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Interview with Joe M. Jackson [n.d.]

Unknown interviewer:

Just for our editor, if you'll state your name and the service you were in and the rank that you actually left the service.

Joe M. Jackson:

Okay, I - my name is Joe Jackson - I was in the United States State Air Force, and I retired as a colonel.

Unknown interviewer:

Okay. Joe, where did you grow up?

Joe M. Jackson:

I grew up in Georgia. My-- my family were, were farmers. My father was a schoolteacher out in the country of Herry County [sp?] which is over in Western Georgia. And I grew up there until I was in my teen years, and-- then we moved into the town of Noonan, Noonan, Georgia, and that's where I finished my high school education, and-- from, from which I left to go into the service.

Unknown interviewer:

What made you decide to go into the service?

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, I wanted - I want - I decided to go in the service to-- to learn a profession. All my life I've wanted to be an airplane mechanic, and ever since at least since I can remember - so I decided that that's the only place I could get the experience necessary to become an airplane mechanic, because even though you don't re-- remember it, times were really tough, and jobs were very hard to get.

Unknown interviewer:

And this was what year?

Joe M. Jackson:

This was in 1941, so I enlisted in the, in the Army Air Corps in March of 1941.

Unknown interviewer:

And where did you go to boot camp?

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, they didn't call it boot camp in those days. They called it basic training, and they sent me to Orlando Army Air Field, and-- from there I got the basic things -- close order drill, small arms training-- customs and courtesies of the service and you know, all those basic things that you had to have to be an effective Air Force or Army Air Corps person.

Unknown interviewer:

And when did you decide, or when did the Army or, or Air Force decide for you that you weren't to be a mechanic but a pilot?

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, that was sort of a strange thing. I was - had been transferred to Westover Air Force Base-- in early 1942, because my bomb group was going up there to do anti-submarine patrol in the North Atlantic, and one day a friend of mine was supposed to fly as a flight engineer on a B-25, and he came to me and he says I don't feel well - would you - take my flight? And I said sure - so-- during the flight, the right engine caught fire, and the pilot turned around and asked me - what-- what he wanted me to do - what I wanted him to do -- for the fire - and I said well you feather the engine, which means you sh-- effectively shut it down and turn the propeller so that it-- goes into the wind and doesn't rotate the engine. When he did that, the fire went out, and-- so I got to thinking about it, and I says well, you know-- if that guy don't know what to do when he gets an engine fire, I know what to do when to get it - when you get an engine fire -so-- I'm just as smart as he is - I'm going to go to aviation cadet training. So-- that's what I did.

Unknown interviewer:

That's great. So you-- entered that and--when, when did you officially become a pilot?

Joe M. Jackson:

I entered, I entered aviation cadet training in September of-- 19--42 -- as a matter of fact I just remarked to my wife the other day that-- 3 days ago I left Westover Air Force Base headed for, for my pilot training career, and-- she says - oh, so what? But-- [LAUGHS] anyway, I finished up my training in April of 1943, and was officially rated pilot and commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Unknown interviewer:

Did you go on any missions during World War II?

Joe M. Jackson:

No, I, I did not fly any missions during World War II - I was-- placed in a training position-- where I was-- trained gunners for, for fighter planes and taught them a little about - about the theory of-- gunnery and also I towed targets for them to fire at. And-- so I, I spent a couple of years teaching gunnery to other people.

Unknown interviewer:

Good. Now I understand you-- you flew a number of missions - actually 72 in Korea, is that correct?

Joe M. Jackson:

Oh, yeah, I fl-- I flew-- 107 missions in F-84s in Korea. We had about-- oh, about 10 percent of them was either air to air combat or escorting bombers, and the rest of 'em were interdiction missions or close air support, where we went in and supported the-- ground troops directly. And-- but that's where the, most of the missions were flown.

Unknown interviewer:

What kind of airplane was it, again, I'm sorry.

Joe M. Jackson:

It was an F-84 - a fighter - a fighter jet.

Unknown interviewer:

So you were in a number of dogfights as well.

