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Leland Thornton Kennedy

Date of birth: January 1, 1934
Date of death: December 28, 2003
Burial location: Arlington, VA
Place of Birth: Kentucky, Louisville
Home of record: Louisville Kentucky

Leland Kennedy received his commission through the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. During the Vietnam War, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver O'Mara, Pilot of a second HH-3E of the 38th ARRS involved in the mission for which Leland Kennedy received his first Air Force Cross, was also awarded the Air Force Cross for his own role in the rescue effort. In a mission fifteen days later, Captain Kennedy earned a SECOND Air Force Cross, becoming the FIRST of THREE men (including Captain John Dramesi and Lieutenant Colonel James Robinson Risner) to earn TWO awards of the Air Force Cross. That accomplishment is only exceeded by the THREE Awards presented to Major James Kasler. Kennedy flew 99 missions in Southeast Asia, totaling 354 hours of combat flight time. He retired as a U.S. Air Force Colonel in 1985.

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Captain Leland Thornton Kennedy (AFSN: 0-65194), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving with Detachment 5, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, DaNang Air Base, Vietnam, in action in Southeast Asia on 5 October 1966. On that date, Captain Kennedy, flying as pilot of an unarmed HH-3E rescue helicopter, proceeded deep into hostile territory in attempts to rescue two downed American pilots. Disregarding his own safety, he voluntarily flew through heavy automatic weapons and intense small arms fire to reach the injured airmen. Captain Kennedy succeeded in rescuing one of the downed American; however, heavy ground fire forced him from the area before he could reach the other one. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Captain Kennedy reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Department of the Air Force, Special Order GB-68 (February 16, 1967)

Action Date: October 5, 1966

Service: Air Force

Company: Detachment 5

Battalion: 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron

Division: DaNang Air Base, Vietnam

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Air Force Cross to Captain Leland Thornton Kennedy (AFSN: 0-65194), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a HH-3E Helicopter Pilot in Detachment 5, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, DaNang Air Base, Vietnam, in action in Southeast Asia on 20 October 1966. On that date, Captain Kennedy successfully recovered six downed American airmen. Despite the intense, accurately directed, hostile fire which damaged his own unarmed rescue helicopter, Captain Kennedy, with indomitable courage and professional skill, chose to land next to a disabled companion helicopter and retrieve the crew, plus a previously rescued wounded F-4C pilot. With undaunted determination, Captain Kennedy, then amid hostile fire, sought and successfully recovered the second downed F-4C pilot. This event added luster to the chronicles of heroism recorded in Air Force annals and brought further credit to Captain Kennedy's ability to ignore danger while engaged in the rescue of others. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Captain Kennedy reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Department of the Air Force, Special Order GB-156 (May 9, 1967)

Action Date: October 20, 1966

Service: Air Force

Company: Detachment 5

Battalion: 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron

Division: DaNang Air Base, Vietnam

Silver Star

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain Leland Thornton Kennedy (AFSN: 0-65194), United States Air Force, for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as Pilot of an HH-3E Rescue Helicopter of Detachment 5, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, DaNang Air Base, Vietnam, in action in Southeast Asia, on 16 February 1967. On that date, Captain Kennedy, as Rescue Crew Commander of an unarmed HH-3E helicopter, assumed primary recovery responsibility on a downed pilot when another helicopter experienced extensive battle damage and loss of personnel. Without regard for his personal safety and concerned only with saving the life of the survivor, Captain Kennedy committed his aircraft into a box canyon heavily defended by automatic weapons and small arms fire. As he approached a hover near the position of the downed airman, heavy fire raked the aircraft until fuel exhaustion made it necessary to return to a recovery base. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Captain Kennedy has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Headquarters, 7th Air Force: Special Orders G-740 (May 25, 1967)

Action Date: 16-Feb-67

Service: Air Force

Rank: Captain

Company: Detachment 5, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron

Division: DaNang Air Base, Vietnam

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the Invasion of Grenada

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, 20 July 1942, takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit to Colonel Leland Thornton Kennedy (AFSN: 0-65194), United States Air Force, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Deputy Director and Director, Operational Plans and Support, Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, from 13 December 1982 to 30 September 1985. In this important assignment, the leadership, exemplary foresight, and ceaseless efforts consistently demonstrated by Colonel Kennedy resulted in significant contributions to the effectiveness and success of all programs he was responsible for. As the Senior Battle Staff Director, he was responsible for major planning operations during the Grenada evacuation and successful recovery of a United States merchant ship from Cuban waters. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Colonel Kennedy culminate a long and distinguished career in the service of his country and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: December 13, 1982 - September 30, 1985

Service: Air Force

Rank: Colonel

Distinguished Flying Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Leland Thornton Kennedy (AFSN: 0-65194), United States Air Force, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight on 22 February 1967. On that date, Captain Kennedy, as Rescue Crew Commander of an HH-3E helicopter, voluntarily launched on a night SAR effort near Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand. Although contending with total darkness, adverse weather conditions, and the constant hazard of mid-air collision with descending inert flares, being dropped from above, Captain Kennedy was able to locate and successfully rescue one of the survivors by hoist recovery. With the downed pilot safely on board, he continued his search for two missing crew members. When advised that his survivor required medical attention, Captain Kennedy departed the area with his companion helicopter. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Kennedy reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: February 22, 1967

Service: Air Force

Rank: Captain

Company: Detachment 5, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron

Division: DaNang Air Base, Vietnam