Air Force Cross Awarded for Vietnam War Heroism

Retired Air National Guard CMSgt. Dennis Richardson has been awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions aboard a HH-53 rescue helicopter during a perilous mission over Vietnam in March 1968. Richardson received the award, USAF’s second highest honor for valor, during a ceremony April 5 at the Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., home of his former unit, the New York ANG’s 106th Rescue Wing. Nearly 300 members of the wing attended the event. “In an extraordinary display of courage and valor, Richardson, despite his wounds, leaned far outside the door of his helicopter and neutralized charging enemy combatants who appeared intent on boarding,” reads his citation. “It was a long, scary day, and I don’t think I did anything different than the rest of the crew,” Richardson said. He was in one of two HH-53s dispatched on March 14, 1968 to rescue the aircrew of a downed F-4 Phantom. Although the helicopters repeatedly moved in to make a pick-up, they were driven away by gunfire and both sustained heavy damage. Richardson displayed exceptional courage when he stood unprotected in the door of his helicopter to drive off the enemy, said retired Brig. Gen. Frank Cardile, a pilot on the mission who presented the medal to the chief. Richardson was one of four crew members that day to be recommended for awards; the three other men received Silver Stars, but Richardson’s award for the Cross, though granted, “was lost in paperwork,” according to an NYANG release. Last December, following the resurrection of the paper trail by an unnamed “military history buff,” an Air Force review panel confirmed the award. (N.Y. ANG report by Lt. Col. Eric Durr)