Leo K. Thorsness bigraphy, stories - United States Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

Leo K. Thorsness : biography

February 14, 1932 -

Leo Keith Thorsness (born February 14, 1932) is a retired colonel in the United States Air Force who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War. He was awarded the medal for an air engagement on April 19, 1967. He was shot down two weeks later and spent six years in captivity in North Vietnam as a prisoner of war. After his military service, Thorsness served one term in the Washington State Senate.

Post-military life

Thorsness served as Director of Civic Affairs for Litton Industries from 1979 to 1985. He then served as a State Senator in Washington. He is currently retired and serves on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. He moved from Catalina, Arizona, to Madison, Alabama, with his wife in early 2008 to be close to family.

He is married to the former Gaylee Anderson. They are the parents of a daughter, Dawn.

In 2004, the University of Richmond announced the establishment of an endowed chair in leadership and ethics named in honor of Thorsness. The Colonel Leo K. and Gaylee Thorsness Endowed Chair in Ethical Leadership was funded by a $1,000,000 gift organized by W. Thomas Matthews, President and CEO of the Global Private Client Group at Smith Barney. Thorsness is currently serving as Distinguished Leader in Residence at the Jepson School. The Thorsness chair is held by John Donelson Forsyth, a social psychologist with expertise in group dynamics.

Thorsness' autobiography, Surviving Hell: A POW's Journey, was published in December 2008.

Awards and decorations

US Air Force Command Pilot Badge
number=0|type=oak|name=Medal of Honor ribbon|width=60}} Medal of Honor
number=1|type=oak|name=Silver Star ribbon|width=60}} Silver Star with bronze oak leaf cluster
number=5|type=oak|name=Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon|width=60}} Distinguished Flying Cross with silver oak leaf cluster
number=1|type=oak|name=Purple Heart BAR|width=60}} Purple Heart with bronze oak leaf cluster
number=15|type=oak|name=Air Medal ribbon|width=60}} Air Medal with three silver oak leaf clusters
number=0|type=oak|name=Prisoner of War ribbon|width=60}} Prisoner of War Medal
number=0|type=oak|name=Combat Readiness Medal ribbon|width=60}} Combat Readiness Medal
number=0|type=oak|name=Army Good Conduct ribbon|width=60}} Army Good Conduct Medal
number=1|type=service-star|name=National Defense Service Medal ribbon|width=60}} National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
number=0|type=service-star|name=Vietnam Service Ribbon|width=60}} Vietnam Service Medal
number=4|type=oak|name=Air Force Longevity Service ribbon|width=60}} Air Force Longevity Service Award with four bronze oak leaf clusters
number=0|type=oak|name=ResMedRib|width=60}} Armed Forces Reserve Medal
number=0|type=service-star|name=USAF Marksmanship ribbon|width=60}} Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
number=0|type=oak|ribbon=Vietnam Campaign Medal Ribbon.png|width=60}} Vietnam Campaign Medal

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States in the name of the Congress takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor to


for service as set forth in the following citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. As pilot of an F-105 aircraft, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission over North Vietnam. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness and his wingman attacked and silenced a surface-to-air missile site with air-to-ground missiles and then destroyed a second surface-to-air missile site with bombs. In the attack on the second missile site, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness’ wingman was shot down by intensive antiaircraft fire, and the two crewmembers abandoned their aircraft.

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