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The A Shau Valley, March 10, 1966, Rest in Peace Col Fisher, January 11, 1927 – August 16, 2014

Because of Col Fisher’s passing I decided to share with you the story of a model I built and the experience I had because of it. I do not tell this story often, it’s not really about me but what a very gentle man from Iowa did for me once.

I built this model to be included in a display that the Roscoe Turner Chapter IPMS/USA had been asked to provide at the dedication ceremonies of the Medal of Honor Memorial in Indianapolis, Indiana on the evening of May 30, 1999. I started the project on May 1st and it is a combination of the Matchbox, Esci & Monogram Skyraider kits. I used the Cobra Company cockpit set, a canopy made from home made vac-u-form & kit parts and an R-3350 engine from Engines & Things, plus spare parts and cobbled together decals. I didn’t add any bombs, because I didn’t know the load out for the March 10 mission, and I ran out of time prior to finishing everything such as the sway braces on the wing racks, etc. The overall finish is MM enamel Aircraft Gray,which, to me looks nothing like “COIN” gray, but was the color listed in all the references I had at the time. I had tried to make it as accurate as I could with the references I had, and figured I could finish it up after the display was finished.

Though good fortune, I was given the opportunity to attend the ceremonies with several other members of RT/IPMS. Before dinner I was told that Col Fisher wanted to meet me. I found him at my model, and after introducing myself, he turned to me and said “It’s perfect, but you left off the bunny head”. He invited me to sit with him during dinner, told me the tale of the bunny head, about his favorite aircraft, the F-104, and that his strongest memory of that A-1E was that it had the cleanest interior of any plane he ever flew. After dinner, after graciously declining my offer to give him the model. he signed it, shook my hand and thanked me for bringing it and working so hard to get it right. I know he was probably being polite, but that was the most humbling experience in my life.

Afterwards I looked for pictures of A-1’s with bunny heads on the prop, and added it to my model as depicted in the photos I found.

Looking at pictures of this aircraft at the US Air Force Museum, I finally found the bunny head on the red warning stripe at one of the blade tips. I also remembered that he’d said he had to fight with the Museum staff to have it put on, (it’s a commemoration to downed pilot), so maybe there was a compromise on the position and size.

That was the only addition I’ve made to the model, and have left everything else as it was that night.

There were over 100 Medal of Honor recipients at the ceremony, which was the way they described themselves. They said they wore the medal for everyone who had earned it, but had no one to tell the tale. They also made sure everyone that helped put on the event, from the F-14 pilots that made a 500kt flyby at the race, to the waiter’s serving dinner, knew how much they appreciated everything about the whole day and how special it was for them.

Col Fisher’s Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On that date, the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800 foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the battle, Maj. Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Maj. Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Maj. Fisher’s profound concern for his fellow airman, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country. (Wikipedia)

If you want to see other pictures from the ceremony look up Matt Fay on Facebook, he posted several since Col Fisher passed away last week

15 responses to The A Shau Valley, March 10, 1966, Rest in Peace Col Fisher, January 11, 1927 – August 16, 2014

  1. Rick that is an awesome memory to be treasured forever. Col. Fisher was the epitome of a true hero and a legend. Your signed model is a testimony to a true legend!!!

  2. Thank you Morne, you described exactly the intent of my post.

  3. An interesting side note to the history of Bernie Fisher. When he flew that mission, his top cover as he landed was LCOL Dick Andrews, while the CO of the 609th SOS was COL Dick Willsie. On August 5, 1944, Captain Dick Willsie of the 82nd FG was shot down attacking Focsani aerodrome in Romania. Flt Officer Dick Andrews, flying his first combat mission, landed his P-38 in the field Willsie had crashed in and picked him up, under fire, the two squeezing into the 1-man cockpit with Willsie on top of Andrews, and flying on 600 miles to Poltava, Ukraine. The next day the two could not get back inside the cockpit after 30 minutes of trying, though it had taken them something less than 30 seconds to do it on Focsani aerodrome. It was the first piggyback rescue. And it all came around again 20 years later.

  4. A beautiful model and a beautiful story. You captured a specific moment in history and you were able to make the personal connection with someone actually involved in that moment. To Col. Fisher, that was more than just a model, and to have his signature on it is priceless. You have done a wonderful thing. RIP Col. Fisher

  5. a fine thing to do and be a part of

  6. Good to see this again Rick. Thanks for posting the pictures and sharing the story. It’s one of my favorite models you’ve done over the years.

  7. Great story, Rick….thanks for sharing it.

  8. BZ there Rick. Awesome story and model

  9. Thank you for sharing your wonderful model and story

  10. Thanks fellas, I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

  11. Fantastic story, Rick, and a unique model.

  12. I remember when you built this one, outstanding conversion! As usual a great choice of subject, well written and very informative, and a fitting tribute to a true American Hero….

  13. Rick,
    What an honor to meet Col. Fisher and for him to compliment you on the model of his airplane. You rightfully deserve the compliment. This is one of those times in ones life that is so meaningful. This is more than a model, it is a treasure. Outstanding job.

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