Monday, April 23, 2012

TFH 4/23: Captain Jerry N. Hoblit, USAF

Recently I related the Medal of Honor story of Leo K. Thorsness, an F-105 Thunderchief "Wild Weasel" pilot from April 1967. Thorsness for certain wasn't the only heroic airman in the 357th Tactical Fighter squadron. Four days after Thorsness' gallantry in suppressing enemy air defenses one of his squadron mates showed again the grit, resolve, and courage required from those who fly SEAD missions.

Jerry N. Hoblit was born on September 8, 1936. His service to our Nation started when he began studies at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York in 1954. After graduation in 1958, he chose a commission in the United States Air Force.

He was initially trained to fly the F-100 Super Sabre before switching to the F-105 and being sent fly and fight in Vietnam. On April 23, 1967 the Air Force launched an attack on the Thai Ngyuen steel mill in North Vietnam. The site was one of the few heavy industrial facilities in the Communist north, and it was heavily defended with the best anti-aircraft forces they had. The site had been raided in March 1967, but the target wasn't destroyed.

As Captain Hoblit's F-105 was decoying surface-to-air missiles and avoiding shot after shot, his flight leader's plane was severely damaged. Even though his plane was out of bombs and missiles, he continued to divert fires away from his comrades and then stayed in the area to help cover the rescue of a downed air crew. For his heroism, he was decorated with the second-highest award possible: the Air Force Cross.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Captain Jerry Noel Hoblit (AFSN: 0-49879), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105F Pilot of the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Tuy Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, in aerial action near Thai Nguyen, North Vietnam on 23 April 1967. On that date Captain Hoblit and his Electronic Warfare Officer flew the F-105F Wild Weasel in support of a strike force of fighter-bombers targeted upon the Thai Nguyen steel mill in North Vietnam. Once the flight separated, Captain Hoblit set his element up as a decoy to draw fire from a surface-to-air missile site. After outmaneuvering three missiles, Captain Hoblit led his wingman into a dive bomb to destroy this complex. As he fired his anti-radiation missiles at a second site, yet another site launched a missile and severely damaged the Wild Weasel leader's aircraft. Captain Hoblit diverted attention from the wounded aircraft, narrowly evading missiles fired at him. Despite having expended his bombs and missiles, Captain Hoblit pressed the attack, leading his wingman into a high angle strafe pass in the face of fierce automatic weapons fire; he continued the attack until assured his team leader had safely egressed the area. Captain Hoblit remained behind to assist in the successful rescue of an RF-4C Phantom reconnaissance jet aircrew that had been shot down earlier. When Captain Hoblit finally landed at a forward air base, maintenance personnel confirmed high explosive incendiary rounds of ground fire had damaged his aircraft. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Captain Hoblit reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Jerry Hoblit's was nominated for the Air Force Cross in 1967. His back-seat electronic warfare officer, Tom Wilson, learned years later that the award was never received. Thanks to Wilson's determination that Hoblit's valor could not go unrecognized, the Air Force approved the long overdue award on May 23, 2003.

After Vietnam Hoblit served as a test pilot and retired from the Air Force as a Colonel in 1982. In addition to the Air Force Cross, he was also decorated with three Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. Citations for all are available at the Military Times' Hall of Valor link above.

As recently as October 2010, Colonel Hoblit commented on a book available at Amazon. I believe him to be still living. The 357th Fighter Wing is still active today and flies from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in New Mexico. Their role is to train pilots in transition to the A-10C Thunderbolt II.


  1. James Polsle8:42 AM

    I had the privelige of being in Col Hoblit's 1st Test Sq at Clark AB, PI. At the time I had no idea of the accomplisments that Col Hoblit had achieved. I feel very honored to have served with him. James D Polsley TSgt USAF Ret

    Davis-Monthan AFB is in Tucson , AR

  2. I'm glad you found your way here James, thank you for relating your own story, and for your own service to our nation.

    Please keep coming back!



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