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, you - about-- about f-- you know, 5 or 6 - some of those-- we didn't get into any-- any hassle, but-- we had about-- had about 10 air to air missions of some sort. And yes, we did - and I, I guess that-- I was one of the-- one of the earliest, when my flight - was one of the earliest ones to engage a significant number of MIG-15s in January of 1951. We were sent up to bomb a train that was on a-- on a siding, and-- when we got there, there was a train, and we were ready for it, but--just as we started to go in and, and make a pass on it and destroy the train, one of the flight looked up and says Oh-oh-- there's MIG-15's in the sun, so we jettisoned our ordnance, and-- went into a air to air combat defensive formation, and that's when they attacked. And there were 16 of 'em-- that attacked four of us, and we were at a definite disadvantage - being at a very low altitude, and the airplane-- the MIGs were much higher than we were, and they had superior performance, so-- we had what seemed like about 30 minutes of hassling with them before we got away.

Unknown interviewer:

Yeah, I've read that the MIG-15s were, were far and a better airplane than we had at that time.

Joe M. Jackson:

Yeah, they were lighter, faster, they could climb-- faster than we could, and they could turn in a tighter circle, but we had one advantage, and that was that we could roll faster. And-- we could use that tactic to get away from 'em.

Unknown interviewer:

Let's move forward - I have one more question about this - was your training for actual combat - do you feel that you were well-trained?

Joe M. Jackson:

Would you repeat the question?

Unknown interviewer:

Did you feel your training - you were well-trained for actual combat.

Joe M. Jackson:

Oh, I, I felt I was-- well-trained for actual combat, even though I hadn't participated in it. We had a-- a book called the tactil--Tactical Doctrine, and it outlined all of the basic maneuvers and the, the-- types of maneuvers that you'd have to use to overcome a certain sort of an, an attack, and that's -and we - we had practiced that in training quite a bit, so-- and it does work, so as--evidenced by what happened to us.

Unknown interviewer:

Okay, let's move ahead - now you've stayed in and you went to Vietnam. Is that right?

Joe M. Jackson:

Would you say that again please?

Unknown interviewer:

You stayed in, in the Air Force and you went to Vietnam.

Joe M. Jackson:

Yeah. Mm-hm. Yeah, I stayed in the Air Force and went to Vietnam in 1967.

Unknown interviewer:

And what was your role in Vietnam?

Joe M. Jackson:

My first role in Vietnam was as a pilot in a C-123 aircraft for the 311th Air Commandoes Ska-- Squadron. Later that year, I - after I had been there for several months-- I took over as commander of a detachment of 8 [?] C-123s at Da Nang Air Force Base - at Da Nang Air Base, and-- flew support, cargo support for the-- air fields in northern First Corps.

Unknown interviewer:

Now-- tell me a little bit about the actions that took place that led up to your Medal of Honor.

Joe M. Jackson:

The first thing was that-- I wasn't scheduled for anything unusual that day. I was supposed to fly a normal, routine cargo mission from Da Nang Air Base, northward along the coast, up to-- the-- airfield Dong Ha [sp?] which is just below the demilitarized zone, back down the coast, and w-- down as far as Quin Yon [sp?] and then back into Da Nang. Well, when I got to Chu Lai [sp?] which is an airbase-- by the Marines-- is about 50 miles southeast of Da Nang, I was - it was about noon, so I got a recall to return to Da Nang for a special mission, and when I got back there at just a little after noon-- we grabbed a sandwich, got a special intelligent briefing, got refueled and so forth, and we were told that the special forces camp at Kam Duc [sp?] was being overrun by a superior North Vietnamese force. We-- the entire crew-- drew flak vests, because we normally did not fly with them--the co-pilot and I drew extra ammnunition for our service revolvel [sic] - the two enlisted crew-- checked out carbines and-- several clips of ammunition, and-- we took off for Kam Duc. We got to Kam Duc--

Unknown interviewer:

This is still in a transport plane?

