Bernard F. Fisher

Last updated
Bernard Francis Fisher
MAJ Bernard Fisher.jpg
Born(1927-01-11)January 11, 1927
San Bernardino, California
DiedAugust 16, 2014(2014-08-16) (aged 87)
Boise, Idaho
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch US Navy
Idaho Air National Guard
US Air Force
Years of service1945 – 1946 (USN)
1947 – 1951 (ANG)
1951 – 1974 (USAF)
Rank Colonel
Unit 1st Air Commando Squadron
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Medal of Honor
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Meritorious Service Medal (2)
Air Medal (8)

Bernard Francis "Bernie" Fisher (pronounced Bernerd) (January 11, 1927 – August 16, 2014) was a United States Air Force officer and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. He was the first Air Force member to receive the medal in the Vietnam War.

United States Air Force Air and space warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the fourth in order of precedence. The USAF is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. The U.S. Air Force articulates its core missions as air and space superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.

Medal of Honor United States of Americas highest military honor

The Medal of Honor is the United States of America's highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. The medal is normally awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress. Because the medal is presented "in the name of Congress", it is often referred erroneously as the "Congressional Medal of Honor". However, the official name of the current award is "Medal of Honor". Within the United States Code the medal is referred to as the "Medal of Honor", and less frequently as "Congressional Medal of Honor". U.S. awards, including the Medal of Honor, do not have post-nominal titles, and while there is no official abbreviation, the most common abbreviations are "MOH" and "MH".

Vietnam War 1955–1975 conflict in Vietnam

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war, considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some, lasted 19 years, with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, which ended with all three countries becoming communist in 1975.


Early life

Born in 1927 in San Bernardino, California, Fisher was raised and educated in Utah , calling Clearfield home. He served briefly in the Navy at the end of World War II, enrolled at Boise State Junior College in 1947, and transferred to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 1949. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [1]

San Bernardino, California City in California, United States

San Bernardino is a city located in the Inland Empire and that serves as the county seat of San Bernardino County, California, United States. As one of the Inland Empire's anchor cities, San Bernardino spans 81 square miles (210 km2) on the floor of the San Bernardino Valley and as of 2017 has a population of 216,995. San Bernardino is the 17th-largest city in California and the 102nd-largest city in the United States. The governments of Guatemala and Mexico have established consulates in the downtown area of the city.

Clearfield, Utah City in Utah, United States

Clearfield is a city in Davis County, Utah, United States. The population was 30,112 at the 2010 census. The city grew drastically during the 1940s, with the formation of Hill Air Force Base, and in the 1950s with the nationwide increase in suburb and "bedroom" community populations and has been steadily growing since then.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of US Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 336,978 personnel on active duty and 101,583 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 290 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of June 2019, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

Military service

From 1947 to 1951, Fisher was a member of the Idaho Air National Guard. Before he was able to complete his undergraduate degree at the University of Utah, he was commissioned into the Air Force in 1951. After pilot training, he served as a jet fighter pilot in the Air Defense Command until 1965, when he volunteered for duty in Vietnam. From July 1965 through June 1966, he flew 200 combat sorties in the A-1E/H "Spad" Skyraider as a member of the 1st Air Commando Squadron located at Pleiku Air Base, South Vietnam.

The Idaho Air National Guard is the aerial force militia of the U.S. State of Idaho. It is, along with the Idaho Army National Guard, an element of the Idaho National Guard.

Fighter aircraft Military aircraft designed particularly for air-to-air combat against other aircraft

A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft, whose main mission is to attack ground targets. The hallmarks of a fighter are its speed, maneuverability, and small size relative to other combat aircraft. Although helicopters are sometimes used in similar roles, the term fighter is at present applied only to fixed-wing aircraft.

North American Aerospace Defense Command Combined Organization of the US and Canada providing air defence for North America

North American Aerospace Defense Command, known until March 1981 as the North American Air Defense Command, is a combined organization of the United States and Canada that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and protection for Northern America. Headquarters for NORAD and the NORAD/United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) center are located at Peterson Air Force Base in El Paso County, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The nearby Cheyenne Mountain Complex has the Alternate Command Center. The NORAD commander and deputy commander (CINCNORAD) are, respectively, a United States four-star general or equivalent and a Canadian three-star general or equivalent.

