Commander Kenny Fields’ naval career spanned 22 years from 1962 until 1984. Born in Lex, West Virginia, in 1940, He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee in 1962. Following school, he entered the U.S. Navy as an officer candidate at the Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida. After 16 weeks, he earned his commission as an Ensign with a follow-on assignment as a Naval Flight Officer. He flew for three years as a bombardier/navigator on the A-3B Skywarrior, serving on two cruises with the “Checkertails” of VAH-11 on the USS Forrestal and the USS Roosevelt. Following this assignment, he was selected to attend pilot training earning the coveted “wings of gold” in 1966. Graduating near the top of his class, Fields was assigned to the first operational east coast A-7A squadron at NAS Cecil Field, Florida. As a member of VA-82, the “Marauders,” he deployed to the Tonkin Gulf aboard the USS America in 1968. On May 31, 1968, Fields was shot down on his first combat mission over Laos when his flight was ambushed by a concentrated unit of enemy anti-aircraft artillery. After ejecting, he began evading while simultaneously calling in air strikes to slow down North Vietnamese regulars and Pathet Lao guerrillas. He was rescued after spending forty hours on the ground evading the enemy. A total of 189 Air Force sorties were launched with a resultant loss of seven planes and one pilot captured to accomplish his rescue. After a three month recovery period and as a testament to his courage and fortitude, Fields elected to rejoin his squadron and continue flying combat missions over Southeast Asia. He served on an additional cruise with VA-82 aboard the USS Coral Sea. Following the war, he trained to become a certified Aviation Accident Investigator and was then assigned to VT-7 as an instructor pilot in the TA-4J and the T-2 Buckeye at Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi. Next, he served as officer in charge of VA-205, a reserve A-4L and A-7B squadron at Naval Air Station Atlanta, Georgia. Following that assignment, he was the Aviation Safety Officer on the Chief, Naval Air Reserve staff in New Orleans from 1976 until 1979, and then the Commander, Naval Air Systems Command staff in Washington, D.C. from 1980 until 1982. His final assignment before retiring was as the Navy Liaison Officer to the FAA administrator. Throughout his distinguished career, he compiled 3,350 flight hours, 475 carrier landings, and flew 139 combat missions in the A-7 during the Vietnam War. Commander Fields is the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal with combat “V” device, four Navy Commendation Medals with “V” device, twelve Air Medals, and a Purple Heart. After his Naval career, Commander Fields went into business as an entrepreneur and piloted the successful start-up of two small corporate ventures. Commander Fields’ first book, The Rescue of Streetcar 304–A Navy Pilot’s Forty Hours on the Run in Laos, has received several awards. In 2007, the book received a nomination as the best new non-fiction release in North Carolina, and it also was the number one selling book for that year at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2008, Commander Fields was inducted into his alma mater’s “Literary Hall of Fame”. He also received the Naval Institute Press “2008 Author of the Year–2nd Place” award. He and his wife Shirley currently live in Mooresville, North Carolina.
Years Honored: 2010
Aircraft/Specialty: A-7A Corsair II
Commander Kenney Fields' distinguished career in the U.S. Navy spanned 22 years. He flew 139 A-7 combat missions over Southeast Asia. On his first mission, he was shot down over Laos and evaded capture for forty hours. The effort to rescue him involved 189 sorties, seven lost planes, four pilot ejections and one pilot's incarceration as a POW for five years.