Saigon, South Viet Nam—The United States Air Force is not talking about 40-year-old Maj., James H. Kasler, the Indianapolis ace who was shot down in August and is now a captive of the North Vietnamese.
The Defense Department has slapped a lid on Kasler's exploits. Officials fear his captors will, "make him live hard," if too much publicity is generated.
A mention of his name, howerver, around Air Force people, brings an immediate spark of admiration to their eyes.
After worming around Tan San Nhut for few hours it as possible to find some people who knew Kasler and had talked to him. (Their names will be withheld at their request.)
"His eyes and his aggressiveness made him an ace," one man explained.
"He always came in from a mission clean—no bombs, no rounds left for his guns and darn little fuel.
"He'd roll over a target zone and see 15 things other pilots didn't.
"His Hoosier voice would come in on the radio saying: 'did you see the glint off that ack-ack barrel and the two trucks parked in the trees? There's a big bunker down there too.' "
Kasler, the spokesman continued, "would demolish everything he'd seen with cannon fire or bombs."(from his F-105 Thunderchief), the speaker said.
Kasler, a veteran of World War II and Korea, hated anti-aircraft and missile sites, the speaker observed.
Another spokesman saw the major's career this way: "Kasler emerged in this war as an ace, just like a fullback in football emerges as an All-American.
"Kasler was always in there with the ball, leading the way. He was one hell of a pilot."
After a mission, the speaker said, it is usual procedure to send an unarmed reconnaissance plane over the strike zone to assess the damage. "Not for Kasler though," the speaker said emphatically. "Kasler assessed his own damage to keep an unarmed plane from making the run. That's the kind of guy he was."
Here's another view of the hero, whose wife and three children live in Indianapolis: "He reminded me a lot of Gary Cooper.
"Kasler spoke in that soft Hoosier drawl and was a real likable guy. I remember after the major started getting publicity, a photographer wanted to get a picture of him standing beside his plane.
"When the photographer got there the major had his whole ground crew around him. The cameraman said he wanted a picture only of Kasler and his plane. "'Boy, I'll tell you something,' Kasler replied. 'Without these guys I can't fly. You can't take my picture without them.'" the spokesman recalled.
Col. Kasler, the speaker declared, was the kind of man every pilot could learn from. His big interest was the young pilots and he helped them all he could every chance he got.
"And he wasn't a big shot about it either," the speaker said.
Kasler's wife and their children are confidently awaiting their hero's return. Kasler and his wife are graduates of Shortridge High School and attended Indiana University.
The ace's parent live at Zanesville, Ind.
Kasler was shot down just after he'd returned from a short rest period. Ironically, his capture came at a time Air Force wheels were turning to take him out of the air and put him on a banquet tour of the U.S. Maj. Kasler reportedly has been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his role in Viet Nam.
A French newspaper correspondent reports from Hanoi that Maj. Kasler is recovering from a broken leg, suffered when he bailed out of his aircraft, which was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He is reportedly receiving good treatment, according to the news communique.
Perhaps the major will receive the Congressional Medal of Honor and his freedom at the same time—soon.
On 8 August 1966, on his 91st combat mission, Maj. Kasler's F-105 was shot down over North Vietnam. Captured by the North Vietnamese, he was a POW until 4 March 1973. He was tortured repeatedly by his Communist captors, in an effort to get him to cooperate with their propaganda claims.
Kasler shared the infamous Room 7 of the "Hanoi Hilton" with other great heroes like Robinson Risner, James Stockdale, Bud Day, John McCain, Larry Guarino, and Jeremiah Denton. He never cooperated with the North Vietnamese and survived to return home in March, 1973, after six and one-half years in captivity.
In July 1974 Kasler was assigned as vice commander of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and remained in that capacity until his retirement as a colonel on 1 May 1975.
Aerial Victories: 6 confirmed and 3 damaged
Medals: Air Force Cross with two OLC's, Silver Star with one OLC, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with 8 OLCs, Purple Heart with one OLC, Air Medal with 10 OLCs, and the Bronze Star with V for valor.
Above update info courtesy: linky