Man joins his rescuers in first perfect reunion
The rescued man, now 65, had not seen all four together since 1965.
DAYTON (AP) -- For 40 years, Frank Tullo dreamed of the day when he would be face to face with the four members of the 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron who saved his life after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam during the war.
That reunion, which almost happened in 1995 when four of the five men got together, became a reality last week at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base when Tullo got together with Bill Hosmer, George Martin, Ed Greathouse and Holt Livesay.
"These guys are responsible for giving me the last 40 years of my life, and I will be eternally grateful," said Tullo, 65, of Palm Springs, Calif.
On July 27, 1965, Tullo, then 25, was piloting an F-105 from Korat Royal Thai Air Base on a mission led by Hosmer designed to take out enemy sites not destroyed by earlier flights.
It was midafternoon, and as squadron members swept over hills from the south, it happened.
"I damn near fainted," Tullo recalled. "To a good Catholic boy, this was the description of hell. The whole valley was a cauldron of flames and smoke from ordnance dropped by preceding flights, and North Vietnamese flak filled the sky."
Moments later, his jet was hit by groundfire, forcing him to eject into an area of 10-foot-tall elephant grass. As Tullo lay there with his heart pounding, he could hear the voices of enemy troops all around him.
After hiding his parachute, he removed his emergency radio from his vest and contacted squadron members.
"Frank," said Hosmer, who was flying with Tullo that day, "we gotta go. Fuel is getting low, and we've been ordered out of the area. We're gonna get you a chopper."
Three hours later, Tullo was rescued by an Air Force helicopter piloted by Martin and accompanied by a pair of Navy A-1's flown by Greathouse and Livesay. Tullo sprinted across a rice paddy and dived into the waiting helicopter with bullets whizzing all around.
"I'm real pleased with how the rescue mission turned out, because the odds were stacked against us from the beginning," the 80-year-old Martin said.
Tullo said Martin is his hero.
"As he was hovered above me that day, one of the chopper's engines was overheating. He had every reason to abort the mission, but he stuck with it."
Hosmer is from Bottineau, N.D.; Martin lives in Daleville, Ala.; Greathouse in Austin, Texas; and Livesay in Surry, Va.
For years, Tullo, a retired Continental Airlines pilot, telephoned the other men on the anniversary of his dramatic rescue. But when they got together for the first time a decade ago at Greathouse's home in Austin, Hosmer wasn't able to attend.
This time, it was a full reunion.
"We talked about that day, what led up to it," Livesay said.
The men went to the National Museum of the United States Air Force and later had a four-hour dinner together.
At the dinner, Tullo presented each of his friends with a prism inscribed with his feelings and his call sign: "Eternally Grateful. July 27, 1965. Dogwood Two."