With the tremendous demand for air combat pilots during the Vietnam War, the United States Air Force looked towards its Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve to provide assistance. In due course, a large number of reservists and guardsmen were sent into the battlefield, tasked with taking on perilous missions in the name of their country.
An unusual chance for heroism came for Joseph “Joe” H. Cleveland Jr., a respected member of the Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing, when he was sollicited for active duty and shipped to Vietnam in the beginning of 1968.
During his time in Vietnam, Cleveland was part of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft unit. This transport plane delivered troops and supplies to remoter areas, frequently taking hostile fire as it descended or ascended.
On a fateful day in May 1968, a C-130 transport aircraft commanded by Cleveland took off from an airstrip close to Khe Sanh. Unfortunately, it was soon shot down by members of the Viet Cong, though Cleveland and his crew managed to remain alive. Before they knew it, they were surrounded by the enemy.
After calling for the surrender of Cleveland and his mates, the Viet Cong were met with fierce resistance from the American forces. Guns blared and bullets flew, yet the heroes persevered in the face of immense danger until a brilliant and daring U.S. Army helicopter swooped in to their rescue.
Acknowledging his bravery, Cleveland was honored with the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross following his exemplary conduct during the incident. Serving until the end of his Vietnam tour, Cleveland flew multiple combat missions before retiring from the Air National Guard in 1993.Post time: 2023-06-17
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