Colonel Joe Jackson enlisted in the Army Air Corps in March 1941, eventually serving as a B-25 crew chief. He advanced to the grade of Staff Sergeant before being selected for Aviation Cadet Pilot Training. He received his wings and commission in 1943 and was a gunnery instructor at Eglin Field, Florida. When World War II ended, he was assigned to the Army of Occupation in Germany as a fighter pilot flying P-47s. He returned to the United States and was assigned to the 27th Fighter Escort Wing at Kearney, Nebraska and later at Bergstrom AFB, Texas where he flew P-51s, F-82s, and F-84s. In 1950, Jackson made a significant contribution to jet fighter instrument flying with his tear-drop jet penetration procedure. During the Korean War, he was promoted to Major and served as Operations Officer and later as Executive Officer of the 524th Fighter Squadron flying F-84Es. In Korea, he flew 107 combat sorties. Upon return from the Korean War, Jackson was assigned to Headquarters, 2nd Air Force where he was co-developer of the toss bombing technique for nuclear weapons delivery by fighters. This technique was also adopted by Strategic Air Command for use by B-47s bombers. In 1956, Jackson became one of the first Air Force U-2 pilots, commanding detachments and supervising reconnaissance operations throughout the world. He developed the plan and directed reconnaissance flights over Cuba that contributed to the successful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and withdrawal of the Soviet Union's offensive missiles. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel the same year. In 1963-1964, he attended Air War College and concurrently George Washington University, graduating with a master's degree in Political Science. Following a tour in Europe, Jackson, who had 20 years experience as a pilot of fighter and reconnaissance type aircraft, was assigned to Vietnam where he flew 298 combat sorties. He distinguished himself as a pilot on 12 May 1968 at Kham Duc Airfield, Republic of Vietnam, as he maneuvered the lumbering, unarmed Fairchild C-123K Provider in position for a landing at a Special Forces camp that had been overrun by hostile forces, in a desperate attempt to rescue a three-man combat control team. The mission was successful and for this action under intense hostile enemy fire, Jackson was awarded the Medal of Honor on 16 January 1969. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Jackson's decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Jackson's career spanned nearly 33 years. Colonel Jackson has been inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, the Airlift/Tanker Association Hall of Fame, and the Combat Airman Hall of Fame. Upon retirement from the Air Force, he was employed by the Boeing Company from which he retired in 1985. Colonel Joe Jackson is married to the former Rosamond Parmentier of Chicopee, Massachusetts. They have two children- Bonnie, who is employed by the Boeing Company and lives in Kent, Washington; and David, a Captain for Delta Air Lines and lives in Dallas, Texas..
Three men of a USAF Combat Control Team were stranded and under heavy fire at Kham Duc Airfield, Vietnam. Wreckage littered the runway and ammunition dumps exploded as Jackson slammed his C-123 down in an assault landing. As he spun about, the three men raced for the aircraft, firing all the way. Lined up for departure, Jackson narrowly avoided an incoming rocket, and executed a short field takeoff under increasing fire. Spending less than 1 minute on the airfield, his heroic action saved the men from capture or death, earning him the Medal of Honor.