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TWELVE SECONDS THAT CHANGED HISTORY

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December 17, 1903 - Kitty Hawk, North Carolina


Orville Wright watched the toss of the coin turn in his favor and smiled with satisfaction.   He would be the FIRST to try to do what no man had ever done before...FLY!   The elder Wilbur Wright helped his kid brother settle into the 605 pound frame of their unusual invention.  The 13-horsepower engine sputtered to life, turning the bicycle chains that caused two wooden propellers to rotate.  Facing their contraption into the 20 mile per hour freezing wind that blew across Kill Devil hill, the two self-taught mathematicians and machinists from Dayton, Ohio felt confident.  Slowly the craft began to move forward on its 60-foot launching track, then ever so slowly it lifted off the ground.  For twelve seconds their creation defied gravity, traversing 120 feet of distance in the first controlled-power flight. 

Three more flights, each successively longer and father, followed as the brothers took turns enjoying the success of three years of experimentation.  On the fourth flight of the day, Wilbur piloted the aircraft for 59 seconds, almost a full minute.  In that final flight the first successful airplane flew for 852 feet, before Wilbur gained the dubious distinction of being the first pilot to make a crash landing.  As the FLYER nosed into the ground, its frail spruce-and-muslin horizontal rudders fell apart.  But the day had been a wonderful success, the Wright Brothers had made history.

Five years later on September 17, 1908 Orville Wright was in the cockpit during a demonstration at Fort Myer, Virginia.   On this day Orville faced disaster, crashing a modified version of their original FLYER.  Orville was injured, US Army Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge who was along as an observer, was killed.  It was a devastating turn of events, causing the Army to delay for six months the delivery of the first military aircraft.

The following summer the Wright brothers fulfilled the first step of their military contract, delivering the first Army airplane on July 30 after 3 days of flight performance tests.  The second portion of their contract called for training two Army officers as pilots.  The first to fly for the US Army were Lieutenants Frank P. Lahm and Frederic E. Humphreys.   Through the fall of 1909, just six years after the birth of powered flight, the first Army aviators were trained under the guidance of the brothers who had developed the first successful airplane.  Within another eight years the US Army would begin to see results, though the full impact of those results would not be accepted for nearly half a century.

The birth of military air power was marked perhaps more by politics than anything else.  It would cost one high ranking pioneer his military career.  It cost many more their lives.  But through it all there arose a new breed of American fighting man, adventurers with dreams in the clouds and nerves of steel.  These were men beyond discouragement, determined to prove their mettle, and dedicated to a new kind of warfare.  They were the knights of the sky, the last of the great explorers, and a brotherhood of proud AIRMEN.

Here are those who were awarded

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The Medal Of Honor


"Medal of Honor Heroes"

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Part One

WORLD WAR I - 
US Army Air Service

Introduction
Early Flight and the Lafayette Escadrille

Frank Luke, Jr.
The Balloon Buster 

Erwin Bleckley & Harold Goettler
All for the Men on the Ground 

Edward Vernon Rickenbacker
America's Ace of Aces 


THE MEDAL OF HONOR THAT WASN'T

William Billy Mitchell
And an Aerial Armada

The Fight for Survival
The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell


SPECIAL AWARD BY CONGRESS

 

Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr.
A Different Kind of Hero

Older Heroes
In A Brand New War 

   
   

 

Part Two

WORLD WAR II - US Army Air Force

Introduction
The Eagle and the Tiger 

Day of Infamy
When America Needed Heroes 

Payback!
The Doolittle Raid

Harl Pease, Jr.
Too Young to Fly MacArthur 

"Cast A Giant Shadow" 
Kenneth Newton Walker
A Reprimand or a Medal?

Pierpont Morgan Hamilton
Demas Thurlow Craw

The Banker & The Soldier

Jack Warren Mathis
Bombardier Brothers 

Maynard Snuffy Smith
You don't have to be a saint to become a hero! 

Joe Sarnoski & Jay Zeamer
One Airplane - Two Medals of Honor 

John Cary Red Morgan
Medically Unqualified - Morally Determined 

THE PLOESTI RAID
Lloyd Herbert Hughes
John Riley Kane
Addison Earl Baker
Leon William Johnson
John Louis Jerstad

Ralph Cheli
Leadership by Example - Sacrifice by Design 

Neel Ernest Kearby
The First Top Gun 

Raymond Harrell Wilkins
Requiem for the Last Survivor 

Forrest Lee Woody Vosler
Blind Determination 

James Howell Howard
"I seen my duty and I done it!" 

William Robert Lawley, Jr.
Walter Truemper & Archibald Mathies

"Coming Home the Hard Way 

Edward Stanley Michael
"Until the Last Man Comes Home" 

Leon Robert Vance, Jr.
"Burden of Command" 

David Richard Kingsley
"The Ultimate Sacrifice

Donald Dale Pucket

Darrell Robins Lindsey

Richard Ira Bong

Horace Seaver Carswell, Jr.

Robert Edward Femoyer

Donald Joseph Gott
William Edward Metzger, Jr.

Frederick Walker Castle

Thomas B. McGuire, Jr.

William Arthur Shomo

Henry Eugene Red Erwin
Sometimes it takes more courage to live than to give up and die.

Raymond Larry Knight

 

 

Part Three

KOREAN WAR - US Air Force

Louis Joseph Sebille

John Springer Walmsley, Jr.

George Andrew Davis, Jr.

Charles Joseph Loring, Jr.

VIETNAM WAR - US Air Force

Bernard Francis Fisher

William Pitsenbarger
That Others May Live

Hilliard Almond Wilbanks

Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen

Leo Keith Thorsness

George Everett Bud Day
Freedom is a matter of the heart and mind

Lance Peter Sijan

Gerald Orren Young

Joe Madison Jackson
No one should be left behind 

William Atkinson Jones, III

James Phillip Fleming

John Lee Levitow
An ordinary hero, an extra-ordinary man

Steven Logan Bennett

 

 

WEBMASTER'S NOTE:
Upon completion of this series, we will be preparing a companion site to recognize and honor Naval and Marine Corps aviators for their own WINGS OF VALOR.

 

 

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