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Terry Lee Tonkin

Home of record: Columbus Ohio

Terry Tonkin graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Class of 1971. He retired as a U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel.


Silver Star

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Awarded for actions during the S.S. Mayaguez Incident

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant Terry Lee Tonkin (MCSN: 0-116555), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action on 15 May 1975 as the Forward Air Controller with Battalion Landing Team, Second Battalion, Ninth Marines while engaged in the recovery of S.S. MAYAGUEZ which had been seized in the Gulf of Thailand by units of the Cambodian Navy. While participating in the assault operation of Koh Tang Island, the helicopter in which First Lieutenant Tonkin was riding was hit by a heavy volume of enemy fire and crashed into the shallow water just off the beach. Before impact, First Lieutenant Tonkin was blown out of the back of the aircraft. Despite a dazed condition and painful injuries, he immediately swam to the side of the burning aircraft and organized and directed the movement of the other survivors away from the aircraft and out to sea. Disregarding the heavy enemy fire, he organized a survival float so that each individual could assist one another. As the group continued to receive hostile fire from the shore, he obtained a survival radio and while treading water began to direct tactical air strikes on the enemy's position, persisting in his efforts until the fire was sufficiently suppressed to allow the survivors to swim out to sea where they remained afloat for three and a half hours until their rescue. By his aggressiveness and coolness under fire, he was instrumental in saving the lives of the survivors; thereby upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: 15-May-75

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: First Lieutenant

Company: Battalion Landing Team

Battalion: 2d Battalion

Regiment: 9th Marines