MSG Fred W. Zabitosky, MOH, (Deceased)
MSG Fred W. Zabitosky distinguished himself by a lifetime of service as a Soldier and Special Forces Noncommissioned Officer.
On 19 February 1968, while serving in the highly classified Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, he distinguished himself in the field of Army Aviation. On that day 25-year-old Staff Sergeant Zabitosky led his 9-man patrol in a mission to determine the presence of North Vietnamese armor deep in enemy territory on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the height of the 1968 Tet Offensive.
They quickly found themselves outnumbered over 50 to 1 and in a battle with a force of four NVA companies.
After a long battle, two Army helicopters attempted to extract the patrol. The first aircraft was successful but the second, in which Zab was riding, was shot down. Despite being badly burned and wounded himself he made his way back to the burning aircraft and rescued two Army Aviators.
For his heroic actions in February 1968 he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
CW5 Karl H. Schmidt, Ret.
CW5 Karl Schmidt’s 46 years in Army Aviation with over 30 years in Special Operations Aviation is unmatched. Karl amassed 15,804 hours in forty aircraft, serving around the world including Vietnam, Korea, Germany, Central and South America, and the Middle East.
In Vietnam, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medals, the Bronze Star, and recorded 840 combat hours with the Americal Division.
Following the failed Desert One Iranian Hostage rescue mission, Karl was one of ten pilots selected becoming a “Plank holder” within the Special Operations Aviation forces. As an SOF Aviator, Karl was a Troop commander, SIP, XP, and lead R&D officer, placing Karl on the “Cutting Edge” for the development of mission equipment packages in use today.
Schmidt was part of Advanced Operations in the Grenada invasion, instrumental during the reflagging of tankers transiting the Straits of Hormuz, and perfected over-water flight under googles.
In 1988 Karl was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission in direct support of a National Command Authority mission that remains classified today.
LTC Charles S. Kettles, MOH
On 15 May 1967, MAJ Kettles learned that a unit had suffered casualties during an intense firefight. He immediately volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1D helicopters to assist them.
Three times he returned to the battlefield with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire that awaited him.
On the final mission, the Infantry Battalion Commander requested emergency extraction. During the extraction, Major Kettles was informed that although all personnel had been reported retrieved, eight troops had been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire.
With complete disregard for his own safety, MAJ Kettles returned to the landing zone a fourth time, alone and without any supporting gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support.
Despite the intense enemy fire, MAJ Kettles maintained control of his aircraft, allowing time for those left behind to climb aboard. In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, MAJ Kettles skillfully guided his Huey to safety, saving the lives of the embattled Soldiers.
COL Joseph W. Eszes, Ret.
Colonel (Retired) Joseph W. Eszes began his 35 year military career in the Marine Corps, followed by service as an Army Warrant Officer and then Regular Army Officer, commissioned in combat. Eszes commanded ground and aviation units at the platoon, battery, troop, squadron, and brigade levels.
Eszes’ Army Aviation combat record is exceptional. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor for actions above and beyond the call of duty on December 9, 1971. The citation reads, in part, “Five times 1LT Eszes braved death in an attempt to rescue his fallen comrades.” Eszes was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for extraordinary heroism.
His awards and decorations also include: The Defense Superior Service Medal; four Legions of Merit; two Distinguished Flying Crosses; the Bronze Star; 56 Air Medals, four for valor; and two Purple Hearts. He is a Master Army Aviator with 3100 hours, 1671 hours in combat.
BG Leo E. Soucek, (Deceased)
BG Leo Soucek was both a Soldier’s soldier and an Aviator’s aviator. He served in the vanguard of leaders who developed our modern Army Airmobility concepts, tactics and organizations.
He tested these with the 11th Air Assault Division, in the early 1960s and introduced them on the battlefields of Vietnam while commanding the 11th Combat Aviation Battalion in 1967-68.
He was the only Colonel to command two aviation groups in the Vietnam War, receiving a Purple Heart for wounds suffered during an air assault operation when commanding the 11th Combat Aviation Group. He also commanded the largest number of aircraft by any Colonel in combat or peacetime while commanding the 164th Aviation Group with over 350 aircraft, providing Army Aviation support to all South Vietnam Mekong Delta forces.
During his Vietnam service, he flew over 3000 combat hours, and was awarded the Silver Star, 6 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 85 Air Medals, and was twice awarded Vietnam’s highest award for valor, the Cross of Gallantry with Palm.