Richard Duckworth U. S air Force



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Cole Noe


Period 2

Richard Duckworth

U.S Air Force

Serviced 1955-1981

Richard Duane Duckworth

There have been many men and women who have served and fought to protect the United States of America. Each and every individual has their own unique and personal story of how they fought for the freedom of Americans. Richard Duane Duckworth was born on July 5, 1933 in St. Louis, Missouri. He lived in South St. Louis until 1944 when he moved to Glendale, a western suburb in St. Louis County. Duckworth and his family then moved again to Webster Groves in St. Louis County where he attended and graduated from the local high school.

After graduating from high school in June 1951, he attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas where he joined the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps. He was involved in AFROTC from September 1951 until May 1955 when he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Duckworth was called to active duty on August 3, 1955 in the United States Air Force because he wanted to fly and serve his country. He then proceeded to begin his basic and advanced flight training at Lackland Air Force Base. After just one month at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, he was then assigned to primary Pilot Training in Moultrie, Georgia at Spence Air Base for 6 months flying T-34 and T-28 trainers. Duckworth then proceeded to Reese Air Force Base for 6 more months where he graduated as a Multi-Engine Pilot in October 1956. After graduating as a Multi-Engine Pilot, he was chosen to attend Basic Multi-Engine Instructor School till December 1956, flying the B-25.

In 1957, 1st LT. Duckworth was permanently assigned at Reese Air Force Base, Texas as a Multi-Engine Instructor Pilot with the B-25 and later as a single engine jet instructor in T-33. Then, in 1958 he was reassigned to James Connally, Texas Air Force Base. Duckworth served as an AB-25 mission pilot and when that mission was cancelled he began three months training in T-29 aircraft with Instrument Pilots Instructor School at Waco, Texas. In August 1959 to August 1961 Duckworth attended Baylor University, when off duty, where he received his Masters of Science Degree in Economics. Following Baylor, he went to Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas as an instrument pilot instructor for two additional years ending by 1963. In 1963 he was chosen to fly T-29 navigator students and to teach economics at the Air Force Academy. After two years Duckworth was selected to attend University of Colorado in Boulder to complete his PhD in Economics becoming Dr. Duckworth in 1969.

American involvement in Vietnam grew in the 1960’s. In early 1969 Duckworth volunteered for Vietnam and then Tactical Combat Aircrew Training in December 1969 and Air Commando Aircrew Training for Spray Pilot ending February 1970 before being assigned for the UC-123K Ranch Hand mission in South Vietnam. During his tour Duckworth was an aircraft commander spray pilot which meant he flew over tropical forests spraying herbicides that made the foliage of the forest deteriorate so that our troops could engage the enemy without the fear of Vietnamese guerillas hiding in the thick jungle. According to Duckworth, the herbicide sprayed is not harmful to man or animal, yet when American soldiers were defined or exposed to the substance, they claimed they were medically affected, despite other concerns such as drug use, smoking, drinking, and sexual activities with Vietnamese women. There is still controversy to this day concerning the question of long term age related illnesses due to presumed exposure of the herbicide. Ranch Hand members and a shadow group have participated in 6 physical exams (3 day each) from 1982 to 2003. They were chosen because the Ranch Handers were exposed 1000 times greater than anyone on the ground. The exams, after 25 years, show little if any medical effect of the herbicides on these participants. Some Vietnam veterans had even gone so far as to disgrace the Ranch Hand squadron patch by adding another circle to the original squadron patch that read “Sprayed and Betrayed.” The disillusioned Vietnam veterans were blaming the squadron and Agent Orange even though the Ranch Hands were spraying the herbicide that was never deemed harmful at that time and according to the army the herbicides were saving lives.

During Major Duckworth’s tour in Vietnam, 20 men had died in 10 aircraft crashes previously. Five of those who were Killed in Action happened to die six days before Duckworth returned home. He had been asked to be the aircraft commander of that particular flight but he was required at HQ7AF in Saigon. The lieutenant, who he had trained with in America for Ranch Hand missions died as the pilot of the UC-123K on February 10, 1971 with 4 other new members Duckworth knew. This has haunted Duckworth for the last 43 years. After Duckworth’s year of Ranch Hand tour in South Vietnam ended, he then had to return for 4 months to perform a secret airpower study on Air Force missions in Vietnam. He returned to the Air Force Academy from August of 1971 to May 1973, when he was then chosen to attend the National War College in Washington in 1973-1974 and then to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces faculty from1974-1976. Duckworth became commander of AFROTC at Penn State University until 1980. Colonel Duckworth then became Chief of National Security Analysis at Air war College from 1980-1981.



Colonel Duckworth, after all his service, was awarded an honorable discharge on November 30, 1981. All told, he had served in the United States Air Force for 26 years, 3 months and 28 days active and 3 months in reserve status. During his service Colonel Duckworth received a Bronze Star, Air Medal, AF Commendation Medal, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, five AF Longevity Service Awards, National Defense Service Medal, six Vietnam Service Medals, two AF Presidential Unit Citations, six AF Outstanding Unit Awards, four Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Crosses, two Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. Richard Duane Duckworth had served his country patriotically as he advanced from a Second Lieutenant to Colonel in the United States Air Force and retired with over 5000 flying hours.

“We may not always like what we find if it challenges neat assumptions about Agent Orange or important issues and forces us to reconsider our conclusions,” is a quote from The Politics of Scientific Uncertainty which Professor Duckworth believes when it comes to the Agent Orange controversy or who some people consider “heroes.” Duckworth said to “Trust but Verify,” in other words, before you believe any old war story from veterans, you should always make sure that veteran is not a phony by looking at their authentic DD-214 or any other sources that confirms their service. “There are Heroes and there are Zeroes.” Real Vietnam veterans should not have their VALOR stolen by phonies who never served or by those in the military who were “wannabes” and never served in combat. There is good news! Due to the reenactment of the “Stolen Valor Act,” it is now unlawful for fakers to lie about being a hero for personal gain. We must be ever mindful of those phony war veterans, long a plague in America, and make sure they are exposed for what they are.


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