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First Name: Joe

Last Name: Jackson

Birthplace: Newnan, GA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Madison

Date of Birth: 14 March 1923

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1941 - 1974
Joe Madison Jackson

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Joe Madison Jackson
Colonel, U.S. Air Force
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Colonel Joe Madison Jackson, born 14 March 1923 in Newnan, GA, was a career officer in the U.S. Air Force and received the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War for a dangerous impromptu rescue operation of three American military personnel.

Service in World War II

Jackson, an avid model aircraft enthusiast in his youth, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in March 1941, in hopes of learning more about aeronautics. Nine months afterwards, the U.S. entered World War II and Jackson was assigned to serve as crew chief aboard a B-25 Mitchell bomber. As a testament to his early flight aptitude, Jackson helped save his fellow crewman by assisting his aircraft's pilot during an engine fire. Soon after, Jackson successfully completed Aviation Cadet Training and became a commissioned officer. He flew a variety of aircraft throughout the war, and ended the war at the controls of a B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft.

Service in Korea and Early Cold War

During the late 1940s, Jackson returned to flying fighter aircraft. During the Korean War, he successfully flew 107 combat missions in the F-84 Thunderjet. Besides being remembered for his legendary heroism, Jackson also made many contributions to military strategy. His accomplishments include:

• Discovering a formulaic method of navigating an aircraft back to base in poor weather
• Developing Standard Jet Penetration, a popular method of landing a jet aircraft with low ceilings and low visibility
• Developing mass transoceanic ferrying flights
• Creating a bomb-throwing method allowing nuclear weapons to be delivered by fighter aircraft
• Planning and directing aerial reconnaissance over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962
• Becoming one of the first Air Force pilots to fly the U-2 Dragonlady reconnaissance aircraft

Service in the Vietnam War

After completing a staff tour in Europe, Jackson was assigned to fly the C-123 Provider over South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. While he flew 298 combat missions during this period, it was his daring rescue mission on 12 May 1968 near Kham Duc that earned him the nation's highest award for military valor.

Medal of Honor

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Lt. Col. Jackson distinguished himself as pilot of a C-123 aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of a 3-man USAF Combat Control Team from the Special Forces camp at Kham Duc. Hostile forces had overrun the forward outpost and established gun positions on the airstrip. They were raking the camp with small arms, mortars, light and heavy automatic weapons, and recoilless rifle fire. The camp was engulfed in flames and ammunition dumps were continuously exploding and littering the runway with debris. In addition, eight aircraft had been destroyed by the intense enemy fire and one aircraft remained on the runway reducing its usable length to only 2,200 feet. To further complicate the landing, the weather was deteriorating rapidly, thereby permitting only one air strike prior to his landing. Although fully aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt. Lt. Col. Jackson elected to land his aircraft and attempt to rescue. Displaying superb airmanship and extraordinary heroism, he landed his aircraft near the point where the combat control team was reported to be hiding. While on the ground, his aircraft was the target of intense hostile fire. A rocket landed in front of the nose of the aircraft but failed to explode. Once the combat control team was aboard, Lt. Col. Jackson succeeded in getting airborne despite the hostile fire directed across the runway in front of his aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson's profound concern for his fellow men, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself, and the Armed Forces of his country.

On 16 January 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Joe M. Jackson the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Also receiving the Medal of Honor that day was fellow Newnan native Stephen W. Pless, a Marine Aviator who, like Jackson, had earned the decoration for a daring airborne rescue operation. Legend states that, upon realizing that both Pless and Jackson were from the same small Georgia town, President Johnson quipped "there must be something in the water down in Newnan."

Life after Vietnam

Jackson continued to serve on active duty in the Air Force for several more years, both at the Pentagon and on the faculty of the Air War College. He eventually retired after 33 years of active duty service. He currently resides in the state of Washington. On 14 May 2010, NBC News highlighted his weekly contributions over 18 years to a local church that provides meals to the hungry.


A stone marker honoring Colonel Joe Madison Jackson is located outside Coweta County Courthouse in Newnan, GA.

Honoree ID: 978   Created by: MHOH




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