Joe M. Jackson:

Yeah. This is - C-123 -- and-- we were supposed to help with the evacuation of Kam Duc, because it was - was being overrun. When we arrived in the area, we checked in with the Airborne Command Post, and it - this was a C-130-- the purpose of it was to control air traffic that - in the air and to-- put 'em into Kam Duc in an orderly fashion so that they could pick up the survivors and bring 'em out of there. Well, when we checked in with the Airborne Command Post, they told us to go down to the southwest, to the field and orbit at 9,000 feet, and they would call us when they were ready for us, because they had-- several airplanes-- in front of us. So we did. And-- I'm going to stop right there and-- I want to tell you what has happened for the-- couple of days before that. Kam Duc had a satellite base a little further south, and the purpose of that satellite base was to gather intelligent -- because they could see directly across the river, over into Laos, and see the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and they could spy on-- the movement of m-- men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. And-- and they could report that intelligence back into Mac-V headquarters. Well, it was on the 9th of May of-- '68 that a patrol from this satellite base-- ran into a North Vietnamese patrol, and they had a little firefight, and one of the North Vietnamese soldiers was captured. During interrogation, the-- soldier revealed that-- there was a huge North Vietnamese force that was - had the intention of overrunning Kam Duc in the next few days. When that information was-- relayed back to Kam Duc, they were instructed to evacuate and come back into Kam Duc-- which they tried to do, but they ran into an ambush and were driven back into their satellite base. Then they went south instead of north, and from a hilltop they were picked up by helicopter and brought back into Kam Duc. Well, on the-- when the information got back to Mac-V-- Mac-V-- to General Westmoreland decided he's going to reinforce Kam Duc and try to hold it. So he put in a battalion of soldiers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Nelson, and-- he - when he got there, he put out-- seven outposts around the base to keep him informed of what was going on, and this was on the -- on the evening-- and - of-- of the 10th-- of M-- May. Well, during the night of the 10th and 11th, all seven outposts were overrun, and most of the men were either killed or captured, bu-- a few did make it back into the main camp. But not very many. The next day, the 11th, the fighting really intensified, and in the afternoon, late in the afternoon, Mac-V headquarters decided that they can't hold this base any longer - that they're going to have to evacuate beginning the next morning. Well, early in the morning-- the-- fog had settled over the valley, and they - no one could get in or out-- because of the fog, and as the fog began to lift gradually-- some--transport went in and s-- started the evacuation. But the anti-aircraft fire was very intense, and during that morning, there was-- several airplanes shot down - it was a couple of helicopters shot down, one of which crashed right in the middle of the runway and burned. An A-1 was shot down just off the base. A pilot bailed out and was rescued by helicopter sometime later. There was a transport that was on final approach and had, had one of its main-- wheel tires shot out, plus-- the right wing was riddled with small arms fire, and-- with that flat tire it was unable to get off the ground with the load on it. And-- so they went back to the parking spot, and they started chopping that tire off with bayonets and fire axes, and-- it-- during this time there was an observation plane on-- shot down, and it sort of crash-landed on the base. It had, had about 6 feet of its right wing was shot off and-- the - had, had no control except--rudder and power. But he did get it on the ground okay, and-- A little while later, because of the loss -ev-- oh, a couple of fighters were shot down too - they were hit pretty hard, and as they were trying to make it back to a friendly base, they, they crashed and the pilots bailed out. As this was happening, and because of the heavy loss of airplanes, they decided to call off the evacuation. So - right after they called off the evacuation, these guys got this tire cut off the transport, and they decided that they were going to leave, so-- they took the pilot of the-- no, they took the-- air liaison officer, who was a r-- brand new guy in there-- as a representative of the Air Force to the Army. They took him, and the O-2 pilot took his place, because the O-2 pilot had been there in that area for a long time, and he knew it very well. So he's - he was - he was taking the place of the-- air liaison officer. And they took the combat control team which was supposed to control the traffic after it was on the ground, and communicate back and forth with the Airborne Command Post and whatever. And-- they took the Combat Control Team and took 'em out of there with the airplane - they took a - took along with them a few-- of the dependents of the South Vietnamese forces. Well-- as they got back and went back into Ton-- Camron Bay [sp?] the fighting really intensified, just-- before noon, and it was decided that no, we can't hold this base any longer. We must continue the evacuation. And so that's when I had gotten my recall from the base at Chu Lai. So-- that's what had happened, and we were orbiting-- to wait our turn. The first C-130 that went in to land there-- had-- had-- all 4 of its engines shot out while he was on the final approach, and he lost his hydraulic system, but was able to get it on the ground. The airplane ran down the runway and it ran through this - remains of this old helicopter that had been shot down and crashed in the middle of the runway. Right after that, it ran off the runway and ran through a ditch, and it-- wrecked the fuselage and-- could never fly again anyway. The, the crew got out safely and were evacuated. The second airplane that went in to land took on a load of somewhere between 150 and 200 persons-- most of which were the--dependents of the South Vietnamese soldiers that were in there with the Americans, plus some of the American wounded, and then some--they took off - and right after takeoff they were shot down-- the airplane-- crashed and burned and, and all on board were lost. The third airplane, a C-130 that went in was--had took on a load of evacuees, but it came under heavy mortar attack and small arms fire and-- they, they were able to get off - get off the ground okay with a-- substantial load of people, but-- when they got back to their home base they, they counted more than a thousand holes in the airplane. And so, I don't know what happened to that airplane, but it was just about totally wrecked. And about that time, a person who later became a friend of mine was in an 02 and he was orbiting just off the base to the east. And he decided to take control of what was going on there and try to help the transports get in and out of there without so much damage. So, he started coordinating fighter attacks with the approaching landing of transports, so that as a transport came in and was getting near landing, he would have the fighters lay down ordnance on both sides of the runway to keep the heads of the bad guys down. And it started working pretty good. They did continue to pick up damage, but not to the same level that had been occurring before. So, they were getting along pretty well with evacuation. It's getting late in the afternoon.

