Stanley M. Zenda

The President of the United States takes great pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to First Lieutenant Stanley M. Zenda for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight while serving as a Pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, Marine Aircraft Group Sixteen, First Marine Aircraft Wing in connection with operations against insurgent communist (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam. On 10 September 1966 while serving as Helicopter Aircraft Commander of the night medical evacuation helicopter, First Lieutenant Zenda launched to an outpost southwest of Chu Lai to evacuate seven critically wounded Marines. Arriving over the area, he directed his co-pilot to assume the controls, as they commenced an approach to the small zone in the face of intense enemy fire and guided only by a strobe light. Although the helicopter’s main rotor blade was slightly damaged by contact with the surrounding trees during the approach, the aircraft landed safely and First Lieutenant Zenda embarked the critically wounded Marines while subjected to constant enemy fire. Displaying exceptional daring, he then extinguished all lights on the aircraft, skillfully maneuvered out of the small zone and departed the area in total darkness. Later that night, he transported two Marines with serious head wounds to the medical facility at Da Nang. Because of the critical condition of the wounded men, who were bleeding excessively, he flew his aircraft at reduced speed and low altitude along the beach with all windows closed. Although his helicopter came under enemy fire four times enroute, First Lieutenant Zenda remained calm and demonstrated superior airmanship, evading the fire and preventing damage to his aircraft. When his helicopter’s engine failed, as it landed on its return to Ky Ha, he unhesitatingly launched in another aircraft and proceeded to Landing Zone Marlin on Hill 54 to evacuate casualties resulting from a Viet Cong mortar attack, which was still in progress when he arrived. Disregarding intense enemy fire, First Lieutenant Zenda courageously commenced his approach and landed in the zone without utilizing his lights. Although the helicopter was damaged by an exploding mortar shell while waiting in the zone, the casualties were embarked and he fearlessly maneuvered out of the zone under enemy fire and proceeded to a medical facility. After extinguishing an electrical fire in the damaged aircraft, First Lieutenant Zenda daringly made three more landings in the hazardous zone, evacuating all the casualties to safety. Throughout the night, he completed five dangerous missions, flying almost half the time under instrument conditions. His courage and steadfast determination in accomplishing the missions were instrumental in saving the lives of numerous Marines. First Lieutenant Zenda’s exceptional aeronautical skill, bold initiative and selfless devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.