HELL: A POWS JOURNEY, by Leo Thorsness. Published by Encounter Books, 2008. Hardcover with dust jacket, 132 pages. FIRST EDITION, FIRST PRINTING as indicated by complete number line on copyright page. Please note that this is NOT a later printing or reprint edition. SIGNED by Thorsness on front free endpaper. Black and white photographic illustrations. Very scarce signed.
Leo Keith Thorsness (born February 14, 1932) is a retired colonel in the United States Air Force who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War. He was awarded the medal for an air engagement on April 19, 1967. He was shot down two weeks later and spent six years in captivity in North Vietnam as a prisoner of war. After his military service, Thorsness served one term in the Washington State Senate. On April 19, 1967, Air Force Colonel Leo Thorsness was on a mission over North Vietnam when his wingman was shot down by an enemy MiG that then lined up for a gunnery pass on the two American pilots who had bailed out. Although his F-105 was not designed for aerial combat, Thorsness immediately engaged the enemy aircraft and destroyed it. When Thorsness spotted four more MiGs, he fought his way through a barrage of North Vietnamese SAMs to engage them too, shooting down one more and driving the others off. For this action, Leo Thorsness would be awarded the Medal of Honor. But he didn’t learn about it until years later—and then only by a “tap code” coming through prison walls—because on April 30 Thorsness himself was shot down, captured and transported to the Hanoi Hilton. On April 30, 1967, on their 93rd mission (seven shy of completing their tours), Thorsness and Johnson were shot down by a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 over North Vietnam while flying aircraft F-105F 62-4447. He had flown the morning mission to the Hanoi area as Wild Weasel leader, then assigned himself as a spare aircraft for the afternoon mission because of a shortage of crews. One of Carbine flight aborted with radio problems, and Thorsness filled in as Carbine 03, leading the second element. While still inbound over northwest North Vietnam, communications were disrupted when an ejection seat emergency beeper went off aboard one of the F-105s. Despite being observed by early warning radar locations, two MiG-21s approached Carbine flight from behind and unseen. Just as Thorsness got an instrument indication that the flight was being painted by airborne radar, he saw an F-105 going down in flames that eventually was identified as his own wingman, Carbine 04 (1st Lt Robert Abbott, in F-105D, AF Ser. No. 59-1726), shot down by an Atoll missile. Within a minute, his own aircraft was also hit with a heat-seeking missile fired by the MiGs. Thorsness and Johnson ejected. Separated from each other by a ridge, they were the object of a three-hour rescue effort involving the entire strike force as a covering force. Two F-105D aircraft were directed by Crown to provide RESCAP (as Tomahawk flight) until the search and rescue (SAR) forces could arrive on station. Both aircraft were hit by Atoll missiles from MiG 21s, with F-105D 61-0130, piloted by Capt Joe Abbott being shot down, and wingman Maj Al Lenski limping back to Thailand. In addition, one of the A-1 "Sandy" aircraft was hit while one of the rescue Jolly Greens developed hydraulic problems and had to abort, thus ending the SAR mission. Poor communications, heavy MiG engagements and standard operating procedures which did not allow only one SAR helicopter to remain on station, made the effort futile and all the men were captured. SAR forces were again launched the next day but none of the downed airmen were located. The mission is described in great detail, including verbatim transcripts of radio transmissions, in both Thud Ridge and Thud, written by Col Jack Broughton, member of Waco flight and another of the RESCAP crews involved in the incident. His uncooperativeness towards his captors earned him a year in solitary confinement and severe back injuries due to torture. The Medal of Honor was awarded by the United States Congress during his captivity, but not announced until his release in 1973 to prevent the Vietnamese from using it against Thorsness, as was the Air Force Cross awarded to Capt Johnson for the same mission. Capt.Abbott was released from captivity on February 18, 1973, while Thorsness, Johnson, and 1st Lt Abbott were released on March 4, 1973. Injuries incurred during the ejection and aggravated by the torture Thorsness was subjected to disqualified him medically from further flying in the Air Force and he retired on October 25, 1973.
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