My student cohort held him in awe: We’d been told that he had received an Air Medal during the war for saving a squadron mate’s life, or his liberty anyway. The latter had come off target badly hit and managed to limp only as far as the harbor at Hai Phong before his machine came apart. The pilot had been forced to eject and was floating in his raft a mile or so off shore, when he saw an NVA patrol craft bounding out to seize him. The unlucky aviator was contemplating the austere amenities of the Hanoi Hilton when our CO roared overhead at 500 feet, firing a Shrike missile in boresight mode.
The Shrike is an anti-radiation missile, designed to home on enemy radar and destroy it. The radar-following mechanism is its only guidance system; the only way to hit a target that is not emitting radar is to get very close to it before you fire the missile–thereby placing yourself at considerable additional risk Lex’s CO had taken that risk, destroying the North Vietnamese patrol craft, and making it possible for the shot-down pilot to be rescued by helicopter..
Reading the story, I couldn’t help wondering: which if any of our current crop of political candidates and leaders would–in the extremely unlikely event that they ever found themselves flying combat aircraft–have made the same decision?