Unknown interviewer:

Are you still circling?

Joe M. Jackson:

And I was still circling, but my orbit had gotten further and further to the north and so that I'm now circling part of the airfield and watching all of this going on down below. And a C130 landed late in the afternoon and let the combat control team off, because when they resumed the evacuation, because of the attack, they said, we got to send this combat control team back in to control the activities on the ground. Well, the airplane that let the -- brought the combat control team back in to the base. They jumped off and ran for the bunkers. A few survivors got on board. Then the transport came under heavy attack from all sides and he took off and left the three combat controllers on the ground. And he took off and reported to the airborne command post that he had picked up the last of the survivors. And the airborne command post called the fighters and said, okay, fighters, you go in and destroy the camp, so that the --whatever is there can't fall into the hands of the enemy. So, they were going in to do that, when the pilot called and said, no, no, he had just left three men in combat control team off the airplane. So, they called that off, sent an observation plane down to see if they could locate them and they weren't able to. Then asked a C123 pilot that was ahead of me to go in and take a look, approach and land and see if he could draw them out of hiding. Well, he went in and landed and I watch his approach coming in off the jungle from the southwest. And by this time it's getting pretty dark, thunder clouds all over the place and the weather was really deteriorating badly. So, he was making his approach and even at 9,000 feet I could see tracers coming out of the jungle aimed at his airplane. And as soon as he touched down, there was -- he came under heavy attack from both sides of the runway. But he touched down, rolled down the runway and he didn't see anybody right offhand. So, he came under this heavy attack from both sides and he applied the power and went around. But as he was lifting off and too late to stop, he saw these three guys running out of the bunker and they -- towards the runway. And they dived into a ditch right alongside the runway. But he had been there longer than I had and was low on fuel and so he said he had seen them and he described where they were. And I was looking out the window and I could -- I could - I knew exactly where they were, because I could pick out the place that he described. And we watched the plane leave to make sure that he got out without getting shot down. And then the airborne command post called and asked if it was any -- anyone in the vicinity that could go in and take those guys out. And you know, we were the logical ones to do it, because I knew where they were. And so we called and said, Roger, we're going in. And from 9,000 feet, I started a extremely steep landing approach. We call it an assault landing approach, where it had full flaps down to cause as much drag as possible, put the landing gear out to increase the drag, put the propellers in flat pitch, so that that would hold us back, and pitched over. And I don't know how -- how fast we were descending, what the rate was, but I know my air speed was right at the maximum for that configuration, which was 135 knots and the rate of descent had hit the limit on the instruments. So, I don't know how fast we were going down. At -- from 9,000 feet, I lost all of that altitude in a 270 degree turn. I rolled out on the finall approach about --just about 1,000 feet from the end of the runway and way able to touch down within the first 100 feet of the runway. I had already briefed the crew that I was -- was not going to reverse the propellers to stop quicker, b c to do so would shut down the two auxiliary jets. They would shut down automatically when you reversed the propellers to keep from getting foreign object damage from dust and stuff that's blown up by the reverse propellers. So, I says, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to stop using the brakes only, because I don't want to take time to restart the jets.

