Rick J. W.  Graham Back

First Lieutenant Rick J. W. Graham is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight while serving with Headquarters Battery, Eleventh Marines, First Marine Division in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On the afternoon of 22 October 1969, First Lieutenant Graham launched as an Aerial Observer aboard a light United States Army observation aircraft assigned the mission of conducting a photo reconnaissance over Quang Nam Province. Following the completion of the mission, his pilot responded to an urgent request to support the extraction of a seven-man Marine reconnaissance team which had sustained four casualties while heavily engaged in combat with a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force in a mountainous area south of Thuong Duc. Despite extremely adverse weather conditions which reduced visibility to zero on occasions, First Lieutenant Graham established radio contact with the friendly patrol and provided precise navigational and clearance data as his aircraft executed repeated passses over the rugged terrain until he was able to locate an opening in the cloud cover, penetrate the overcast, and sight the beleaguered Marines on the top of a mountain before being driven away by the intense hostile automatic weapons fire. During the ensuing thirteen hours, which included four refueling trips to An Hoa, he completely disregarded his own safety as he provided a continuous flow of vital information which enabled his observation aircraft to be maneuvered in the darkness over the perilous terrain. Undaunted by the hazardous conditions, First Lieutenant Graham expertly mapped flight plans, maintained continuous radio contact with both the ground unit and aircraft on station; coordinated the drops of illumination flares; directed the attacks of supporting gunships; guided transport helicopters into the precarious area to insert reaction forces on two occasions and finally, to extract the embattled reconnaissance team. First Lieutenant Graham's courage, superior professionalism, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of great personal danger were instrumental in accomplishing the dangerous mission and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.