Backlund, Donald Roy

Donald Roy Backlund, Major, USAF (Fallen)
November 20, 1949 – August 29, 1979

Donald Backlund was born on November 20, 1949, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

He entered the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1967 and graduated and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. on June 9, 1971. Backlund then received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to Indiana University for graduate studies. He then attended Undergraduate Helicopter Training and was awarded his pilot wings in May 1973. Lt. Backlund was assigned to the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, where he flew HH-53C Jolly Green Giant helicopter from May 1973 to June 1975. During this time, Capt Backlund participated in the SS Mayaguez incident, the evacuation of American personnel in Cambodia, and the evacuation of American personnel in South Vietnam, all in May 1975. He then served as an instructor pilot and flight examiner with the 1551st Flying Training Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, and Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, from June 1975 until he was killed in a flying accident, while flying an A-10 aircraft, on August 29, 1979.

Maj. Backlund was buried at the Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Awards and Citations

Air Force Cross

Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to First Lieutenant Donald R. Backlund for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Helicopter Aircraft Commander on 15 May 1975. On that date, while engaged in the recovery of the SS Mayaguez and crew, Lieutenant Backlund, exhibiting superb airmanship, placed a contingent of United States Marines aboard the destroyer escort, USS Holt. He then successfully landed several United States Marines on Koh Tang Island despite intense ground fire. After escorting his wingman to the USS Coral Sea, Lieutenant Backlund then returned to Koh Tang Island and successfully recovered a group of United States Marines and airmen although encountering heavy, constant ground fire. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of an opposing armed force, Lieutenant Backlund reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Integrity, Honor, and Respect
Some of the best things cannot be bought, they must be earned

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