SUBMITTED November 11th, 2019
Some military awards are handed out like gold stars in an elementary grade school. All you have to do is show up and you can get one…The Good Conduct Medal comes to mind. The Distinguished Flying Cross is not such an award. The DFC is an award of valor presented to airmen who have distinguished themselves in aerial operations. Forrest earned more than one of these during his tour in Vietnam. This is about his third DFC.
The citation for his award reads:
Major Forrest B. Fenn distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial
flight as an F-100 pilot in the Delta Region of South Vietnam on 24 August 1968.
On that date, Major Fenn, using the call sign limit 52, was flying as wingman and pilot
in a flight of two F-100s on a close air support mission.The target was troops in
close contact and an unknown number of active automatic weapons positions When Limit
51 Flight arrived in the target area, a flight of two F-100s were bombing targets
which were in tree lines on both sides of a small canal. The friendlies had already
marked their positions with red smoke and were located 50, 150, and 200 meters from
the active enemy gun positions.
After one of the F-100 aircraft was hit with automate weapons fire , they departed for home. The forward air controller (FAC) , Andy 76, briefed limit 51 Flight on all aspects of the target including the heavy ground fire and the dangerous proximity of friendly forces.
Because it was not feasible to drop the four M-117 high drag bombs on the targets nearest the friendlies, Major Fenn was instructed by Andy 76 to move 150 meters east and hit the enemy firing from a position on the south side of the canal. The exact target position was described, marked with a white phosphorus rocket, and Major Fenn was cleared in. Although the automatic weapons fire continued from at least three positions, Major Fenn, with total disregard for his own personal safety, delivered two 750 pound bombs from 500 feet which landed precisely on the target destroying the automatic weapons position.
On his next two bomb passes, Major Fenn delivered two more 750 pound bombs with equally devastating results on an enemy location just across the canal south of the first target with all bombs expended, he was cleared to move west and strafe the enemy gun location 50 meters from the friendly forces. Because of the seriousness of the tactical situation on the ground, Major Fenn elected to concentrate his strafe in hopes of silencing the guns that were still active in several positions.
On his first strafe pass, with airspeed in excess of 510 knots, Major Fenn fired a burst of 350 rounds of 20MM high explosive incendiary. Andy 76 reported the fire to be “exactly on target.”
During the pull out Major Fenn felt his aircraft jolt with the impact of three hits in the fuselage. One bullet entered the engine accessory section, starting an oil fire which immediately filled the cockpit with smoke. The other two hits were sustained in the forward fuselage fuel tank causing two small holes and a hole “big enough to put a football in.
After declaring an emergency, Major Fenn turned his crippled F-1OO toward Binh Thuy
Air Base 4O miles to the south. A quick fuel check revealed 4200 pounds total
remaining. However, the forward fuselage tank, which feeds the engine, had lost over
1000 pounds in less than two minutes. Major Fenn initiated emergency procedures which
were successful in removing some of the smoke that was burning his eyes. The extreme
critical situation caused by fuel pouring overboard faster than the boost pumps could
replenish the fuel tank prompted Major Fenn to level his aircraft at 6000 feet and
throttle back to reduce fuel consumption.
With 33 miles remaining, the forward fuel tank had depleted to 400 pounds which is 200 pounds below emergency fuel. Although the runway was 4000 feet shorter than is normally required for F-100 operation and realizing that he could not use power required to establish a normal approach, Major Fenn elected to continue in an attempt to save the aircraft. With four miles still remaining, on a straight-in gliding approach, Major Fenn called “zero fuel,” and the engine flamed out approximately 1/4 mile from the end of the runway. He realized it would be extremely close, but decided to attempt a “dead stick” landing to save the F-100. Major Fenn landed in the first 200 feet of the runway and made an approach end engagement of the BAK-9 barrier to insure that he stayed on the short narrow run-way.
The professionalism exhibited by Major Fenn in an extreme emergency situation
not only dealt the hostile force a devastating blow, but also saved a valuable combat
aircraft. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Major
Fenn reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
JOHN S. RIVERS, Lt Col, USAF
Forrest’s handwritten note added to the citation:
The Viet Cong blew up the F-100 that night. So much for saving the aircraft!