Terrence F. Courtney, Pilot
18th SOS, Nha Trang, Nakhon Phanom, Da Nang, and Bien Hoa, 1972

Awarded Air Force Cross – May 12, 1972

Air Force Cross medal

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Captain Terrence F. Courtney for extraordinary heroism in military operations against opposing armed forces as an AC-119K Aircraft Commander at An Loc, Republic of Vietnam, on May 12, 1972. On that day, while supporting friendly force sunder intense enemy fire, Captain Courtney’s aircraft was struck in the right wing by anti-aircraft artillery fire. Both right engines began to burn profusely with flames training from the wing to the tail of the aircraft. Control of the aircraft had become so difficult that Captain Courtney had to use all his strength to maintain control. He wrapped his arms around the yoke to keep the aircraft’s nose from pitching down. When he could no longer control the aircraft, he ordered the crew to bailout. Immediately after the last man bailed out, the aircraft crashed and burst into flames. As a result of Captain Courtney’s conscious and deliberate decision to sacrifice his own life by remaining at the controls of the doomed aircraft, seven of his crew were recovered with only minor injuries. His courage, gallantry, intrepidity, and sense of responsibility toward his fellowmen overrode any desire or instinctive reaction for his own self-preservation. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and in the dedication of his service to his country, Captain Courtney reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.