John Rendall Braddon, 80; decorated Marine pilot
By Patricia Sullivan
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Wednesday, December 30, 2009John Rendall Braddon, 80, a Marine pilot whose 1964 rescue of downed helicopter crews in Vietnam resulted in the award of the Silver Star medal, died December 11, 2009, of heart disease at Capital Hospice in Arlington. He lived in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Colonel Braddon, then a Major, was maintenance officer of a Marine helicopter squadron and was assigned to pilot one of the rescue units during the U.S. military insertion of more than 400 South Vietnamese soldiers into the Viet Cong stronghold of Do Xa in the country's central highlands.
The April 27, 1964, operation was just underway when a South Vietnamese air force helicopter pilot, Pham Van Hao, crashed and became trapped in his burning aircraft. Major Braddon landed under heavy fire, dashed to Pham's helicopter and dragged Pham to the Marine helicopter, which had been damaged. He then flew Pham to safety in Quang Ngai. The Marine returned to the battle and landed his helicopter to evacuate the crew of a U.S. helicopter that had crashed in the same vicinity.
“We took a lot of fire and our bird had many holes,” then-Major Braddon later wrote. “As I lifted from the zone . . . I noticed that some of the electrical components were not working and there were new terrible sounds coming from the engine component. . . . We determined that one of the 50 cal. rounds had gone through us end to end and taken out the firewall junction box causing the electrical problems. Another round had put a hole in the exhaust system which accounted for the new engine noise. I finally decided that except for some electrical damage and exhaust problems, I still had a bird whose engine was developing satisfactory power, the transmission and drive trains were intact and we had radios, we were ready to rejoin the mission.”
He rescued the crew of a second South Vietnamese helicopter that had gone down, and that crew placed its heavy guns in firing positions at the windows of the Marine helicopter. “Those big guns, firing those big rounds out of the aircraft, bounced my flight helmet up and down on my head,” Major Braddon reported.
His “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action,” flying into concentrated automatic weapons fire, and his lack of hesitation in doing his duty were noted in his Silver Star citation.
John Rendall Braddon was born in New York on October 19, 1929. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1952. After college, he joined the Marine Corps and served a short active-duty tour in Korea. He was designated a Naval Aviator in 1954 and served in the Marines' fighter, attack, photographic and electronic reconnaissance groups, as well as helicopter squadrons. He was an instrument flight instructor and took part in air-to-air missile tests at the Naval Missile Center at Point Mugu, California, and served with the Naval Air Systems Command.
Colonel Braddon served two tours in Vietnam, in 1964 and in 1969. During the second tour, he was operations officer of a Marine aircraft group and commanding officer of a Marine fighter attack squadron.
In addition to the Silver Star, his military awards included the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star and two awards of the Air Medal.
After he retired from the military in 1976, Colonel Braddon became an agent for New York Life Insurance, where he qualified for the Million Dollar Roundtable and was elected to the board of the D.C. Life Underwriters Association. He retired from that job in 1997, and for the next two years, he worked for the Fairfax County public schools, first as a substitute teacher and then as a full-time special education teacher.
He also volunteered for and was president of Mended Hearts, a support group for people undergoing open-heart surgery.
Colonel Braddon was volunteering for the Smithsonian Institution as a docent at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center, near Dulles Airport, when he met Quang X. Pham, the son of the Vietnamese pilot that Colonel Braddon had rescued in 1964. Pham, himself a Marine helicopter pilot who served in the Persian Gulf, wrote about his father and the rescue in “A Sense of Duty: My Father, My American Journey” (2005).
Survivors include Colpnel Braddon's wife of 57 years, Jean Anne Lipani Braddon of Fairfax County; four children, John D. Braddon of Fairfax County, Virginia R. Braddon of Fairfax City, David K. Braddon of Frederick, Colorado, and Tracy N. Braddon of Clifton; a brother; and two grandchildren.
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
- HEADQUARTERS, FLEET MARINE FORCE, PACIFIC
- FPO, SAN FRANCISCO 96601In the name of the President of the United States, the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific takes pleasure in presenting
- the SILVER STAR MEDAL to
MAJOR JOHN RENDALL BRADDON UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as leader of a section of helicopters, attached to and serving with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron THREE HUNDRED SIXTY-FOUR, charged with rescue and maintenance relative to downed aircraft as the result of enemy action on 27 April 1964. On this day, the entire squadron was committed to the mission of landing over four hundred (400) troops of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in an offensive action against the insurgent communist guerrillas (Viet Cong). In the course of the initial assault lift into the contested zone, one of the aircraft was fatally hit and crash landed into the zone. Major BRADDON, without hesitation, departed from his position and flew into the direct opposition of the gun that had just downed the crew he was determined to rescue. In doing so, he had to fly into the contested area as a single target allowing all of the enemy automatic weapons to concentrate their fire on him. Major BRADDON's aircraft was hit and seriously damaged by .50 caliber fire. This did not deter him in his mission as he landed near the dismounted crew. Subsequently, Major BRADDON once again flew his aircraft into the face of enemy fire to land and evacuate the crew of another helicopter which was badly damaged and crash landed in the same area. By his selfless and daring actions and his loyal devotion to duty in the face of great personal risk, Major BRADDON upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
FOR THE PRESIDENT
/s/ V. H. Krulak
LIEUTENANT GENERAL, U. S. MARINE CORPS
John Rendall Braddon 10/19/1929-12/11/2009There will be a service for John on Tuesday, 26 January at 10:00 am in the St. Barnabus Episcopal Church, 4801 Ravensworth Road, Annandale, Virginia. This will be followed by a light lunch, then depart for Arlington National Cemetery at 1:30 pm. The internment will occur at 1500. His wife Jean Ann Braddon, 4320 Forrest Hill drive, #227 Fairfax, Virginia 22030, says any memorial donations should be made to the American Heart Assocoation or to the Injured Marine, Semper Fi Fund.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard