Thursday, July 24, 2008

You Know a Man By the Company He Keeps

No, this is not about Jeremiah "God damn America" Wright, William "I wish I'd set a few more bombs" Ayers, or Tony "Show me the money " Rezko. This is about the number of Medal of Honor recipients who are backing John McCain.
We all know about Col. "Bud" Day, POW cellmate of McCain's and the most decorated American serviceman since McArthur. Did you know, that out of the 103* living MoH recipients, there's at least one more supporting McCain?

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Meet Major Leo Thorsness, U. S. Air Force. The citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. As pilot of an F- 105 aircraft, Lt. Col. Thorsness was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission over North Vietnam. Lt. Col. Thorsness and his wingman attacked and silenced a surface-to-air missile site with air-to-ground missiles, and then destroyed a second surface-to-air missile site with bombs. In tile attack on the second missile site, Lt. Col. Thorsness' wingman was shot down by intensive antiaircraft fire, and the 2 crewmembers abandoned their aircraft. Lt. Col. Thorsness circled the descending parachutes to keep the crewmembers in sight and relay their position to the Search and Rescue Center. During this maneuver, a MIG-17 was sighted in the area. Lt. Col. Thorsness immediately initiated an attack and destroyed the MIG. Because his aircraft was low on fuel, he was forced to depart the area in search of a tanker. Upon being advised that 2 helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew's position and that there were hostile MlGs in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Lt. Col. Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft defenses to the downed crew's position. As he approached the area, he spotted 4 MIG-17 aircraft and immediately initiated an attack on the MlGs, damaging 1 and driving the others away from the rescue scene. When it became apparent that an aircraft in the area was critically low on fuel and the crew would have to abandon the aircraft unless they could reach a tanker, Lt. Col. Thorsness, although critically short on fuel himself, helped to avert further possible loss of life and a friendly aircraft by recovering at a forward operating base, thus allowing the aircraft in emergency fuel condition to refuel safely. Lt. Col. Thorsness' extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.

Like McCain, Major Thorsness was shot down over Viet Nam. Powerline adds this to the story:

Colonel Thorsness didn't find out about his receipt of the Medal of Honor, however, until 1973. He was shot down by an air to air missile in late April 1967. He ejected from from his exploding fighter doing nearly 700 miles per hour and injured both his knees. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton. Like John McCain, he was "tied up" for the next six years. His Medal of Honor was kept a secret so that the North Vietnamese would not use the citation against him and aggravate the conditions of his captivity. As it was, he was tortured unmercifully for the first three years.

Ed Morrisey has an account of Major Thorsness' endorsement here. They say you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. Amen to that!

Update: From the Air Force account cited by Powerline, the translation of "recovering at a forward operating base":
But Thorsness' day wasn't over yet. Again low on fuel, he headed for a tanker just as one of the strike force pilots, almost out of fuel himself, radioed him for help. Thorsness knew he couldn't make Takhli without refueling, but he quickly determined he could make it to Udorn, 200 miles closer, so he directed the tanker toward the strike fighter. Once across the Mekong Delta, he throttled back to idle and "glided" toward Udorn, touching down as his tanks went dry.

*Corrected according to Congressional Medal of Honor Society as of June 10, 2008

Hat tip Jay Norlinger's Impromptus
Cross posted at Say Anything

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