Medal of Honor

During March 10, 1966, he led a two-ship element of Skyraiders to the A Shau Valley to support troops in contact with the enemy. Six "Spads" were striking numerous emplacements when the A-1 piloted by Major D. W. "Jump" Myers was hit and forced to crash-land on the airstrip of a CIDG-Special Forces camp. Myers bellied in on the 2,500-foot runway and took cover behind an embankment on the edge of the strip while Fisher directed the rescue effort. Since the closest helicopter was 30 minutes away and the enemy was only 200 yards (180 m) from Myers, Fisher quickly decided to land his two-seat A-1E [2] on the strip and pick up his friend. Under the cover provided by the other A-1s, he landed in the valley, taxied to Myer's position, and loaded the downed airman into the empty seat. Dodging shell holes and debris on the steel-planked runway, Fisher took off safely despite many hits on his aircraft by small-arms fire.

Major (United States) rank in the United States uniformed services, O-4

In the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, major is a field grade military officer rank above the rank of captain and below the rank of lieutenant colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of lieutenant commander in the other uniformed services. Although lieutenant commanders are considered junior officers by their respective services, the rank of major is that of a senior officer in the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps, and the United States Air Force.

Civilian Irregular Defense Group program

Civilian Irregular Defense Group program was a program developed by the U.S. government in the Vietnam War to develop South Vietnamese irregular military units from minority populations.

Fisher and Myers after the rescue Fisher Myers Vietnam 1966.jpg
Fisher and Myers after the rescue

The rescue at A Shau was similar to an event that occurred on August 4, 1944 during World War II. [3] On that date, Captain Richard "Dick" Willsie's P-38 was damaged by flak near Ploieşti, Romania. After both engines failed, Willsie crash-landed but was rescued from capture when Flight Officer Dick Andrews landed his P-38 on the field, squeezed Willsie into the cockpit, and flew back to base. By remarkable coincidence, both Willsie and Andrews were also involved in the A Shau rescue. [3] Willsie was the commanding officer of the 602nd Air Commando Squadron to which Myers was assigned, and Andrews flew top cover during the entire rescue. [3]

Romania Sovereign state in Europe

Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It has borders with the Black Sea to the southeast, Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the west, Serbia to the southwest, and Moldova to the east. It has a predominantly temperate-continental climate. With a total area of 238,397 square kilometers, Romania is the 12th largest country and also the 7th most populous member state of the European Union, having almost 20 million inhabitants. Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, and other major urban areas include Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Iași, Constanța, Craiova, Brașov, and Galați.

Fisher had earned a Silver Star the day before while flying support for the same battle. [4]

Silver Star military decoration of the United States Armed Forces

The Silver Star Medal is the United States Armed Forces's third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat. The Silver Star Medal is awarded primarily to members of the United States Armed Forces for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

Fisher returned to the United States, and, on January 19, 1967, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson.


Fisher accepts Detachment 850 Distinguished Alumnus award Col Bernard F. Fisher - Det 850 Distinguished Alumnus.JPG
Fisher accepts Detachment 850 Distinguished Alumnus award

Fisher's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

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. [5]

Post-Vietnam service

Fisher returned to the Air Defense Command and flew jet interceptors until he retired to his hometown of Kuna, Idaho, where he lived with his wife Realla until her death on April 27, 2008.

Later years

Fisher during an interview in 2008 Fisher in 2008.jpg
Fisher during an interview in 2008

In 1981, Fisher was a Republican candidate for governor in Idaho. [6]

In 1985 and again in 2005, Fisher was inducted into the Gathering of Eagles program and told the story of the rescue during the Battle of A Shau to groups of young military officers. [7]

On May 3, 2008, Fisher received his diploma from the University of Utah, 57 years after attending classes. He was officially recognized for his past academic achievements and decorated military career. [8]

He died on August 16, 2014. [9]

Awards and Decorations

His decorations include:

