Jan. 24, 1963 - Five army aviators were decorated at a Pentagon ceremony today for heroism while flying helicopters in combat zones in South Vietnam. Donald W. McPeak, 36, of Lebanon, Ind., chief warrant officer, received the distinguished flying cross and air medal. The other four received air medals only. The decorations were pinned on the flyers by Gen. Barksdale Hamlett, Army vice chief of staff. The officers receiving air medals are Capt. Boyd G. Hess, 33, Conestoga, Pa.; John J. Cooney, 40, Marlboro, Mass., chief warrant officer; Lester R. Hunt, 39, Ridgefield, Conn., chief warrant officer, and Capt. Joe D. Underwood, 30, Rush Springs, Okla. McPeak, who has been in the army 14 years, received his distinguished flying cross for heroism in a “particularly hazardous” mission in support of South Vietnamese troops. He was carrying native troops into combat when communist small arms fire peppered his helicopter and wounded his crew chief. McPeak and his co-pilot were hit by fragments. While his co-pilot attended to his crew chief’s wounds, McPeak hovered close to the ground to disembark the South Vietnamese troops and then flew the helicopter out of the combat zone despite the fact that the aircraft was heavily damaged. All the aviators decorated today have completed year-long Vietnam tours.
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