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U.S. Bomber Pilot To Be Recommended for Medal of Honor

Feb. 8, 1963 - A U.S. bomber pilot who gave his life in Vietnam to save his two crew members may be recommended for the Medal of Honor, Air Force sources in Saigon said today. He is Major James Raymond O’Neill (pictured), 40, of Huntington Station, L.I., who died Wednesday. The story of Major O’Neill’s heroism was told today by his co-pilot, Lieut. James E. Johnson of Mary Ester, Fla., who was rescued this morning after a 44-hour ordeal in the jungle. Lieut. Johnson said that Major O’Neill had saved his life and that of the Vietnamese radio man, Dien Chinh Thuong. “He held the plane so we could get out. I sincerely believe he saved my life,” said Lieut. Johnson. It was not known in Saigon whether any American engaged in the war in Vietnam can qualify for the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest. “We’re putting him in for the highest we can get, and we hope it’s the Congressional Medal,” one Air Force source said of Major O’Neill. Formerly, the highest possible honor for an American in Vietnam was the Bronze Star, but in January it was announced that higher honors would be awarded for service there. This decision was seen as part of the recognition in Washington of the dangers that Americans face every day in helping the Vietnamese against the Communist guerrillas. Major O’Neill, a career Air Force pilot, left the U.S. Jan. 12 on his assignment to South Vietnam. He had flown 50 combat missions in Korea, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with clusters.


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