11. The Rescue of Roger Locher
Roger Locher was one of the best fighter pilots in U.S. Air Force history. He came back from Vietnam decorated with dozens of medals and volunteered for a second tour less then a year later. During one of his last scheduled flights, Locher’s plane was shot down, forcing him to eject in the midst of enemy territory. When Locher made contact with a U.S. aircraft that happened to be in range, news of his survival made national headlines.
All over the country, analysts were arguing whether or not it would be prudent to risk dozens of other soldiers (and expensive aircraft) to rescue the stranded pilot. Meanwhile, General John Vogt decided to avoid risking Locher – he ordered all the 119 planes deployed in Vietnam to clear the perimeter and get America’s star pilot home safely.
I said to myself, Goddamn it, the one thing that keeps our boys motivated is the certain belief that if they go down, we will do absolutely everything we can to get them out. So, I didn’t ask anybody for permission. I just said, “Go do it!
– General Vogt