RONALD C. JONES« Back to Honorees
Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Master Army Aviator Wings, and other awards
When Ronald Jones began his military training in the ROTC at the University of Nevada in 1955, he intended to serve in the Army for two years as an officer after graduation. Instead, he served two tours in Vietnam as a fixed wing flier and helicopter pilot, and then served for several years as a distinguished Army healthcare administrator. He retired after 30 years of service.
In 1963 Jones was assigned to the 498th Aviation Company when the Army was asked to provide light aircraft observation for Vietnam. He notes that they had to “fly low and draw fire” to locate the Vietcong in the dense vegetation. On one mission they were hit with a 50 caliber shell that came through the bottom of the plane, just missing the gas tank. Instead, the shell damaged a cable, causing the plane to tilt at a 90 degree angle. To jump out into enemy terrain was not a possibility, but after leveling the plane, Jones finally was able to line up with the runway and land.
After his first tour in Vietnam, Jones was assigned to the Army Rotary Wing Flight School and then an Air Ambulance Unit. After further training and becoming an expert in the use of the hoist to lift wounded soldiers on board the helicopter, he was assigned to command the 50th Medical Detachment (Hel Amb) to organize and train for deployment to Vietnam.
In January 1968, after many dangerous hoist missions, the Tet Offensive broke out. The number of injured soldiers was staggering. Jones’ unit flew non-stop for 72 hours under enemy fire to evacuate wounded troops and Vietnamese civilians. Remarkably, no crew members were lost.
However, nothing tested all the skills Jones had honed like the battle of Dong Tre. Shortly after helicopters dropped off ground troops, the Vietcong surrounded the zone and began firing. Meanwhile, Jones was flying as accompaniment to General William Westmoreland, commander of all U.S. military operations in Vietnam. Knowing that help was needed to evacuate troops, Jones asked to assist. After Jones explained his plan, Westmoreland allowed them to go in. Jones had army, air force, and naval gunfire protecting three sides of the landing area while he entered from the fourth. Under fire in a hot LZ and hit several times, they evacuated the wounded. Jones returned several times, bringing out more wounded. After this mission, Jones and his crew were awarded the Silver Star.
Jones evacuated over 5,000 patients, performed over 200 hoist missions, and logged over 1,400 combat hours during his two tours in Vietnam. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Dustoff Hall of Fame in April 2014. He brings sharp and poignant definition to its motto: “When I have your wounded.”