A Vietnam War pilot will receive the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony next month for saving 40 soldiers and his own flight crew on May 15, 1967.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles of Ypsilanti, Mich., will receive the medal for conspicuous gallantry while serving as a flight commander assigned to the 176th Aviation Company, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. Then a major, Kettles led a platoon of "Huey" helicopters to assist the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during an ambush near Duc Pho.
"After leading several trips to the hot landing zone and evacuating the wounded, he returned, without additional aerial support, to rescue a squad-sized element of stranded soldiers pinned down by enemy fire," the White House stated in a news release.
The 86-year-old Kettles was a 21-year-old engineering student at Eastern Michigan University when he was drafted. He served active tours in Korea, Japan and Thailand before leaving active service to establish an auto dealership in Dewitt, Mich., and join the Army Reserve.
In 1963 he volunteered for active duty. He was deployed to Vietnam in 1967. He did a second tour from 1969-1970. He retired from the Army in 1978.
Kettles already holds a litany of medals: the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with Numeral "27," the Army Commendation Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star, the Korean Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one silver service star and one bronze service star, the Korea Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with bronze hourglass device, the Master Aviator Badge, Marksman Badge with carbine bar, the Valorous Unit Citation, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with bronze star, the United Nations Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with "60" Device and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with palm device.