Half a Century Late, Colonel Dale is Twice Decorated for Vietnam Warzone Service
Eighty-five year old, Col Curtis D. Dale, PhD, USAF (Ret) of Parker was decorated with the Bronze Star Medal and Legion of Merit, 1st Oak Leaf Cluster, from 50 and 36 years ago, respectively. In Oct '72 at DaNang AB, Vietnam, his commander said, “Curt, I’m recommending you for the Bronze Star Medal for ground work you did here.” He’d already received the Distinguished Flying Cross and 9 Air Medals for combat and aerial actions, but the BSM was rare for fliers. The war soon ended in Feb, 1973. Dale left on the next to last Freedom Bird from DaNang. The US pullout was predictably chaotic, administratively, with vast loss of decoration recommendations, awards, and performance reports. Also, disgruntled, envious personnel sometimes downgraded/falsified and “lost” such documents. The BSM was never awarded; Dale never forgot that it’d been written. Proving it seemed impossible for half a century. Now, half a century later, that wrong was righted. The ceremony was at the French Creek Building of the Church of Jesus Christof Latter-day Saints in Parker. President Ronald Jason Standifird, South Parker Stake, presided; Bishop Kelly Keicher, Ponderosa Ward, conducted. Major General Steve Best, US Army (Retired), presided in the presentation and pinned on Curt's decorations. Leiutenant Colonel Pete Darnall, USAF (Ret), Dale's son-in-law, was Adjutant and MC. District Deputy Director, Mr. D. J. Beckwith spoke and extended congratulations. Dale noted that Beckwith was key to keeping the process on track throughout. In his remarks, Col. Dale declared, “Without the Congressman’s perseverance, I would never have received these.” The BSM means more to Dale than a mere medal; it recalls people he was chief of. He instructed Capt. Art Bollingerin his combat aircrew duties, flying the EC- 47 “Marauder” in Electronic Warfare. Bollinger also worked for Dale in these ground duties. As the Paris Accord Ceasefire came, only EC-47s continued flying. Bollinger and his crew, callsign Baron 52, were killed by a SAM. There were no longer B-52s, F-4 Phantoms or Navy carrier fighters to attack the North Vietnamese Army which kept shooting. Dale’s research finds it was the last US aircraft shot down in the war. As Dale successfully prepared his VA Disability Compensation Claims, his records unexpectedly revealed full evidence and fate of that long-ago nomination. Maj. Gen. Bill Hoover, Wing Commander and endorser, now a keen age 90, strongly supported Dale’s appeal in a powerful letter to the US Air Force.
Rep. Ken Buck, CO 4th Congressional District, placed a Letter of Congressional Interest in the appeal to the Air Force Personnel Center and Secretary of the Air Force Decoration Review Board. That appeal got lost. Rep. Buck included a second such letter in a resubmission. Finally, reaching the Pentagon, the Congressman was told it'd take another year. Rep. Buck sent a third Letter of Congressional Interest: Dale jokingly surmises it read,“ Hey, he’s 84 years old. I don’t want to pin it on his tombstone.” Whatever it said, it was quickly and unanimously approved in April 22.
Colonel Dale flew for 13 years including 3 1/2 years on the edge of space (70,000 feet) flying the WB- 57F "Longwings" in spacesuits. He flew WC-135B,WB- 47E, and WB-57C “Shortwings,” doing atmospheric sampling for nuclear debris in all four. In the year at DaNang, he flew 124 EC-47 Electronic Warfare Missions. In two earlier combat tours, he flew 29 WB-47 combat reconnaissance missions supporting the B-52s "Arclight" bombing missions. Finished his flying in the EC- 135 CINCPAC Airborne Command Post for three and
½ years out of Hawaii. Dale was a Crew Commander in both the Atlas D & E ICBMs (three and ½ years) and Minuteman III ICBM (three and ½ years) at FE Warren AFB, WY. He commanded both Clear AFS, AK, and PAVE PAWS, Beale AFB, CA, both ICBM Early Warning and Space Track bases. Then he was Area Com. of AAFES Philippines and Thailand, Clark AB, PI.
Working with Rep. Buck and his dedicated staff, Dale's second Legion of Merit came to light, an even higher decoration written two months after Dale retired, was mailed, but never recorded or presented. It recognized both his 27 year AF career and final assignment to Vandenberg AFB, CA, as Special Assistant for Space Shuttle Operations, Western Test Range.
After medals presentations, members of the Dale family shared fond memories of their Dad/PaPa Curt and Mom/Nana Pat who have seven children, 12 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren.
We congratulate Colonel Curtis Dale on his service and receiving these long- awaited awards. On this Veteran's Day, we thank and celebrate him, and so many others, who have selflessly served our country.