Rest In Peace Brother
Donald Backlund Graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado, Class of 1971. He was Pilot of "Jolly Green 11" during the Mayaguez rescue operations, and was one of FOUR men awarded the Air Force Cross during this, the last combat action in Southeast Asia. As a U.S. Air Force Major, he was subsequently killed in a training accident while flying an A-10 aircraft on August 29, 1979.
Air Force Cross citation;
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to First Lieutenant Donald R. Backlund, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Helicopter Aircraft Commander of an HH-53 Helicopter of the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action on 15 May 1975 at Koh Tang Island, Cambodia. On that date, while engaged in the recovery of the S.S. MAYAGUEZ and crew, Lieutenant Backlund, exhibiting superb airmanship, placed a contingent of United States Marines aboard the destroyer escort, U.S.S. HOLT. He then successfully landed several United States Marines on Koh Tang Island despite intense ground fire. After escorting his wingman to the U.S.S. CORAL SEA, Lieutenant Backlund then returned to Koh Tang Island and successfully recovered a group of United States Marines and airmen although encountering heavy, consistent ground fire. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Lieutenant Backlund reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
General Orders: Department of the Air Force, Special Order GB-583 (July 14, 1975)
Action Date: May 15, 1975
Service: Air Force
Rank: First Lieutenant
Company: 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron
Division: Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand