James K. Engstrom

The President of the United States takes great pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain James K. Engstrom for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight while serving with Marine All Weather Attack Squadron 242, Marine Aircraft Group Eleven, and First Marine Aircraft Wing in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On the night of 8 September 1967, Captain Engstrom launched as Pilot of an A-6 attack aircraft assigned a night interdiction mission against a heavily defended rail trans-shipment point northwest of Hanoi, North Vietnam. Despite the lack of radar significant checkpoints and the adverse conditions of flying through darkness over uncharted mountainous terrain in extremely bad weather, he displayed exceptional aeronautical skill as he maintained the course toward the target area. When vital navigational aids malfunctioned deep over hostile territory, he resolutely continued his flight with the use of radar and arrived over the position pre-planned as the letdown point. Descending into the narrow valley, he was warned of enemy radar tracking that was immediately followed by searchlights illuminating the sky seeking his aircraft. Undaunted by the danger from north Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles, Captain Engstrom demonstrated outstanding airmanship as he maneuvered his aircraft through the heavily defended area to release three tons of high explosive ordnance with pinpoint accuracy on the target. When thirty more searchlights illuminated the egress route and missiles were launched to destroy his aircraft as it attempted to avoid the lights, he exhibited outstanding aeronautical skill as he took extremely perilous evasive maneuvers that enabled him to successfully elude the North Vietnamese missiles. Captain Engstrom’s superior airmanship, courageous actions and unswerving devotion to duty at great personal risk were instrumental in the successful accomplishment of the hazardous mission and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States naval Service.