Michael J. Novosel, at age 48, earned Americas highest award for valor when he rescued 29 soldiers from certain death! Born and raised in Etna, Pennsylvania, Novosel became an aviation cadet in the Army Air Force (USAAF). After earning his pilot wings and commission, he instructed in the North American AT-6 Texan at Laredo AAF, Texas. Detached from the USAAF in 1943 for a classified mission, he soon returned to instructor duty. By December 1944, he had logged over 800 hours in the Consolidated B-24 Liberator supporting aerial gunner training.
He then went to Maxwell AFB, Alabama to check out in the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Following crew training in New Mexico, in July 1945, he left for Tinian in the Pacific and flew 4 combat missions with the 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy). After the wars end, he flew two missions to drop food to allied prisoners of war in Japan. During the surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri, Novosel flew a B-29 in a 462-ship fly over! He then took command of the 99th Bombardment Squadron (VH) and remained in the Pacific until the fall of 1947. Posted to Eglin AFB, Florida, he flew as a B-29 flight test pilot until 1949, when he left active duty and joined the Air Force Reserve.
He was temporarily recalled to active duty during the Korean War, but instead of flying was sent to Air Command and Staff School. As the war in Southeast Asia escalated, Novosel volunteered again, but the Air Force deemed him too old. He then resigned his commission as a lieutenant colonel, joined the Army as a warrant officer, and learned to fly helicopters. He soon returned to combat. He served two tours in South Vietnam flying 2,543 missions in the Bell UH-1 Huey. As a Dust Off pilot, he airlifted nearly 5,600 medical evacuees. During his second tour, he was nominated for and later received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Following his heroic service in Vietnam, he served three years at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as chief pilot for the Army's Golden Knights parachute team.
He jumped occasionally with the team to maintain his status. Later, at Fort Rucker, Alabama, Novosel lectured in the Warrant Officer Career College, and then became Senior Tactical Officer in the Warrant Officer Candidate Program. In 1985, he was the last World War II pilot still actively flying and was known as the dean of the Dust Off pilots. During his retirement ceremony, he was accorded a rare honor for a living hero, when the main street of Fort Rucker became Novosel Avenue! In 1992, he marched across Moscows Red Square, with other World War II veterans from around the world, in Russias Victory-in-Europe Parade! He now spends time at homes in Alabama and Florida and is putting finishing touches on his autobiography.
While flying over the Mekong River delta near the Cambodian border on 2 October 1969, Chief Warrant Officer Novosel was diverted to rescue South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers pinned down by enemy fire. At the combat scene, he was met by intense fire and turned away six times before finally reaching the ARVN troops. As a wounded soldier was pulled to safety, an enemy soldier unleashed fire directly at Novosel. Wounded by shrapnel and plexiglas, he fought for control, recovered, and continued. Completing 15 extractions, he saved 29 soldiers!