Bangor, ME — Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins presented the Distinguished Flying Cross Award to Major Charles “Chuck” McClead, USAF, Ret., for his extraordinary achievement in an aerial flight during the Vietnam War. The ceremony was held at the Cole Land Transportation Museum and was attended by Major McClead’s family as well as Major General Douglas A. Farnham, the Adjutant General of the Maine National Guard; Senior Master Sergeant Stanley Niedorowski, Maine National Guard; and several other community leaders.
“We are here to present Major Charles McClead with the Distinguished Flying Cross he earned a half-century ago on June 13, 1969, for his skill, courage, and devotion to duty in the skies over Southeast Asia,” said Senator Collins. “Despite heavy enemy antiaircraft fire, he guided the F-4D Phantom on which he served as navigator over the target repeatedly and contributed greatly to a successful mission. That was just one of 220 combat missions he flew during that conflict.”
“In addition, we are here to thank Chuck for more than 20 years of extraordinary service to the United States Air Force and to our nation. It is fitting that we do this on Veterans Day, America’s annual day of respect and gratitude for all who serve our country,” Senator Collins continued.
Major McClead served in the Air Force for two decades. On June 13, 1969, while on a tactical air mission in Vietnam, then-Captain McClead struck and destroyed two gun positions in a heavily defended area. He was notified that he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions and was promoted to Major; however, he never received his medal. Senator Collins’ staff in her Bangor Constituent Service Center worked with Major McClead and the Department of Defense to secure his award.
While Major McClead was stationed at Dow Air Force Base in Bangor in November 1962, he had a harrowing experience when the pilot of the F-101B he was flying on lost control and the airplane plummeted. Major McClead was able to eject, but tragically, the pilot ejected too late and was killed in the explosion. Major McLead endured a night in the Maine woods through a storm that brought eight inches of snow.
Major McClead spent the last three years of his military career on active duty with 132nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron with the Maine Air National Guard in Bangor. Upon his retirement in 1974, Major McClead spent 20 years working for the United States Postal Service. He is currently a volunteer firefighter for the town of Dedham and assists with monitoring the water quality of Phillips Lake. Major McClead also volunteers at the Cole Land Transportation Museum.
Authorized by Congress in 1926, the Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement in flight. Recipients of the award include Lieutenant Junior Grade George H.W. Bush, Captain John S. McCain, astronauts from the Mercury Program to the International Space Station, Amelia Earhart, and Wilbur and Orville Wright.