CMSgt. Richard L. Etchberger will posthumously receive the nation’s highest military tribute, the Medal of Honor, from President Obama on Sept. 21, the White House announced last week. (See our initial coverage.) After more than four decades, Etchberger is finally being recognized for the conspicuous gallantry that he displayed in combat on March 11, 1968, when North Vietnamese soldiers overran Lima Site 85, a secret Air Force radar facility in the Laotian mountains. During the desperate battle, Etchberger, a ground radar superintendent, kept the enemy troops at bay with an M-16. His courageous action allowed seven of the 19 Americans there to be rescued, but Etchberger was mortally wounded as he boarded the rescue helicopter. “I wouldn’t be alive without him,” said retired TSgt. John Daniel of La Junta, Colo., who was rescued from Lima Site 85 that fateful day. Although Etchberger was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, the White House at the time declined to award him the Medal of Honor, as it did not want to attract attention to the presence of the clandestine US site in a supposedly neutral country. (White House release) (SAF/PA release) (For more, read The Fall of Lima Site 85 from the Air Force Magazine archives.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.