One of the United States military's most decorated warriors, Colonel James Helms Kasler (USAF Ret.) passed away in West Palm Beach, Florida on April 24.
Born May 2, 1926 in South Bend, Indiana, James Kasler, husband, father, and quintessential American patriot, is the only person to be awarded the Air Force Cross three times. Colonel Kasler was a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Enlisting in the United States Army Air Forces toward the end of World War II, Kasler flew eight missions as a B-29 Superfortress tail gunner. With the end of the war, James Kasler used his veteran's benefits to complete his college degree before returning to the newly formed United States Air Force in time to serve in the Korean War. During that war, he flew 100 combat missions in an F-86E Sabre while assigned to the 335th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing and scored six confirmed air to air victories against MiG-15s, becoming the world's fifteenth jet "ace."
After subsequent tours at Seymour Johnson Airbase, Goldsboro, North Carolina, and Bitburg Air Force Base, Germany, the war in Vietnam was escalating and he received his orders. By August 1966, an article in Time magazine labeled him "the hottest pilot" in Vietnam and said his wingmates called him "a one-man Air Force". The same week, on his 91st bombing mission in South Vietnam and against Laos and North Vietnam, he was shot down near Hanoi while trying to provide cover for his wingman, who had been shot down ahead of him. When he ejected, his right leg shattered, he was captured and subsequently spent from August 1966 until March 1973 as a guest at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where he suffered unimaginable torture. Colonel Kasler flew a combined 198 combat missions. With a total of seventy-six awards for valor and service, Kasler received the aforementioned three awards of the Air Force Cross, was decorated twice with the Silver Star, a Legion of Merit, nine awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts, and eleven...