Unknown interviewer:

Were you [..?..] [SOUND CUT] END OF TAPE SIDE A BEGIN TAPE SIDE B [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unknown interviewer:

So, start from the point in which you've already circled around and you're ready for your approach and you're talking to the guys about the propellers.

Joe M. Jackson:

Yeah. I told the guys I'm not going to reverse the propellers, because to do that would shut down the auxiliary jet engines. And I didn't want to take time to restart them. And I said, we're not going to be on the ground very long. And so, I was the luckiest guy in the world. I was able to touch down in the first 100 feet and able to stop that airplane exactly opposite the three guys that were in the ditch. And they started running out toward the airplane. And I was going to turn and point the back gate to them so that they could come right out of the ditch and right into the back of the airplane, but they starte running before I got stopped and so I had to stop and let them do the maneuvering to get in the rear of the airplane. So, at any rate, they belly-flopped on board the airplane and, as they're -- as they're getting on board, I'm looking back to see when they got on board. And the co-pilot called out, oh, my God, look at that. And 122 millimeter rocket had been fired directly towards the airplane and it skidded down the runway and broke in half and stopped right immediately in front of the nose wheel of the airplane, I mean, really, really close. It didn't go off. So, again, I was the luckiest guy in the world, I guess. So, when the loadmaster called that they're all on board, then I applied the power to the recips and the co-pilot ran up the jets because they are controlled differently than the recips. So, I ran up the recips with the throttle and he toggled the jets up, taxied around that rocket and back onto the runway and took off in the opposite direction. And as I was taking off, automatic weapons and small arms fire was directly in front of me and probably behind me, as well, from both sides of the runway. And we got off the ground and as -- but just as we had left that parking spot, the spot where we were parked, that spot erupted with mortar fire. They had just had time to load in some rounds in the tubes and lob them over there. Well, that place erupted with mortar fire. And we got off the ground safely and went on back to Da-nang Air Base. And there's a little side light to that. There's a guy named Keith Ferris that painted a portrait, a picture of what he thought the action was there at Cam Duk[?] that afternoon. And he sent me a slide and wanted a critique on whether it was accurate or not. And so, I looked at it and wrote him back and said, yeah, it appears to be accurate. And I gave him some minor changes. And so, he -- had I also told him that -- but you know, with the actual layout of those airplanes, the 02 that had been shot down, the helicopter on the runway and the C130 that was wrecked right there, I said the orientation of the C123 I was flying was not correct. Well, he told me that he had to take a little artistic liberty here to get all the action in. And I said, well, okay, you take all the artistic liberty you want to, but I'm not going back and pose for that picture again. So, we had a little chuckle over that. Anyway, he named his picture the Miracle at Cam Duk. And a little later on, I was talking with Keith and he said, really, you know, there were two miracles there that afternoon. One is that you were able to get in and get out safely. And the other one is there was not a single bullet hole in your airplane.

Unknown interviewer:

Wow. That's amazing. Tell me, when did you hear about that you were up for the Medal of Honor? Where were you?

Joe M. Jackson:

