Mike Novosel was a genuine, 24-carat American war hero. He was the real deal; he had at least as much of the right stuff as any astronaut, and a Medal of Honor, too.
Before Pearl Harbor, when Novosel enlisted in the Army Air Corps, he wasn't setting out to be a hero. In fact, it looked like he would never get into combat at all. After fast-talking his way into the aviation cadet program (he was too short to pass the physical) and getting his wings, his services as a heavy bomber instructor pilot were too valuable to risk him overseas bombing the Axis. Germany's defeat and the consequent drawdown of the air corps's pilot training released Novosel to the Pacific theater. Assigned as a B-29 Super-fortress command pilot, he got to Tinian just before the Enola Gay took off to end World War II in the skies over Hiroshima. Following the war, he combined careers as an airline pilot and Air Force Reserve officer. the end of his war story? Not by a long shot!
Then came the Vietnam War. Applying for active duty, Novosel discovered that the air force was overstaffed with senior officers and no flying jobs available for 41-year-old reserve lieutenant colonels. Perhaps the army, which was frantically trying to build up a virtual air force of helicopters from almost nothing, could use an experienced instructor pilot who was rotary-wing qualified to train young soldiers to fly. Excellent plan! The army said yes. Surprisingly, however, the army decided that flying dust offs (medevac) in Vietnam was the job for this seasoned aviator. Two tours later (during his second tour he and his son were flying dust offs in the same unit when, within the span of a week, each was called on to save the other in an emergency combat evacuation), with 2,038 hours of combat flight, 2,345 aerial missions that evacuated 5,589 wounded, and a Congressional Medal of Honor, we have the rest of Mike Novosel's story.
(From the inside cover of DUSTOFF: The Memoir of an Army Aviator)
Copyright 2000 Michael J. Novosel. All rights reserved.
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