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James Helms Kasler
Born May 2, 1926(1926-05-02) (age 96)
Place of birth South Bend, Indiana
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1945–1975
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Unit 354th TFS 4th Fighter Wing
Commands held 366th Tactical Fighter Wing
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards

Colonel James Helm Kasler (born May 2, 1926) is to date the only person to be awarded the Air Force Cross three times.[1][2] The Air Force Cross ranks just below the Medal of Honor as an award for extraordinary heroism in combat.

Kasler is a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In Korea, as an F-86 Sabre pilot with the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, he was recognized as an ace, credited with shooting down MiG-15s. Kasler flew a combined 198 combat missions and was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam from August 1966 until March 1973.

Military biography

Enlisting in the United States Army Air Forces toward the end of World War II, Kasler flew seven missions as a B-29 Superfortress tail gunner. With the end of the war Kasler used his veteran’s benefits to complete his college degree before returning to the newly formed United States Air Force in time to serve in the Korean War. During that war he flew 100 combat missions and scored 6 confirmed air to air victories against enemy Mig-15's, becoming among the first jet "aces" in his F-86 Sabre.[3] On August 8, 1966, while flying an F-105D on his 91st combat mission over North Vietnam, then Major Kasler was searching for his downed wingman at treetop level when he was shot down by intense North Vietnamese ground fire. He was captured, not to be released until 6½ years later on March 4, 1973.[4] For a period of time as a prisoner of war Kasler was the recipient of nearly daily torture.[5] On 15 September 2007 the United States Air Force dedicated a monument to him. James Kasler retired from the United States Air Force as a colonel. He and his wife Martha reside in Illinois.

Awards and decorations

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png US Air Force Command Pilot Badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Cross with two bronze oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges Legion of Merit
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross with silver and three bronze oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 scarlet ribbon with width-4 ultramarine blue stripe at center, surrounded by width-1 white stripes. Width-1 white stripes are at the edges.
Bronze Star Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 purple ribbon with width-4 white stripes on the borders
Purple Heart with bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Air Medal with two silver oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Presidential Unit Citation with bronze oak leaf cluster
V
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor device
Prisoner of War Medal
Combat Readiness Medal
American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Width-44 yellow ribbon with central width-4 Old Glory blue-white-scarlet stripe. At distance 6 from the edges are width-6 white-scarlet-white stripes.
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze campaign stars
World War II Victory Medal
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal with bronze campaign star
Vietnam Service Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Korean Service Medal with two bronze campaign stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Service Medal for Korea
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Air Force Cross citations

KASLER, JAMES HELMS (POW) (First Award) Major, U.S. Air Force 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Tuy Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, 7th Air Force Date of Action: June 29, 1966 Citation: The Air Force Cross is presented to James Helms Kasler, Major, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as Pilot of an F-105 Thunderchief at Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 29 June 1966. On that date, Major Kasler was mission commander of the second and largest wave of fighter-bombers to strike the heavily defended Hanoi petroleum products storage complex. Despite a seemingly impenetrable canopy of bursting projectiles thrown up by hostile defenses of this key facility, Major Kasler determinedly and precisely led his striking force to the exact release point where he and his followers placed their ordnance directly on target, causing it to erupt in a huge fireball of burning petroleum. Performing armed reconnaissance during his withdrawal, Major Kasler, with total disregard for his personal safety, personally destroyed five trucks before low fuel reserves forced him to terminate his attack. Through his extraordinary heroism superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Major Kasler reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force. Birth: 5/2/1926 - South Bend, IN Home Town: Zanesville, IN Other Award: Air Force Cross w/OLC (Vietnam), Air Force Cross w/2nd OLC (Vietnam)

KASLER, JAMES HELMS (POW) (Second Award) Major, U.S. Air Force 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Tuy Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, 7th Air Force Date of Action: August 6, 1966 Citation: The Air Force Cross is presented to James Helms Kasler, Major, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 Thunderchief pilot near Yen Bay, North Vietnam, on 6 August 1966. On that date, Major Kasler led a flight of fighter-bombers against a heavily defended target in evaluating a low level ordnance delivery tactic. While carrying out this hazardous mission, a wingman was forced to eject over unfriendly territory. Major Kasler located the downed airman and flew cover until perilously low fuel compelled him to leave. Refueling aerially, Major Kasler returned to relocate the downed pilot so he could direct rescue operations. At great risk to his own life, he explored the gun infested countryside at tree-top level, valiantly searching, but was unable to locate his fellow American. Major Kasler's Thunderchief was hit by destructive ground fire during his valorous search, and he too ejected into unfriendly hands. Through his extraordinary heroism superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Major Kasler reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force. Birth: 5/2/1926 - South Bend, IN Home Town: Zanesville, IN Other Award: Air Force Cross (Vietnam), Air Force Cross w/2nd OLC (Vietnam)

KASLER, JAMES HELMS (POW) (Third Award) Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Tuy Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, 7th Air Force Date of Action: June - July, 1968 Citation: The Air Force Cross is presented to James Helms Kasler, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from June 1968 through July 1968. During this period, Colonel Kasler accomplished an amazing feat of resistance against the North Vietnamese when they attempted to force him to meet a visiting delegation and appear before television and news cameras. Through personal fortitude and absolute heroism, he completely withstood the most brutal of Vietnamese tortures and caused his captors extreme embarrassment in their failure to gain useful propaganda statements. Through extraordinary heroism, staunch display of courage, and willpower in the face of the enemy, Colonel Kasler reflected the highest credit on himself and the United States Air Force. Birth: 5/2/1926 - South Bend, IN Home Town: Zanesville, IN Other Award: Air Force Cross (Vietnam), Air Force Cross w/OLC (Vietnam)[6]

See also

References

External links

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