I was told that I was being considered for the Medal of Honor about a month later. And I lived in a air-conditioned trailer there at Da-nang. And the reason I had an air-conditioned trailer was that all of the commanders from the transport group there in Vietnam would come through there going on rest and recuperation leave and they wanted a nice, cool place to sleep, because it got really, really hot there and miserable. So, I was lucky. I had a -- and the vice wing commander of the 315th wing was -- had some through there that night. And he was headed for Hong Kong. And he was staying in my trailer. And so, we were having a -- we were having a drink together and he said, he -- the phone rang. And he was closer than I was. He picked it up and answered the phone. And you know, all he said was, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, bye. And so, shortly after that, we're going to have another drink, but I didn't have any more ice. So, I said, excuse me, I want to go over here and -- at club and get some more ice. Okay. So, when I came back, he was gone. When he came back, he said, well, I don't know I'm supposed to tell you this or not, but you're being recommended for the Medal of Honor for the action at Cam Duk. I was -- I was really flabbergasted. I had no idea that such a thing would occur. Sometimes later, it was, let's see, the award was made in January of '69 by President Johnson. And later that year at the Air Force convention, which was being held in Washington, D.C., I was in the exhibit room where all the manufacturers come in and display their wares. General Westmoreland was there and he came over to me and he said --congratulated me, and he said, I just want to let you know that I was the guy that did the initial recommendation for you to receive the Medal of Honor. And I -- of course, I thanked him very profusely, because that was an extremely high honor, you know. To me, having the Medal of Honor is absolutely the last word.

Unknown interviewer:

[..?..] there. What were you thinking when they gave you -- they actually didn't give you the order. They just said, who wants to go down? I mean, you've already seen three or four aircraft either get shot down from trying to get out or to crash-land down there. Now they're telling you we need somebody else to go down. What are you thinking?

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, you know, I don't know, but the decision to do it was rather spontaneous, but I think maybe it had roots back since I was a kid. You know, when I became -- when I was about 11 or 12 years old -- I've forgotten exactly when -- I began a Christian. And one of the things that was taught to me by my mother and the minister was that, regardless, you always do the right thing. Always do the right thing. And I've not always been successful in doing it, but I, you know, I've tried. And I think maybe that's probably when the decision was made to go down, even though it was many, many years later, I just felt that that was the right thing to do. And I have a little philosophy about how can you tell what the right thing to do is? And so, that's -- my philosophy is that of all the options that you have available, if you select the one you most would not like to do, that's probably the right thing to do. So, I try to use that as a criteria for making those decisions.

Unknown interviewer:

When you were awarded the Medal of Honor by President Johnson, did he say anything in particular that you remember?

Joe M. Jackson:

Yeah, he said, believe it or not, there was another guy, and there were four of us that was awarded that afternoon or that morning. And he said something about the must -- said, Joe Jackson and Steve Pless are from the same little town down in Georgia. And he says there must be statement in the water down there that causes this to happen. And at that time, I guess my hometown was --had a population of around 10,000 people. And that's an extremely rare event for two people, same day, same small town like that. That's just almost unheard of.

Unknown interviewer:

Absolutely.

Joe M. Jackson:

There's another unusual thing about that action there. And that is that the -- during that time when there were -- when I was actually stopped on the runway and the three men were running towards the airplane, a reconnaissance airplane made a photograph of the action as it was happening. And that's the only known photograph of an incident that resulted in the award of the Medal of Honor that ever occurred.

Unknown interviewer:

It's amazing. Do you have a copy of that?

Joe M. Jackson:

I have a copy at home. And a lot of people have, you know, have asked for copies and I have a copy made and give to them. I don't know where it came from. I don't know who made the photograph or who sent it to me, but I did get a copy of it.

Unknown interviewer:

We may ask you for it at some point, so that we can use it as part of the film.

Joe M. Jackson:

Okay.

Unknown interviewer:

That would be great. How has the receiving this award impacted your life?

Joe M. Jackson:

When you receive the Medal of Honor, your life changes and it changes dramatically, because whether you like it or not, you're automatically a role model from -- for every kid in the whole nation. The general population, they expect you to be absolutely precise and be at their beck and call for anything that they want for you, for you to do. They want you to -- you get thousands of requests for autographs and photographs, to the point that it gets kind of ludicrous on occasions. One of the toughest things, though, I think is that you're expected -- and it's a good thing -- we'd like to represent the thousands of Americans who have served their country and have never received recognition for it. So, in effect, our thoughts, my thoughts are anyway that we represent all of those people and they've made some tremendous sacrifices. So, I have to represent them the very best that I can. And that's a tough job, tell me. I'll tell you.

Unknown interviewer:

I've heard that from other recipients, that it's one of the most difficult things to do, which is it's a great responsibility, as well.

