Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TOP STORY >> Military Museum plane dedication Friday

A Medal of Honor recipient who survived six years as a prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War will dedicate a fighter jet on display at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.

Col. Leo Thorsness, USAF (Ret.), will lead the ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday in front of the museum, 100 Veterans Circle.

The F-105 Thunder Chief was brought here from the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. The F-105 was moved here last November from Camp Robinson.

The F-105, called the “Thud,” flew 75 percent of the air strikes against North Vietnam during the first four years of the Vietnam War.

The fighter bomber is 67 feet long, has a wingspan of 34 feet, 11 inches and a height of 20 feet and two inches. At full speed, the “Thud” could achieve 1,373 miles per hour or mach 2.1.

Thorsness will speak at the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council luncheon at the Jacksonville Community Center at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History is sponsoring his appearance. Thorsness will sign his book, “Surviving Hell,” which will be available for $20.

He won his Medal of Honor for valor for shooting down and holding off MIG aircraft attacking his wingman and rescue helicopters over North Vietnam in April 1967, even though the F-105 he was piloting was critically low on fuel.

Thorsness was shot down about two weeks later.

He was tortured for the first three of the six years he spent in captivity. He has characterized the second three years as “boring.”

After he retired, he sought prosecution for those he felt collaborated with the enemy while in captivity.

He is actively seeking release of in-formation about 30,000 U.S. soldiers listed as either prisoners of war or missing in action in conflicts going back to the Second World War.