During two combat tours in South Vietnam, Michael J. Novosel flew 2543 missions, carried nearly 5600 medical evacuees, and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was born and grew up in Etna, Pennsylvania, and then at age 19 became an Army Air Force (USAAF) aviation cadet. After receiving his wings, he became an instructor and flew the North American AT-6 Texan at Laredo AAF, Texas. In 1943, he was detached from the USAAF for classified special duty, but returned before year's end. By December 1944, Novosel had logged over 800 hours flying the Consolidated B-24 Liberator in support of aerial gunner training.
He then went to Maxwell AAF, Alabama to train on the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and after crew training in New Mexico was posted in July 1945 to the 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) on Tinian in the Pacific. He flew four bombing missions and when the war ended he flew two more missions dropping food to POW's in Japan. He was part of a 462-ship B-29 flyover during the surrender ceremony on the battleship, Missouri. Next, he took command of the 99th Bombardment Squadron (VH) and remained in the Pacific until the fall of 1947. Posted to Eglin AFB, Florida, he flew as a B-29 flight test pilot until entering the reserves in 1949.
He was temporarily recalled during the Korean War and instead of overseas duty was sent to Air Command and Staff School. When the Air Force began its buildup in Southeast Asia, Novosel, a reserve lieutenant colonel, volunteered for active duty but was turned down. Determined to do his part, he joined the Army as a warrant officer and began flying helicopters. He flew a 12-month tour beginning in January 1966 as a "Dust Off 'medical evacuation pilot. During his second combat tour, at age 48, he earned America's highest award for valor. For three years at Fort Bragg, he served as chief pilot for the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, and occasionally jumped to maintain his status.
Later at Fort Rucker he lectured in the Warrant Officer Career College and then became Senior Tactical Officer in the Warrant Officer Candidate Program. In 1985 Novosel, a legend among Army aviators known as the "dean of the Dust Off pilots" and the last World War II pilot still actively flying, retired. In an honor rarely accorded a living hero, Fort Rucker's main street was then changed to Novosel Avenue. Since 1985, he has been a regular speaker at Squadron Officer School and Air Command and Staff College. He has traveled widely and along with several other Congressional Medal of Honor recipients was invited to Russia. In 1992 he marched in the annual Victory-in-Europe Parade across Moscow's Red Square!
On 2 October 1969, Chief Warrant Officer Novosel was launched to the Mekong delta near the enemy-controlled border with Cambodia. In the air, he received word that wounded South Vietnamese soldiers (ARVN) were pinned down about 30 minutes flight time away. In the area he was met by intense fire and turned away six times before he finally reached the ARVN troops. He completed 15 extractions. On the last, just as a wounded soldier was pulled aboard, an enemy soldier unleashed his AK-47 rifle directly at Novosel. Wounded by shrapnel and plexiglass, Novosel momentarily lost control, but recovered and flew to safety. He had saved 29 soldiers!