Joe M. Jackson:

Yes, it is a great responsibility to represent -- and represent them with dignity, as well. You don't represent them in a beer hall or anything like that. You have to make them proud of what you have done and what they have done.

Unknown interviewer:

Do you talk to school children a lot? Do you go around to -- to high schools and colleges and talk ?

Joe M. Jackson:

I go around to a lot of schools and talk to the kids and I have a lot more requests than I'm able to fill. I've talked to college students, ROTC students, high school, junior high schools, elementary schools, although the elementary school kids don't seem to grasp the significance of it as much as junior high and high school kids. And fortunately, once in a while, you can see that you're having some impact on their lives, and hopefully it'll last for a long time and maybe even influence their growing up.

Unknown interviewer:

What do you tell them about the medal, about the country, about serving?

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, I tell them basically that you can be anything you want to. It's a matter of your choice. You can choose to be a druggie if you want to be. You can choose to be an upstanding citizen. You can choose to honor your country and honor your flag, or you can go the other way and choose not to honor the flag and be a bad citizen and so forth. It's your choice. You know, there's thousands of choices out there, and it's up to you. And if you have a good attitude, you make the right choices, you'll certainly be a success in life, at least well respected. But with this also comes a responsibility, because you're responsible for your actions. When you make those choices, you then become responsible for those choices. And it takes a lot of courage to do that. And the funny thing about courage is that the more you exercise it, the more you get. So, it comes easier. The more you exhibit courage in doing something, the more courage you'll have to do better things.

Unknown interviewer:

What lessons does your experience and the others -- the other recipients have that you'd want to convey to the next generation?

Joe M. Jackson:

Say that again?

Unknown interviewer:

What -- what lessons would you like the next generation to take from the fact that, you know, from your experiences?

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, I'd like for the next generation to realize that they should make a decision early in their life just what their objectives in life are going to be. And they should direct their efforts towards achieving those objectives. And even though it may be distasteful, you have to show the courage to follow through and to do those things. And you got to have an ideal and you got to have faith in what you're doing.

Unknown interviewer:

How -- how much does faith play in your life?

Joe M. Jackson:

Quite a bit. I'm a regular churchgoer. I believe in God and Christ and so forth and have all my life. And that's -- I think that's a major that has influenced my thoughts to always do the right thing. As a matter of fact, I know that's it.

Unknown interviewer:

Okay, I think -- let me just see if I've missed anything here. If you could put this as a milestone in your life, where would you put the Medal of Honor?

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, if you -- if you put it as a point of change, it would be right up there number one position. I suppose -- no, number two position. Number one would be point in my life when I became a Christian. But there are other things that I've done in the military that I've -- that I feel maybe had a significant impact on what's happened in this country. One was the Cuban missile crisis, as I described -- we talked about before. That had a rather profound effect on this country, because we came so close to a nuclear war at that time. A lot of people don't realize it, but we were awfully close. Another thing that maybe I contributed was the -- when I was a young person, flying, I was able to develop a special instrument let-down procedure for the early jet fighter airplanes that didn't have much fuel in them, to get down in really bad weather. And this would expedite their descent and landing, rather than following the old clumsy radio range approach into air fields. And so, it worked out pretty good. And it was adopted by the Air Force and was used for - by the Air Force for penetration and landing in bad weather. And as a matter of fact, I think it's still being used today. And that was over 50 years ago.

Unknown interviewer:

Bet you wish you had a patent on that one?

Joe M. Jackson:

Well, I suppose I would like to have a patent. But I think the reward I get for it was that I was able to help people, you know, and I wasn't looking for any -- any monetary reward for it. But it worked by well.

Unknown interviewer:

Is there anything that I should have asked you about -- about the award or about your actions that I didn't?

Joe M. Jackson:

Say it again.

Unknown interviewer:

Is there anything that I should have asked you that I didn't about the award or about the --your feelings for this country or --

Joe M. Jackson:

Oh, I don't know. I think you pretty well covered it. And --

Unknown interviewer:

Alright, well, thank you very much. This has been great.

Joe M. Jackson:

What [..?..]

Unknown interviewer:

For the editor, if he'll -- [SOUND CUT] END OF TAPE SIDE B -1-

 
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  October 26, 2011
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