Michael J. Novosel, Sr.
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army
Rank and organization: Chief Warrant Officer,
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
CWO Novosel, 82d Medical Detachment, distinguished himself while serving as commander of a medical evacuation helicopter. He unhesitatingly maneuvered his helicopter into a heavily fortified and defended enemy training area where a group of wounded Vietnamese soldiers were pinned down by a large enemy force. Flying without gunship or other cover and exposed to intense machinegun fire, CWO Novosel was able to locate and rescue a wounded soldier. Since all communications with the beleaguered troops had been lost, he repeatedly circled the battle area, flying at low level under continuous heavy fire, to attract the attention of the scattered friendly troops. This display of courage visibly raised their morale, as they recognized this as a signal to assemble for evacuation.
On 6 occasions he and his crew were forced out of the battle area by the intense enemy fire, only to circle and return from another direction to land and extract additional troops. Near the end of the mission, a wounded soldier was spotted close to an enemy bunker. Fully realizing that he would attract a hail of enemy fire, CWO Novosel nevertheless attempted the extraction by hovering the helicopter backward. As the man was pulled on aboard, enemy automatic weapons opened fire at close range, damaged the aircraft and wounded CWO Novosel. He momentarily lost control of the aircraft, but quickly recovered and departed under the withering enemy fire.
In all, 15 extremely hazardous extractions were performed in order to remove wounded personnel. As a direct result of his selfless conduct, the lives of 29 soldiers were saved. The extraordinary heroism displayed by CWO Novosel was an inspiration to his comrades in arms and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Michael J. Novosel:
Twenty-six years before receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam, Michael J. Novosel flew his first combat mission as a U.S. Army Air Corps B-29 pilot during World War II.
When the Japanese surrendered aboard the Battle ship Missouri, he also piloted one of nearly 500 B-29s that flew over the ceremony.
After the war, he commanded the 99th Bombardment Squadron until its deactivation in 1947, after which he became a B-29 test pilot at Eglin AFB, Florida.
Novosel left active duty in 1949 and went into the Air Force Reserve.
When hostilities broke out in Vietnam, Lieutenant Colonel Novosel, then a pilot for Southern Airways, wanted to return to combat flying. However, due to an overage of lieutenant colonels, the Air Force was unable to accept him.
Determined to do his part in Southeast Asia, he joined the Army as a Warrant Officer and began flying helicopters. On 2 October 1969, during his second Vietnam tour as a "Dust-Off" pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Novosel was flying for the 82d Medical Detachment near Cambodia’s enemy-dominated "Parrot’s Beak" region when he received word that wounded South Vietnamese soldiers were pinned down near an enemy training area.
Novosel immediately headed for the location, only to be met by intense ground fire which forced him away a total of six times. Returning from different directions, he was finally able to complete 15 separate missions into and around the training area. On the last extraction, he hovered backwards into a barrage of fire to keep as much of the airframe as possible between his crew and the enemy. Just as a wounded soldier was being pulled on board, an enemy soldier stood up in the grass 30 yards in front of the ship and fired his AK47 directly at Novosel. Hit by shrapnel and plexiglass in the right hand and leg, he momentarily lost control, but was still able to fly the wounded to safety.
In all, Novosel and his crew saved 29 soldiers during this 2.5-hour mission, ending their day after totaling 11 hours in the air. At the age of 48, Novosel became the Army’s oldest Medal of Honor recipient in the Vietnam War. During two Southeast Asia tours, he evacuated more than 5,500 wounded individuals and became known as the "Dean of the Dust Offers."
Upon his retirement in February 1985, he was
the last active duty military aviator on flying status who had seen combat
duty in World War II.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer Michael Novosel died Monday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after a long illness. Many in the Fort Rucker, Alabama, community said he will be missed.
Army officials named a street after Michael Novosel who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving 29 soldiers during Vietnam War.
Novosel passed away over the weekend after several bouts with cancer.
CW4 and Novosel’s friend William "Willy" Ruf said, “Sad day in a way but good day because if anyone deserved not to suffer it was Novosel who suffered a lot the last 3 years.”
CW4 Ruf met Novosel 30 years ago. They've spent the last three decades together influencing thousands of young aviators and fellow workers. During Vietnam War, Novosel's son was shot down and Novosel rescued him.
The younger Novosel returned the favor seven days later when his father was shot down. They were the first father son team to fly in Vietnam.
One of their flight students was four-star general Richard Cody seen here in between Novosel and Ruf who is now Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.
Novosel was 83. His family and Fort Rucker
officials are working on service arrangements. Novosel will be buried at
Arlington National Cemetery alongside his wife.
Michael J. Novosel Sr., who commanded a medical evacuation helicopter during the Vietnam War, risked his life to save the lives of 29 soldiers in Kien Tuong province on October 2, 1969.
He entered a heavily fortified enemy training area, where a group of friendly, wounded Vietnamese soldiers were pinned down. To attract their attention and get them to assemble for evacuation, he circled under constant machine gun fire at a low level and was forced from the area six times.
After the rescue and as the mission was ending, CWO Novosel spotted another wounded soldier. Although he was successful in this rescue, too, he was wounded while flying at close range by enemy automatic weapons, according to his Congressional Medal of Honor citation.
CWO Novosel, of Enterprise, Alabama, formerly of Etna, died Sunday, April 2, 2006, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., after a long battle with cancer. He was 83.
