Association of the United States Army

Arsenal of Democracy Chapter

AUSA member LTC (Ret) Charles Kettles receives a Medal of Honor

21 September 2016

moh-obama-1July 18, 2016 Arsenal of Democracy member, Retired Lt. Col. Charles “Chuck” Kettles, received the Medal of Honor from President Obama in a White House ceremony for flying his helicopter into a white-hot landing zone to rescue dozens of  soldiers under withering enemy fire during the Vietnam War.

The White House ceremony was the culmination of a multiyear effort by William Vollano, a volunteer with the Veterans History Project under the Library of Congress. Vollano interviewed Kettles and subsequently launched an effort to have Kettles be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Then-Maj. Kettles deployed to Vietnam in early 1967 as platoon leader and aircraft commander with the 176th Aviation Company, part of the 14th Combat Aviation Battalion in the Americal Division.   On  May 15,  the  176th  dropped   a reconnaissance patrol  into a valley  that was quickly confronted by a heavily armed, battalion-sized enemy force.  In  a  battle  that raged  for hours, Kettles made  several  trips  under continuous fire to bring in ammunition and reinforcements and  evacuate a total of 44 wounded soldiers.

When Kettles  made  his final  trip back to base, mechanics  counted almost 40 bullet  and shrapnel holes  in his  helicopter. “That’s just what war is,” Kettles said. “We completed the thing to the best of our ability, and we didn’t leave anyone out there.”

Obama said the Army’s warrior ethos “is based on a simple principle: A soldier never leaves his comrades behind. Chuck Kettles honored that creed not with a single act of heroism,  but over  and over and over. And, because of that heroism, 44 American soldiers made it out that day.”

Kettles joined the military after   receiving a draft notice  at the close  of the Korean War and served in  post-war Korea, Japan and Thailand. A few years later, when the Vietnam War broke out, he volunteered for service again. He sees his new honor as recognition for everyone who fought that day in Vietnam. “The Medal of Honor is not mine alone,” he said. “It belongs to them as much as it belongs to me.”

“The bottom line on the whole thing is simply that those 44 did get out of there and are not a statistic on the wall,” he said. “The rest of it is rather immaterial, frankly.”

The description of the battle, plus other information about our Arsenal of Democracy member, may be found at

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