Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TFH 6/19: Lieutenant Clyde Everett Lassen, USN

Welcome back, dear readers! After a brief three-day hiatus for a mental reload on my part, we'll now resume the recounting of the tales of American heroes on the anniversaries of their intrepidity!

Clyde Everett Lassen was born in Fort Meyers, Florida early in 1942. On this day in 1968, then 26-year old Lassen flew a Kaman UH-2 Seasprite helicopter from the destroyer USS Preble (then DLG-15, later DDG-46) in a mission to rescue two of his fellow Naval Aviators who had been shot down over Vietnam. Two attempts to rescue the stranded flyers failed due to enemy action, but Lassen would not leave his comrades behind.

On his third attempt, he activated the helicopter's landing lights to guide the two men in, even though it clearly indicated his aircraft's presence to the enemy. For his superior airmanship and indomitable courage in the successful rescue, he was decorated with the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (A-L):


Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, Helicopter Support Squadron 7, Detachment 104, embarked in U.S.S. Preble (DLG-15). place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 19 June 1968. Entered service at: Jacksonville, Fla. Born: 14 March 1942, Fort Myers, Fla. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as pilot and aircraft commander of a search and rescue helicopter, attached to Helicopter Support Squadron 7, during operations against enemy forces in North Vietnam. Launched shortly after midnight to attempt the rescue of 2 downed aviators, Lt. (then Lt. (J.G.)) Lassen skillfully piloted his aircraft over unknown and hostile terrain to a steep, tree-covered hill on which the survivors had been located. Although enemy fire was being directed at the helicopter, he initially landed in a clear area near the base of the hill, but, due to the dense undergrowth, the survivors could not reach the helicopter. With the aid of flare illumination, Lt. Lassen successfully accomplished a hover between 2 trees at the survivors' position Illumination was abruptly lost as the last of the flares were expended, and the helicopter collided with a tree, commencing a sharp descent. Expertly righting his aircraft and maneuvering clear, Lt. Lassen remained in the area, determined to make another rescue attempt, and encouraged the downed aviators while awaiting resumption of flare illumination. After another unsuccessful, illuminated rescue attempt, and with his fuel dangerously low and his aircraft significantly damaged, he launched again and commenced another approach in the face of the continuing enemy opposition. When flare illumination was again lost, Lt. Lassen, fully aware of the dangers in clearly revealing his position to the enemy, turned on his landing lights and completed the landing. On this attempt, the survivors were able to make their way to the helicopter. En route to the coast he encountered and successfully evaded additional hostile antiaircraft fire and, with fuel for only 5 minutes of flight remaining, landed safely aboard U.S.S. Jouett (DLG-29).

Lassen retired from the Navy in 1982 as a Commander. He passed away in 1994 and rests in peace in the Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola, Florida. The two ships involved in the action, Preble and USS Jouett (DLG-29, later CG-29), were decommissioned in 1991 and 1994 respectively.

On April 21, 2001, the United States Navy commissioned the USS Lassen (DDG-82), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, in honor of this great Navy flier. Commander Lassen's widow Linda served as the ship's sponsor. Today, the Lassen sails with the Pacific Fleet from her forward-deployed home port of Yokosuka, Japan.

The Lassen's motto sums up her namesake in three simple words: "From Courage, Life".

No comments:

Post a Comment


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.