DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Leo K. Thorsness, Medal of Honor recipient, and previous member of the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, died at a hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., May 2.
According to Thorsness' Medal of Honor citation, on April 19, 1967, he was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission in North Vietnam that resulted in one of his wingmen getting shot down. After engaging and destroying one MiG-17, Thorsness thwarted an additional attack by four more MiG-17s.
As he and his team returned to base, Thorsness prepared to accept fuel from a tanker in-air. Instead, he directed his fellow wingman, who was running dangerously low on fuel, to fly ahead and refuel first. Upon landing, Thorsness learned that his own fuel tanks were completely empty.
Less than two weeks later, the F-105 pilot was shot down. Thorsness was captured and spent six years at the Hanoi Hilton POW camp.
He was released in 1973 and presented the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon. His actions of thwarting the attacks of the MiG-17s provided protection to the helicopters tasked to pick up his wingman who was shot down.
The 355th Fighter Wing headquarters building at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., home of the 357th Fighter Squadron, was dedicated to Thorsness as Leo K. Thorsness Hall in 1997.