Medal of Honor, Captain Gerald Orren Young, United States Air Force

Captain Gerald Orren Young, United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)



Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 37th ARS Da Nang AFB, Republic of Vietnam.

Place and date: Khesanh, 9 November 1967.

Entered service at: Colorado Springs, Colo. Born: 9 May 1930, Chicago, Ill.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Young distinguished himself while serving as a helicopter rescue crew commander. Capt. Young was flying escort for another helicopter attempting the night rescue of an Army ground reconnaissance team in imminent danger of death or capture. Previous attempts had resulted in the loss of 2 helicopters to hostile ground fire. The endangered team was positioned on the side of a steep slope which required unusual airmanship on the part of Capt. Young to effect pickup. Heavy automatic weapons fire from the surrounding enemy severely damaged 1 rescue helicopter, but it was able to extract 3 of the team. The commander of this aircraft recommended to Capt. Young that further rescue attempts be abandoned because it was not possible to suppress the concentrated fire from enemy automatic weapons. With full knowledge of the danger involved, and the fact that supporting helicopter gunships were low on fuel and ordnance, Capt. Young hovered under intense fire until the remaining survivors were aboard. As he maneuvered the aircraft for takeoff, the enemy appeared at point-blank range and raked the aircraft with automatic weapons fire. The aircraft crashed, inverted, and burst into flames. Capt. Young escaped through a window of the burning aircraft. Disregarding serious burns, Capt. Young aided one of the wounded men and attempted to lead the hostile forces away from his position. Later, despite intense pain from his burns, he declined to accept rescue because he had observed hostile forces setting up automatic weapons positions to entrap any rescue aircraft. For more than 17 hours he evaded the enemy until rescue aircraft could be brought into the area. Through his extraordinary heroism, aggressiveness, and concern for his fellow man, Capt. Young reflected the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the Armed Forces of his country.

Sikorsky HH-3E 66-13290, a Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopter of the 37th Air Rescue Squadron, Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, 1968. This aircraft is similar to 66-13279, Jolly Green 26, the helicopter flown by Captain Young, 9 November 1967. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-3E Sea King 66-13290, a “Jolly Green Giant” rescue helicopter of the 37th Air Rescue Squadron, Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, 1968. This aircraft the same type as 66-13279, “Jolly 26,” the helicopter flown by Captains Young and Brower, 9 November 1967. (U.S. Air Force)

The remaining crew members of Jolly Green 26 died in the crash. They were Captain Ralph Wayne Brower, the helicopter’s co-pilot; Staff Sergeant Eugene Lunsford Clay, flight engineer; Sergeant Larry Wayne Maysey, Pararescueman. The soldiers that “Jolly 26” had just rescued, Special Forces Master Sergeant Bruce Raymond Baxter and Specialist 4 Joseph George Kusick, both of U.S. Army Reconnaissance Team UTAH, were also killed.

Captain Brower, Staff Sergeant Clay and Sergeant Maysey were each posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for “extraordinary heroism” during the rescue.

Hill 891, a 2,923-foot hilltop just west of the Laos/Vietnam Border: the crash site of UH-1D "Spartan 53" and HH-3E "Jolly Green 26," 9 November 1967. (190th AHC)
Hill 891, a 2,923-foot hilltop just west of the village of Talat Luay, Laos, along the Vietnam Border: the crash site of UH-1D “Spartan 53” and HH-3E “Jolly Green 26,” 9 November 1967. (190th AHC)

Gerald Orren Young was born at Chicago. Illinois, 19 May 1930. He was the son of Orren Vernon Young and Ruth Vesta Bovee Young.

Gerry Young enlisted in the United States Navy, 24 May 1947, and trained as an aviation electriciann’s mate. He was discharged 29 February 1952. Young reenlisted 6 August 1955 and served until 15 July 1956, when he was selected as aviation cadet in the United States Air Force. He graduated flight school and was commissioned a second lieutenant, U.S. Air Force, 18 June 1958. Lieutenant Young trained as helicopter pilot. He was sent to the Marshall Islands for his first operational assignment, flying in support of the Operation Hardtack I nuclear weapons test series, from June through December 1958.

After a little over one year of duty in Japan, Lieutenant Young returned to the United States to support strategic missile bases at several locations. In August 1967 Young was reassigned to the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. He flew 60 combat missions in the HH-3E.

Following the 9 November 1967, Captain Young was hospitalized for several months. On 14 May 1968, in a ceremony at The Pentagon, President Lyndon Johnson presented the medal of Honor to Captain Young.

Major Young served with Detachment 24, 42nd ARRS, based at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, from February 1972. Det. 24 flew the twin-engine Bell UH-1N “Huey” helicopter.

He next attended the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, preparing for an assignment with the Fuerzas de Defensa de Panamá (Panama Defense Forces). While there, on 21 August 1972, Major Young’s wife, Nancy, died of a heart attack.

Following duty in Panama, Major Young completed a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Maryland. He then served as air attache to Columbia, followed by a series of staff assignments.

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Orren Young retired from the U.S. Air Force, 30 June 1980, after more than 30 years of military service. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Colonel Young had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster. He died 6 June 1990. Colonel Young’s remains were interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant. (U.S. Air Force)

The Sikorsky HH-3E (Sikorsky S-61R) earned the nickname Jolly Green Giant during the Vietnam War. It is a dedicated Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter flown by the U.S. Air Force, based on the CH-3C transport helicopter. The aircraft is flown by two pilots and the crew includes a flight mechanic and gunner. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. It has retractable tricycle landing gear and a rear cargo ramp. The rear landing gear retracts into a stub wing on the aft fuselage. The helicopter has an extendable inflight refueling boom.

The HH-3E is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 18 feet, 10 inches (5.740 meters) high with all rotors turning. The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The main rotor turns at 203 r.p.m., counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor also has five blades and has a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). The blades have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor turns 1,244 r.p.m.

The HH-3E has an empty weight of 13,341 pounds (6,051 kilograms). The maximum gross weight is 22,050 pounds (10,002 kilograms).

The Jolly Green Giant is powered by two General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines, which have a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,400 shaft horsepower, each, and Military Power rating of 1,500 shaft horsepower. The main transmission is rated for 2,500 horsepower, maximum.

The HH-3E has a cruise speed of 154 miles per hour (248 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour (285 kilometers per hour), also at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The HH-3E had a maximum range of 779 miles (1,254 kilometers) with external fuel tanks.

The Jolly Green Giant can be armed with two M60 7.62 mm machine guns.

Sikorsky built 14 HH-3Es. Many CH-3Cs and CH-3Es were upgraded to the HH-3E configuration. Sikorsky built a total of 173 of the S-61R series.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 thoughts on “Medal of Honor, Captain Gerald Orren Young, United States Air Force

  1. I was fortunate to fly this model of S-61 aircraft a few times, and it was easily the smoothest flying S-61. If you put the S-61R and the S-92 side by side, you can see several design similarities. We did a job up in Alert, Nunavut, Canada with the S-61R having ferried it from Corvallis, OR. Check it out on a chart, and you’ll see why you needed a reliable helicopter for that mission.

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