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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Oliver Edward O’Mara, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Retired)August 17, 1921 – July 1, 2008
Lt. Col. Oliver Edward O’Mara. The distinguished Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Oliver Edward O’Mara, who served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, died in his sleep July 1, 2008, in Santa Fe. He was 86.
The cause was heart failure, his family said. Colonel O’Mara was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., and graduated as a flight officer fighter pilot of the Army Air Corps in November 1943. Colonel O’Mara flew P-51 Mustangs, Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks and P-47 Thunderbolts on Saipan and Iwo Jima. While flying a P-51 off Iwo Jima, he took a hit from heavy ground fire on the island and had to bail out over the Pacific Ocean, more than 10 miles from the island. After three days in an inflatable raft, he was rescued by the USS Steelhead.
In February and March of 1945, Colonel O’Mara and his squadron, the Sun Setters, flew air support for the Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima. During his World War II career, Colonel O’Mara flew 32 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart and two battle stars, one for Air Offensive Japan and the other for the Battle of Iwo Jima.
In March 1953, Colonel O’Mara was recalled to Ellington Air Force Base, Texas, where he attended the Air Force Helicopter School. Shortly after graduating, Colonel O’Mara served as a rescue pilot over Korea, flying the Sikorsky H-19 helicopter to pick up wounded U.S. ground troops, downed pilots at sea and transport weapons and supplies. In 1955, Colonel O’Mara was awarded the Sikorsky Flying “S” for his life saving missions in Korea.
After Korea, Colonel O’Mara flew helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft at bases in Texas, Nevada, California, Florida and Japan. In 1965, he volunteered for duty in Vietnam and, following helicopter combat crew training in an HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, Colonel O’Mara went to the Republic of Vietnam in July 1966. From July 1966 to May 1967, Colonel O’Mara rescued eight pilots on seven separate missions. He flew a total of 128 missions, 16 of them over North Vietnam.
On April 2, 1969, Colonel O’Mara was awarded the Air Force Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. His citation reads:
“On Oct. 5, 1966, while flying an HH-3E helicopter as rescue commander, Lt. Col.Oliver E. O’Mara voluntarily flew into a known area of intense hostile activity in aneffort to rescue a downed American pilot. While under intense small arms and heavy automatic weapons fire, during which his rescue aircraft received numerous hits, he made repeated attempts to reach the downed airman. Only after his aircraft received extensive damage, which rendered it incapable of rescue operations, did he withdraw from the area. However, he then directed another helicopter to the site for asuccessful pick-up. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship andaggressiveness in the face of opposing force, Colonel O’Mara reflected thehighest credit upon himself and the Air Force.”
At the time O’Mara received the Air Force Cross, only 23 had been awarded, 15 posthumously. His final assignment was to Holloman Air Force Base. On Sept. 1, 1970, Colonel O’Mara retired from 28 collective years in the service of his country. From 1971 to 1986 he worked for civil service as the Holloman airfield manager. He was also a member of The Legion of Valor.
Colonel O’Mara is survived by his wife of 63 years, Ruth Slater. He is also survived by his daughters Peggy, of Santa Fe, and Susan Campau, of Verdi, Nev.; six grandchildren, Lally, Finnie, Bram and Nora McMahon and Jeremy and Molly Campau; two great-grandchildren, Jacob and Jordan Lynne Campau; and by his sister, Eileen Cimmarrusti, of Palatine, Ill., and his brothers James, of Belleair Bluffs, Fla., and William, of Reno, Nev.
There will be a Mass Tuesday, July 8, 2008, at 9:30 a.m. at St. Anne Parish in Santa Fe, with interment of the urn to follow at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.
Arrangements are under the direction of Berardinelli Family Funeral Service, 1399 Luisa Street, Santa Fe, NM 87505, (505) 984-8600.
Published in Alamogordo Daily News from July 5 to July 15, 2008
Not specifically disclosed in this obituary is he was the pilot of the HH-3 that recovered Pararescueman Duane Hackney the only survivor of a HH-3 that was shot down on 6 February 1967 and the mission that resulted in Duane Hackney getting awarded the Air Force Cross.
Air Force Cross
Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War
-SEE AIR FORCE CROSS CITATION NARRATIVE ABOVE-
“Col O’Mara, It‘s so sad when a warrior leaves us. I flew with Col O’Mara back in 1966-67 in the Jolly Green’s. He was a great pilot and a very nice person. I was his assigned Flight Engineer for a while. His past experiences helped us get through…”~CMSgt/ret Floyd Watson (Fort Walton Beach, FL)
“To the O’Mara Family, Am very saddened to hear of the loss of your husband, father and grandfather. I am proud to have known him and Ruth for the time I did and my life has been richened by their presence. The world is definitely a better place due…”~Tammy Bronkema (Bells, TX)
“Dear Ruth and Family, so very sorry to read of Oliver’s death. I have fond memories of you both from St. Jude. You are in my prayers and thoughts. Our sympathies to you and yours at this sorrowful time. Much love and God’s Blessings, Mary C….”~Mary C Cronin (Wichita, KS)
~Barbara Branum (La Luz, NM)
Distinguished Flying Cross
CITATION TO ACCOMPANY THE AWARD OF THE DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS TO Lieutenant Colonel Oliver E. O’Mara
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Lieutenant Colonel Oliver E. O’Mara, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while serving with the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam, in action in Southeast Asia on 5 October 1966. On that date, Captain O’Mara, flying an HH-3E rescue helicopter as Rescue Commander, voluntarily flew into a known area of intense hostile activity in an effort to rescue a downed American pilot. While under intense small arms and heavy automatic weapons fire, during which his rescue aircraft received numerous hits, he made repeated attempts to reach the downed airman. Only after his aircraft received extensive damage which rendered it incapable of rescue operations, did he withdraw from the area; however, he then directed another helicopter to the site for a successful pickup, Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the opposing force, Captain O’Mara reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
(Citation Needed) – SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver E. O’Mara, United States Air Force, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in Southeast Asia.
(Citation Needed) – SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver E. O’Mara, United States Air Force, was awarded a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in Southeast Asia.
(Citation Needed) – SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver E. O’Mara, United States Air Force, was awarded a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in Southeast Asia.
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