Eternal courage remembered
By Senior Airman Amber Russell, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 11, 2012
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
It is Air Force tradition to name installations, streets and even buildings after fallen hero Airmen who gave their life in service to their country. The names of the streets and buildings that make up Joint Base Andrews are shared with those of other installations around the world.
One such building, known as King Manor, will share its namesake with an expressway, which is not on a military installation, nearly 1,000 miles away in Muscatine, Iowa, the hometown of Chief Master Sgt. Charles D. King. What was once known as Highway 61 Bypass, will be renamed later this month after a pararescuman who died trying to save the life of a downed pilot in Laos on Christmas Day, 1968.
King and the crew of Jolly 17, an HH-3E Sikorsky "Jolly Green Giant" search and rescue helicopter, spotted the pilot, who had been missing since the previous day, hanging from a tree by his parachute. The aircraft commander hovered over jungle terrain as King was lowered approximately 100 feet by a rescue hoist.
King freed the pilot from his harness and moved him to an open area. He managed to strap the pilot to the rescue harness and begin the ascent to the helicoper, but soon came under enemy fire. Unable to manuver, Jolly 17 climbed straight up to avoid taking fire as well as lift the two Airmen out of harm's way.
As they rose, the rescue hoist line became tangled in a tree and broke; the two men fell to the ground. King radioed Jolly 17 and advised them to evacuate the area, as he could see enemy forces drawing nearer.
King and the pilot were not found during subsequent SAR missions, and King was officially declared Killed In Action, Dec. 5, 1978.
Building 1600, an Airman dormitory here, was dedicated in King's name June 12, 1979.
The United States have recognized King on five Air Force Bases with dedications of manors, streets and "Freedom Tree" on Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
"King's father, Charles L. King, his sister, and the Muscatine Veterans of Foreign Wars President Darrel W. Miller and his family attended the dedication of King Manor here," said John Deshetler, 11th Wing historian.
During the dedication, the Aerospace Rescue and recovery Service was represented at the ceremony.
"The Air Force helicopter community King served with was tight-knit," said Deshetler.
In an era when guttural instinct to save a wingman's life prevailed over all else; King's actions have garnered him some of the nation's highest awards, including the Air Force Cross, Silver star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Force Honorable Service Award and two Air Medals, one with an oak leaf cluster.