James A. Ayers

First Lieutenant James A. Ayers is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism while participating in aerial flight evidenced by voluntary actions above and beyond the call of duty. First Lieutenant Ayers distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions while serving as aircraft commander of a utility helicopter involved in the emergency recovery of an Air Force forward air controller whose aircraft had been shot down north of Moc Hoa, Republic of Vietnam. After receiving the mayday call on the radio, Lieutenant Ayers immediately departed the Moc Hoa area enroute to the downed pilot, knowing full well that the area was infested with heavy enemy anti-aircraft guns and missiles. Lieutenant Ayers quickly made contact with the aircraft on stations and ascertained the exact location and situation of the pilot on the ground. Knowing the area was very hot, Lieutenant Ayers expertly maneuvered his aircraft to tree top level in order to avoid the enemy gunners. While approximately 1/2 mile from the downed pilot, the aircraft began receiving extremely heavy automatic weapons fire, and the helicopter was hit in the tail boom by a rocket propelled grenade, causing major damage to the tail boom and tail rotor controls. Faced with this situation, Lieutenant Ayers calmly broadcast a mayday message while fighting to regain control of the aircraft. He showed exceptional flying ability by directing the nearly uncontrollable helicopter to a safe landing with no further damage or injuries. Lieutenant Ayers’ devotion to duty, courage and professional knowledge resulted in the safe return of his entire crew. Lieutenant Ayers’ actions were in keeping with the hightest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the United States Army.