Preserving the life and well-being of our Service members and civilians who are placed in harm’s way while defending our Nation’s interests is, and must remain, one of our highest priorities.



- William J. Perry, U.S. Secretary of Defense, January 1996

The Helicopter’s Key Role

The U.S. Air Force provides all U.S. military men and women with specialized combat search and rescue.Combat Search and Rescue is a mission primarily performed using helicopters that must be able to operate in hostile territory, at night, in bad weather, anywhere around the world.

The mission is always dangerous and extraordinarily difficult. But thanks to training of the finest crews, they have proven that when they have the tools and aircraft, they are more than up to the task.

The Combat Search and Rescue Mission

… a mission flown by USAF crews to provide all servicemen and women with combat rescue when in grave danger.
What does it take? Highly trained crews, extraordinary preparation, state-of-the-art equipment, exceptional leadership – and a willingness to put one’s own life on the line.In the Vietnam Conflict alone, individual heroism brought CSAR practitioners two Medals of Honor, 38 Air Force Crosses, and numerous Silver Stars.

Combat Rescue’s Legacy – Lives Saved

WWII: Easily more than 1,000 rescued in combat.

Korean War: 996 rescued behind enemy lines via helicopter.

Vietnam: Dedicated Air Force CSAR units, using specially configured HH-3 or HH-53 “Jolly Green Giant” helicopters – and frequently supported by attack airplanes – saved 4,120 personnel, including 2,780 in combat situations.

Iraq and Afghanistan: Since Sept. 11, 2001, USAF CSAR forces have rescued more than 470 U.S. or allied personnel.

Bravery in Action – Combat Search and Rescue via helicopter during the Korean War; rescuing USAF Capt. Joseph McConnell from the Yellow Sea, 1953. Capt. McConnell lived to fight on, shooting down a jet the very next day and eventually downing 16 enemy aircraft to become the first jet-on-jet ace.

For Further Reading

Stephen Brewster Daniels, Rescue from the Skies: The Story of the Airborne Lifeboats (Seven Hills Publishing). 1996.
Norman L. R. Franks, Another Kind of Courage: Stories of the UK-based Walrus Air-Sea Rescue Squadrons (Sparkford Press). 1994.
W. T. Grant, Wings of the Eagle: A Kinsmen’s Story (Ivy Books). 1994.
Wallace R. Hansen, Greenland’s Icy Fury (Texas A & M University Press). 1994.
Mary Pat Kelly, “Good to Go”: The Rescue of Captain Scott O’Grady, USAF, from Bosnia (Naval Institute Press). 1996.
Malcolm McConnell, Into the Mouth of the Cat: The Story of Lance Sijan, Hero of Vietnam (Replica Publishing). 1997.
Robinson Risner, The Passing of the Night: My Seven Years as a Prisoner of the North Vietnamese (Ballantine Books). 1992
Paul B. Ryan, The Iranian Rescue Mission: Why It Failed (Naval Institute Press). 1985.
L. B. Taylor, That Others May Live: The Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service (Dutton Press). 1967.
Earl H. Tilford, Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia, 1961–1975 (Office of Air Force History). 1980.
George J. Veith, Code Name Brightlight: The Untold Story of US POW Rescue Efforts During the Vietnam War (Free Press). 1998.
Darrel D. Whitcomb, The Rescue of Bat 21 (Naval Institute Press). 1998.
John Winton, For Those in Peril: Fifty Years of Royal Navy Search and Rescue (R. Hale Publishing). 1992.