Statement of Herbert L. Lawton
On 16 October 1967, Lt. James Hudgins distinguished himself in support of the Company C., 227th AHB Ready Reaction Force.
The flight-supporting 2nd Bn, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) - was operating approximately 25 nautical miles northwest of Chu Lai RVN.
The flight had been conducting a troop move when I received the information that the 2/12 Command and Control ship had been downed by enemy fire and that both pilots were wounded. While the troops were loading to be transported to the site of the downed aircraft, I notified Lt. Hudgins of the mission. He in turn informed me that his wingman was taking on fuel and could not accompany us on the mission. However, recognizing the gravity of the situation and the necessity for haste, Lt. Hudgins elected to disregard basic gunship tactics and accompany the flight alone. He did this with the knowledge that he would have no cover for himself on his firing runs.
Enroute to the LZ, I learned that the aircraft on the ground had received hits from both .50 and .30 cal automatic weapons and that the LZ was red. Informed of this Lt. Hudgins, with complete disregard for his own safety, insisted that he would accomplish the mission without support of his wingman.
The site of the downed aircraft was a large rice paddy, the ship being located in the center. The ceiling was approximately 500' absolute with visibility periodically impaired by mist and rainshowers. Having no contact with the downed aircraft, and unable to determine the direction of fire, I elected to land to the west, into the wind. As soon as the flight of five touched down on the LZ, we began receiving automatic weapons fire from the south and north. Rounds were observed hitting around the downed aircraft and between the aircraft of the flight. Through muzzle flashes and sound, numerous automatic weapons were spotted in the treelines on both sides of the flight. Because he was alone, Lt. Hudgins was forced to repeatedly overfly automatic weapons positions in order to lay suppressive fire on all fire reported. With cool professionalism, Lt. Hudgins skillfully maneuvered his lone gunship to effectively cover the most area in the shortest amount of time. Because of a delay in loading the wounded personnel, Lt. Hudgins ship expended all ammunition except for the pilots personal weapons before the flight departed the LZ. Realizing the psychological effects of the gunships on the enemy, Lt. Hudgins made repeated runs while his copilot fired (his M29 grenade launcher) from the cockpit.
Later in the day, Lt. Hudgins, accompanied by his wingman, volunteered to escort the aircraft recovery ship into the LZ although other escort gunships were standing by for the mission. The LZ was still receiving fire and Lt. Hudgins again expended all ammunition on this lift and the subsequent extraction of the security forces.
Although the entire flight was subjected to constant enemy fire on both lifts, the effectiveness of Lt. Hudgins support was evidenced by the fact that with the exception of Lt. Hudgins ship, not one of the flight received any hits. Three ships in the immediate vicinity did receive hits while the gunships were absent.
Lt. Hudgins professional skill, cool judgment, and complete disregard for personal safety in the pursuit of his mission reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Herbert L. Lawton