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Flying Cross
Marvin “Buzz” Oates and Bob Dohlkey stand Tuesday in front of a C-123 Provider static at the Travis Heritage Center. This C-123 is the same tail number as Dohlkey’s jet that he flew in the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Madelyn Brown)
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Veterans awarded flying cross

Posted 5/31/2013   Updated 5/31/2013 Email story   Print story

    


by Airman 1st Class Madelyn Brown
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


5/31/2013 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Since its authorization by Congress on July 2, 1926, the Distinguished Flying Cross has been awarded to both officer and enlisted service members of the United States who exhibit heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.

Travis had the distinct honor of hosting two recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross Tuesday. The two service members, Marvin "Buzz" Oates and Robert Dohlke, served in different wars and have different stories, but both exhibited heroism during aerial flight.

Their tour kicked off with a visit to the outdoor portion of the Travis Heritage Center. Buzz Oates was able to view his old aircraft, the B-29 Superfortress.

Buzz entered the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet and went on to fly 33 missions over Japan during World War II.

It was a particular mission that occurred during World War II which earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

When two bombs were engaged to be dropped from his jet at 23,000 feet, and failed to deploy, Buzz had to act quickly.

The two 100-pound bombs were hung on the rack of the B-29. At 23,000 feet with no oxygen and the bomb bay doors open, Buzz inched across a cat walk eight-to-10-inches wide to wrestle the first hundred pound bomb out of the plane, then was able to wrestle the second 100-pound bomb out, said Senior Master Sgt. Terry Juran, 349th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section chief and Travis Heritage Center director.

"Had the plane hit any turbulence it would have ended very badly," Juran said. "Buzz definitely went above and beyond the call of duty. It was an act worthy of receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross."

As the tour continued through the Heritage Center, Bob Dohlke came across the C-123 Provider static, the aircraft he flew in the Vietnam War. Not only was this static the same type of aircraft, it had the same tail number as the aircraft Dohlke flew in the Vietnam War, number 54507.

"The visit to the A/C 507 was very sobering and a little emotional for me," he said. "The smell of combat was still in there and I recognized this immediately as I climbed the ladder."

Dohlke was a flight engineer and flew 914 combat missions for the Air Force and 200 combat missions for Air America. During the Vietnam War, he was a member of the 310th Air Commando Squadron.

When a special forces camp was under the attack of the Viet Cong and in need of an immediate resupply of ammunition, Dohlke and his crew on the plane were able to air drop two pallets of ammo, ultimately saving the camp.

"On the climb out we took intensive ground fire and had to make an engine out landing at a base near Bien Hoa in South Vietnam," Dohlke said.

Though the plane suffered around 160 bullet holes, Dohlke's actions brought everyone to safety.

"I can't help but reflect upon how well the Air Force trained us to complete the mission," Dohlke said. "Air Force crew members are the best trained aviators and really do step up."

It is an incredible glimpse into the past to have a historical figure from the Air Force's past give first-hand testimony, Juran said. To act and talk with the primary source about their experience and contributions helps preserve our history, tradition and legacy.

"It's wonderful to honor veterans, a great privilege to speak with them and have them visit the Travis Heritage Center," Juran said.






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