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png US Air Force Command Pilot Badge
Medal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg
Meritorious Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Air Medal ribbon.svg
Air Medal with silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation ribbon.svg Air Force Commendation Medal
Combat Readiness Medal ribbon.svg Combat Readiness Medal
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
AFEMRib.svg Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg
Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze campaign stars
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Air Force Longevity Service ribbon.svg
Air Force Longevity Service Award with four bronze oak leaf clusters
USAF Marksmanship ribbon.svg Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
1 golden star.svg
Vietnamese Gallantry Cross ribbon.svg
Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Gold Star
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross
Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon with 60- clasp.svg Vietnam Campaign Medal


Fisher is the namesake of Colonel Bernard Fisher Veterans Memorial Park in Kuna, Idaho; Fisher Park in Clearfield, Utah; the Bernard Fisher Highway, a portion of Utah State Route 193 that passes near Hill Air Force Base; and the Bernard F. Fisher Room, located at the 353d Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and displaying special operations memorabilia. In 1999, a Military Sealift Command vessel, the MV Maj. Bernard F. Fisher (T-AK-4396) was named for him. In 2010 the Boise Rescue Mission started a homeless veterans transitional living program. With permission from Col. Fisher, the Motto of the program is Colonel Fisher's famous quote after he rescued his comrade: "When a man is down, you don't leave him there." The statement is on the wall of the entrance to the living quarters of the River of Life Mission in Boise.

Fisher's damaged A-1E Crashed Douglas A-1.jpg
Fisher's damaged A-1E

The A-1 Skyraider (AF Ser. No. 52-132649) that Fisher flew into the A Shau Valley was saved and restored and is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Douglas A-1 Skyraider American single engine attack aircraft

The Douglas A-1 Skyraider is an American single-seat attack aircraft that saw service between the late 1940s and early 1980s. The Skyraider had a remarkably long and successful career; it became a piston-powered, propeller-driven anachronism in the jet age, and was nicknamed "Spad", after the French World War I fighter.

James P. Fleming United States Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

James Phillip Fleming was a United States Air Force pilot in the Vietnam War. Born in Sedalia, Missouri, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing a six-man MACV-SOG Recon Team, stranded between heavily defended enemy positions, near Đức Cơ, Vietnam.

Air Force Cross (United States) United States Air Force decoration

The Air Force Cross is the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Air Force. The Air Force Cross is the Air Force decoration equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross (Army), the Navy Cross, and the Coast Guard Cross.

Lance Sijan United States Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

Lance Peter Sijan was a United States Air Force officer and fighter pilot. On March 4, 1976, he posthumously received the Medal of Honor, the United States' highest military award, for his selflessness and courage in the face of lethal danger.

William H. Pitsenbarger United States Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

William Hart Pitsenbarger was a United States Air Force Pararescueman who flew on almost 300 rescue missions in Vietnam War to aide downed soldiers and pilots.

Duane D. Hackney Recipient of the Purple Heart medal

Duane D. Hackney, of Flint, Michigan, a United States Air Force Pararescueman, was the most decorated enlisted man in USAF history and the recipient of 28 decorations for valor in combat and more than 70 awards and decorations in all. He served in the Air Force from 1965 to 1991, retiring as a Chief Master Sergeant. A recipient of the Air Force Cross, he was the first living enlisted man to receive the medal, and at the time of its award he was its youngest recipient.

Eugene Peyton Deatrick American test pilot

Eugene Peyton Deatrick Jr. is a retired United States Air Force colonel, test pilot, and combat veteran. He is best recognized for his role in the rescue of United States Navy Lieutenant Dieter Dengler during the Vietnam War. The rescue was recounted in the Werner Herzog films Little Dieter Needs to Fly and Rescue Dawn and the national bestseller Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War by author Bruce Henderson.

Stephen W. Pless United States Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient

Stephen Wesley Pless was a major in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He earned the Medal of Honor as a UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" helicopter pilot for rescuing soldiers trapped by heavy enemy fire.

Joe M. Jackson American military officer

Joe Madison Jackson served as a career officer in the United States Air Force and received the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty during the Vietnam War. On 12 May 1968, he volunteered for a dangerous impromptu rescue of three remaining Air Force members trapped at an overrun Army Special Forces camp. While the camp was still under heavy enemy fire from North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, he skillfully piloted his C-123 cargo plane and rescued the three men.

