Uncommon gallantry: Remembering Bernard Fisher

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- He had to go back, the decision was made. The rescue helicopter was more than 30 minutes away and Myers could be injured or in danger of being taken prisoner.

He was going back.

Retired Col. Bernard Fisher, who risked his life landing his A-1E Skyraider to rescue a fellow pilot while North Vietnamese troops unleashed a storm of bullets toward him, died Saturday Aug. 16, 2014, at age 87.

Then Maj. Fisher was presented the Medal of Honor for his heroics in rescuing Maj. Dafford Myers on March 10, 1966, in the A Shau Valley along South Vietnam's western border with Laos.

Myers ran to the jet and climbed onto the wing as Fisher dragged him head-first into the cockpit before taking off under extreme enemy fire.

"He landed under fire, he taxied under fire, he took off under fire," said Tammy Fisher, a Kuna resident married to Fisher's son, Steven.

When Fisher landed back at base in Pleiku, the ground crew found 19 bullet holes in his plane.

President Lyndon B. Johnson praised Fisher during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 19, 1967, after presenting him with the prestigious medal.

Fisher became the first living Air Force Medal of Honor recipient that day.

"We pause to remember the life and legacy of an American Hero," said Col. David Iverson, 366th Fighter Wing commander. "Bernie's life is an inspiration to those who met him and to all Airmen who will continue to hear his story. The men and women of Mountain Home Air Force Base were blessed to have a special relationship with Col. Fisher. He visited and mentored Airmen on numerous occasions, sharing his philosophy and leadership advice. We are truly honored to have had him as part of the Gunfighter family and our heritage. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Fisher family during this time."

Fisher, who was born in San Bernadino, Calif., on January 11, 1927, grew up in Clearfield, Utah, and first called Kuna, Idaho, home after his discharge from the U.S. Navy V-6 program in 1946. He attended Boise Junior College from 1947 to 1949 and then transferred to the University of Utah where he participated in the Reserve Officer Training Corps and received his commission.

Fisher's biography and official medal citation detail his heroism and uncommon gallantry.

During the battle, a Special Forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Enemy troops positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp.
The tops of the 1,500-foot hills which surrounded the camp where the Special Forces members were operating out of was obscured by an 800-foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability. This forced the pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft.

Fisher observed a fellow Airman (Myers) crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that Myers was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to a rescue his fellow Airman.

Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of the exploded aircraft.

While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed however, in the face of the withering ground fire, Fisher applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip.

Ultimately, Fisher saved Myers and the Special Forces team on the ground that day. His courage and dedication to "never leave an Airman behind" is a source of great pride for members of the United States Air Force.

Despite death and destruction all around him, Fisher went back....and saved his fellow Airman.