- One of five living AF Medal of Honor recipients
- Wild Weasel fighter pilot in Vietnam
- POW Lighter Side and Lesson
- Ethics / Leadership in Tough Times
- Experiences from aerial combat and prisoner-of-war which have analogies for business, education, sports, foundations
- Washington State Senator
Colonel Leo K. Thorsness, Medal of Honor recipient and was a six year prisoner of war in Vietnam and a Washington State Senator.
Citation for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
As pilot of an F-105 aircraft, Col. (then Major) Thorsness was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission over North Vietnam. Col. Thorsness and his wingman attacked and silenced a surface-to-air missile site with air-to-ground missiles, and then destroyed a second surface-to-air missile site with bombs.
In the attack on the second missile site, Col. Thorsness’ wingman was shot down by intensive antiaircraft fire, and the 2 crew members abandoned their aircraft. Col. Thorsness circled the descending parachutes to keep the crew members in sight and relay their position to the Search and Rescue Center.
During this maneuver, a MiG was sighted in the area. Col. Thorsness immediately initiated an attack and destroyed the MiG.
Because his aircraft was low on fuel, he was forced to depart the area in search of a tanker. Upon being advised that 2 helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew’s position and that there were hostile MiG in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Col. Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft defenses to the downed crew’s position.
As he approached the area, he spotted 4 MiG 17 aircraft and immediately initiated an attack on the, MiGs damaging 1 and driving the others away from the rescue scene.
When it became apparent that an aircraft in the area was critically low on fuel and the crew would have to abandon the aircraft unless they could reach a tanker, Col. Thorsness, although critically short on fuel himself, helped to avert further possible loss of life and a friendly aircraft by recovering at a forward operating base, running out of fuel as he touch down, thus allowing the aircraft in emergency fuel condition to refuel safely.
Col. Thorsness’ extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
Awards and decorations
US Air Force Command Pilot Badge
Bluebird-colored ribbon with five white stars in the form of an “M”. Medal of Honor
Distinguished Flying Cross
Width-44 purple ribbon with width-4 white stripes on the borders Purple Heart
Prisoner of War Medal
Combat Readiness Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
Scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe,
flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Air Force Longevity Service Award
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Medal of Honor citation
Air Force Medal of Honor
The President of the United States in the name of the Congress takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor to
Lieutenant Colonel Leo K. Thorsness U.S. Air Force