View Full Version : U.S. Neil Sparks , Jr., Navy Cross, Vietnam

08-10-2009, 11:04 AM
Navy Cross

Authorized February 4, 1919, the Navy Cross was the Navy's third highest award for combat heroism and other distinguished services. On August 7, 1942, Congress made the Navy Cross a combat only decoration with precedence over the Distinguished Service Medal, making it the Navy's second highest award ranking below only the Medal of Honor. It shares its position with the Army's Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Force Cross.

Neil Sparks , Jr.

* Date of birth: 23 March 1935

Awards and Citations

Navy Cross

Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant, Junior Grade Neil Roley Sparks, Jr. (NSN: 0-629516), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in aerial flight on 17 July 1967 as Aircraft Commander of an armored helicopter in Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron TWO (HS-2), during a search and rescue mission over North Vietnam. Lieutenant Sparks courageously penetrated the coastal defenses of North Vietnam to rescue a downed naval aviator in a heavily defended area thirty miles south of Hanoi. Although the helicopter was hit by intense and accurate enemy fire, disabling the radios, automatic stabilization equipment, and airspeed indicator, he skillfully hovered for twenty minutes until the survivor was safely hoisted aboard. Under intense anti-aircraft fire, Lieutenant Sparks, through adept maneuvering, prevented further damage to the helicopter during the flight back to the coastline. Two and one-half hours after penetrating the coastal defense over North Vietnam, and having traveled two hundred miles over heavily-fortified hostile territory, he brought his crew and the downed aviator to safety. By his courageous actions, exceptional skill and fearless devotion to duty, Lieutenant Sparks prevented the capture by hostile forces of a fellow aviator, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Service: Navy

Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade

Authority: Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals

08-10-2009, 11:04 AM
Current and former members assigned to the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 2 (HS 2) came together in their ready room for a bit of Naval and squadron history at Naval Air Station North Island Aug. 5.

Former HS 2 pilot, retired Cmdr. Neil Sparks, reminisced about his part in saving Lt. Cmdr. Demetrio "Butch" Verich, retired Navy pilot, who was shot down over Vietnam July 16, 1967. Sparks was awarded the Navy Cross for his gallantry during Verich's rescue.

During a mission over North Vietnam, Verich recalled his F-8 Crusader being hit by a surface-to-air missile. He ejected and parachuted into hostile territory. He landed near the wreck of his burning fighter jet and evaded enemy troops for 15 hours, awaiting a rescue.

Once Sparks and his crew arrived on location from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CVS 12), Verich was able to fire a flare to guide Sparks to his position.

Sparks and his crew braved enemy fire to finally drag Verich up into the aircraft. It took 20 minutes and three tries using the helicopter rescue sling, but Verich was finally able to grab hold and climb inside.

After Sparks and Verich finished telling their parts in the heroic tale, HS 2 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Terence Hoeft expressed his gratitude to the men and explained how the event changed search and rescue.

"It is an honor to meet you both and hear your story, said Hoeft, a Livonia, Mich., native. "I will never forget hearing your story from the both of you; I will remember it for the rest of my life."

The crew of the "Golden Falcons" enjoyed this unique opportunity to hear the firsthand accounts of this dramatic rescue.

"If I could use one word it would be, 'legendary,'" said Lt. Dave Colon, a Mount Holly, N.J., native. "It's very historic to see them come here to tell their stories to see a part of history right in front of us and relive it again in their own words."

08-12-2009, 03:41 AM
one lucky son of a bitch...glad to seee him and his fellow pilot made it home.