"Money and power weren't important to him," said his son, Michael Novosel Jr. "What was important to him was honor and doing what was right."
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military decoration.
Born September 3, 1922, in Etna, CWO Novosel was the son of the late Michael and Kate Segina Novosel. He graduated from Etna High School in 1940 and wanted to be a pilot. In 1941, Mr. Novosel joined the Army Air Corps.
"To my father, it was a big deal to become a pilot," his son said.
CWO Novosel was a quarter-inch short of the required height of 5 feet, 4 inches needed to become a pilot, but he was able to pass the height exam through sweet talk and earned his way into the Flight Cadet Training program in Lake Charles, Louisiana, his son said.
He became a bomber pilot and later an instructor.
CWO Novosel was stationed on Tinian Island, Northern Marianas, during World War II and for two years afterward. He flew a B-29 Superfortress as a command pilot during the war.
He dropped bombs over Tokyo and conducted a flyover of the ceremonies on the USS Missouri when Japan surrendered.
Later, CWO Novosel was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and eventually joined the Air Force Reserve.
In 1948, he married the former Ethel Graham, who grew up in Shaler. She was a member of the Marine Corps.
When the Korean War began, CWO Novosel was brought back to duty but did not go overseas.
He later served as an airline pilot and flight instructor with Southern Airways, a commercial airline in contract with the Air Force and Army, in Georgia and Texas.
"When dad was at Fort Walters (in Texas), President Kennedy was assassinated," Michael Novosel Jr. said. "Through the famous words of John Kennedy, 'Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,' my father left Southern Airways to go back into combat."
The Air Force told CWO Novosel it did not have an appropriate position for him, so he contacted the Army. It gave him a position flying a medical evacuation helicopter, or Dustoff, in Vietnam.
He flew his first tour of duty beginning in 1964 and his second beginning in 1969, his son said.
In 1970, CWO Novosel and his son overlapped four months of combat, making them the first father and son pair to fly together in combat, his son said.
"I missed my father so much growing up that I decided to do what he did," Michael Novosel Jr. said. "He is a war buddy."
CWO Novosel retired from the military in 1984 after 44 years. He was the author of "Dustoff: The Memoir of an Army Aviator," which detailed his military service.
He is survived by two sons, John Novosel, of Auburn, Alabama, and Michael J. Novosel Jr., of Shalimar, Florida.; two daughters, Jeannie Vineyard, of Phoenix, and Patti Clevenger, of Enterprise, Alabama; four grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a brother, Frank Novosel, of Anchorage, Alaska.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Ethel Novosel; three brothers, Nick, Josip and Anthony Novosel; and a sister, Anne.
Burial will be April 13 in Arlington National
Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, next to his wife.
Family, Heroes, Knights Bid Medal of Honor Recipient Farewell
By Staff Sgt. Marie Schult, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., April 14, 2006 – Six Medal of Honor recipients and the Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, were among those gathered at Arlington National Cemetery here yesterday to pay their last respects to retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. "Mike" Novosel, a Medal of Honor recipient and former Golden Knight.
"It was an honor and a privilege to pay homage to an American hero who served in this unit," said Army Sergeant Major Mike Eitniear, Golden Knights sergeant major. Novosel was a pilot for the team following his return from Vietnam in 1970.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and tenacity during the Vietnam War. On October 21, 1969, Novosel received word of wounded South Vietnamese soldiers pinned down by a large enemy force. Flying without air cover, he encountered ground fire so intense it forced him away six times.
Despite the ground fire, he completed 15 hazardous extractions. On the last, just as a wounded soldier was pulled into the aircraft, the enemy unleashed a hail if fire directly at Novosel. Wounded, he momentarily lost control of the aircraft, but recovered and flew to safety. In all, he saved 29 men, according to the Medal of Honor Web site.
He took the pilot position on the Army parachute team at Fort Bragg North Carolina, in April 1970, according to his book, "Dustoff, the Memoir of an Army Aviator." In June 1971, while he was on the team, he received a call informing him that he and his family were to travel to the White House to meet President Richard M. Nixon for him to receive the Medal of Honor. Novosel served with the Knights until 1972, flying them all over the country to perform parachute demonstrations.
"Thank you so much for coming," his son, Mike Novosel Jr., told members of the Knights in attendance at the funeral. "Dad loved the team and loved his time at Fort Bragg. I'm honored that the team would travel here today to pay their respects to my dad."
Following his retirement from the Army, Novosel spent a lot of time on the lecture circuit, talking about the book and Army aviation. In all that time, he never wavered in his support of the Army or its troops - not even when he became ill with cancer.
"Even when he was in bad health, he would constantly honor those calls for appearances and speaking engagements," said Skippy Cassel, a former Golden Knight skydiver and Army pilot. "You'd never know anything was wrong. He was really an ambassador for Army aviation. He just loved Army aviation."
Throughout his long fight, he continued to be an ambassador for the Army, and in his last days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, he was an inspiration to the wounded troops recuperating there.
"He took time during his own battle to serve others," Cody noted. "He is the reason we wrote the Warrior Ethos."
The Warrior Ethos is a set of four statements every soldier is expected to live by:
I will always place the mission first.
NOVOSEL, MICHAEL J
Posted: 6 April 2006 Updated: 16 April 2006 Updated: 17 June 2006 Updated: 27 July 2008
Photos By Holly, November 2008