Having landed under intense enemy fire, a stranded Air Force combat control team sprints to the safety of Col. Joe Jackson's C-123.
In a baffling display of desk-jockey stubbornness, Saigon ordered the CCT back into Kham Duc to finish their job, despite the fact that nearly everybody had already been evacuated. The team was back in Kham Duc just in time to hear the airborne command post declare the evacuation finished.
Fortunately, the C-130 crew that had emplaced them made it abundantly clear that three Americans were still on the ground. A C-123 landed to pick up the abandoned CCT, but mortar, rocket and machine-gun fire turned the landing into an immediate touch-and-go. (Eight aircraft had already been shot down or destroyed on the ground.) Colonel Jackson, also piloting a Provider, was next in line, and it never occurred to him to say the rescue was too risky. To give the North Vietnamese the least possible opportunity to target him, Jackson used what we’d today call a tactical approach and assault landing, diving from 9,000 feet with gear and flaps down, power at idle, and then touching down short and hard. The runway was blocked by a wrecked helo, allowing only 2,200 clear feet for takeoff, but the CCT scrambled aboard and Jackson was off moments later—as a 122mm rocket landed just 25 feet from the Provider’s nose, but thankfully didn’t explode. For his selfless heroism, Jackson was awarded the Medal of Honor.