The Battle of A Shau was waged in early 1966 during the Vietnam War between the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the forces of the United States and South Vietnam. The battle began on March 9 and lasted until March 10 with the fall of the U.S. Army's Special Forces camp of the same name. The battle was a strategic victory for the PAVN in that they were able to take control of the A Shau Valley and use it as a base area for the rest of the war.

Patrick Henry Brady United States Army Medal of Honor recipient

Patrick Henry Brady, is a retired United States Army major general. While serving as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, he received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration for valor.

Ed Freeman United States Army Medal of Honor recipient

Ed W. "Too Tall" Freeman was a United States Army helicopter pilot who received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Battle of Ia Drang during the Vietnam War. During the battle, he flew through gunfire numerous times, bringing supplies to a trapped American battalion and flying dozens of wounded soldiers to safety. Freeman was a wingman for Major Bruce Crandall who also received the Medal of Honor for the same missions.

William E. Adams United States Army Medal of Honor recipient

William Edward Adams was a Major in the United States Army who was killed in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He received the Medal of Honor.

Gerald O. Young Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

Gerald Orren Young was a United States Air Force officer and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Vietnam War.

William A. Jones III United States Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

William Atkinson Jones III was a United States Air Force officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Vietnam War.

Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen United States Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen was a United States Air Force officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Vietnam War.

1st Special Operations Squadron US Air Force military squadron

The 1st Special Operations Squadron is part of the 353d Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base, Japan. It operates MC-130 Combat Talon II aircraft providing special operations capability. Air crews are trained in night low-level flying, using night vision goggles.

George J. Marrett American test pilot

George J. Marrett is a former United States Air Force officer, combat veteran, and test pilot. He is the author of many aviation-related books and articles.

To date, the United States Medal of Honor has been awarded on 103 occasions for actions involving the use of aircraft. Awards for actions that took place in a single flight are the norm, with 74 individual aircraft accounting for 82 of the 93 medals awarded for actions while in flight. Of those 75 planes, 41 were destroyed during the MoH action, while others were lost later. In a few cases the MoH recipient survived while the plane did not. The reverse also occurred: Lts. Jack W. Mathis and Robert E. Femoyer received posthumous awards while their respective Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresss survived, only to be scrapped later.

Dale E. Stovall American general

Dale E. Stovall is a retired Brigadier General in the United States Air Force who figured prominently in several search and rescue operations during the Vietnam War. A member of the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron based in Thailand, on June 2, 1972, he recovered Capt. Roger Locher from deep inside North Vietnam, the deepest rescue made during the entire Vietnam War. For his efforts in rescuing Locher, Stovall was awarded the Air Force Cross, which described how "he willingly returned to this high threat area, braving intense ground fire, to recover the downed airman from deep in North Vietnam.". Stovall was also recognized with the 1973 Jabara Award for Airmanship, two Silver Star awards and two Distinguished Flying Cross awards for other combat rescues among the 12 successful rescue missions he accomplished during his tour in Southeast Asia. Stovall retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General on June 1, 1993.


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates  public domain material from websites or documents ofthe United States Army Center of Military History .
  1. Ron. "Famous Mormons in the Military". Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  2. National Museum of the US Air Force Fact Sheet Douglas A-1E Skyraider at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-17. Retrieved 2014-09-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. 1 2 3 Cleaver, Thomas M. (August 2008). "Piggy Back in a P-38". Flight Journal. AirAge Media. 13 (4): 2228. Retrieved January 17, 2009.[ permanent dead link ]
  4. 1
  5. "Medal of Honor recipients - Vietnam (A-L)". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
  6. The Spokesman-Review - Oct 15, 1981
  7. "Bernard F. Fisher Eagle Biography". Gathering of Eagles. Montgomery, Alabama: Gathering of Eagles Foundation. 2005. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  8. Medal of Honor recipient receives diploma Archived May 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved May 8, 2008
  9. Idaho Medal of Honor recipient Bernard Fisher passes away Retrieved August 18, 2014
  10. United States Air Force Museum (1975 edition)

Further reading