HomeNewsArticle Display

Remembering a legend: Air Force Medal of Honor recipient Col. Joe Jackson

Retired Col. Joe Jackson poses with a permanent Medal of Honor display March 24, 2015, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.

Retired Col. Joe Jackson poses with a permanent Medal of Honor display March 24, 2015, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. The display depicts him and other medal recipients. Jackson was in the Pentagon with fellow Medal of Honor recipient, retired Col. Leo Thorsness for a Q-and-A session with members of the Air Staff, hosted in the Hall of Heroes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

WASHINGTON -- Nearly 50 years after receiving the Medal of Honor, Air Force legend Col. Joe M. Jackson passed away Jan. 12, 2019, at the age of 95.

Known as an Air Force Hero of the Vietnam War, then-Lt. Col. Jackson was awarded the prestigious medal on Jan. 16, 1969, by President Lyndon B. Johnson, for his selfless, heroic actions in combat.

“We are saddened by the loss of Medal of Honor recipient Col. Joe Jackson, his amazing story of humility, courage and Airmanship will be remembered,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.”

On May 12, 1968, Jackson, commander of an unarmed C-123 transport aircraft, flew on an emergency mission from Da Nang to Kham Duc, South Vietnam, after a special forces camp at Kham Duc was overrun by enemy forces. They had taken the forward outpost and were in complete control of the airstrip, which was surrounded on all sides by mountainous terrain.

While orbiting over the battle area, Jackson learned by radio about a three-man combat control team that had been inadvertently left behind after the camp was air evacuated. Another C-123 transport was ahead of Jackson in the traffic pattern. Though the rescue aircraft landed successfully on the debris-littered airstrip, it failed to evacuate the team. Jackson answered the call by descending rapidly from 9,000 feet and making an assault landing on the strip, while under heavy enemy fire. After he stopped, a rocket fell in front of the transport. A dud, it bounced harmlessly toward the nose of the plane without exploding.

Jackson landed near the spot where the CCT was reportedly hiding, and ultimately rescued the men. With the team safely on board the aircraft, he quickly took off under a mortar barrage and intense automatic weapon fire from the surrounding hills. After landing at Da Nang the crew found that not a single bullet had touched their aircraft during the entire flight.

“As one of only two living, Air Force Medal of Honor recipients, his story of courage and leadership was uniquely preserved through his own account of that mission, the decisions that led up to it, and the life he aspired to lead” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein.

To read Jackson’s citation, or for more on Air Force Air Commando Medal of Honor recipients, click here.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
#DYK: Exercise Emerald Warrior pre-deployment readiness training includes utilizing live, virtual and constructive… https://t.co/cLU3E0rzrA
.@PACAF civil engineer #Airmen are getting trained to fly Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems during a new Rapid Airfie… https://t.co/dEQor4H0MR
#Airmen from @CannonAFB_ prepare an MC-130J for takeoff during exercise #EmeraldWarrior at Naval Air Station North… https://t.co/DpDmSrrgnh
#SEALTeam 7 members jump from an #MC130J during #EmeraldWarrior @ Naval Air Station North Island. It's the largest… https://t.co/dJ71Javz1c
Rarely caught in nature--- the KC-135 Stratotanker is feeding its young. #Airmen @TeamFairchild were the first to… https://t.co/C62li1AiG8
The @AFThunderbirds will get the best view of #SuperBowlLIII today! Don’t miss the #AirForce Flyover!… https://t.co/i4t0leJ8eY
#ExerciseRedFlag 19-1 is in full swing! The 3-week event prepares #AirForce, joint and #coalition pilots, aircrews… https://t.co/taHaOSCrRr
Flying high! #USAF pilots demonstrate maneuvers in @theF35 Lightning II to showcase the aircraft’s precision & powe… https://t.co/vZAk8KL8eZ
RT @USAFReserve: Our #ReserveCitizenAirmen @DobbinsARB provide world class support to the @AFThunderbirds underbirds as they prepare for th…
RT @AirmanMagazine: #OTD in 1974 – The General Dynamics YF-16 fighter prototype (bottom) made its first official full-scale flight at Edwar…
#ICYMI: The #KC46 was delivered to @22ARW last week. Tankers are an essential force multiplier, helping combat airc… https://t.co/Zg2GQpkXM7
There are a number of changes in U.S. federal tax laws affecting military members and spouses. @926thWing Read more… https://t.co/599TOJUqRv
.@97AMW boom operators use part-task trainers to ensure they are ready for the arrival of the #KC46 #Pegasus & stud… https://t.co/QYA7el0zyI
It's vital for #medical #Airmen to maintain & improve their skills. Military surgeons are looking to virtual traini… https://t.co/5hjMB6Oa98
RT @AFThunderbirds: @danajacobson from @CBSThisMorning stopped by yesterday for the ride of a lifetime with Thunderbird 8. The two flew ove…
What do the C-17 Globemaster, @NASA's Orion space capsule, ballistic missiles, the C-5 Galaxy & the KC-46A Pegasus… https://t.co/S9YsvZvn9V
.@AFResearchLab collaborate with @Michigantech & @USCG to design a compact, high-capacity maritime rescue device.… https://t.co/lUAwGrmKmt
RT @thejointstaff: #GenSelva personally delivered #KC46 Pegasus #3 from Seattle to @22ARW Thursday. He thanked #TeamMcConnell for its lega…
RT @CBSEveningNews: A massive security operation is underway in Atlanta as officials prepare for Sunday’s Super Bowl. Thousands will be pro…