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Demetrio 'Butch' Verich was born in Laona, Wisconsin in 1932 of Serb-Montenegrin ancestry. In 1967, Lieutenant Commander Butch Verich, along with two other VF-162 F-8s attacked enemy flak sites ahead of an A-4 strike.
Verich's Crusader was hit by a SAM, and he punched out over hostile North Vietnamese territory. He landed near the wreck of his burning fighter and evading enemy troops for 15 hours, waiting for rescue and avoiding capture.
The SAR effort had been suspended as night came, but soon after dawn F-8s, A-1s, and A-4s arrived as the largest ever Naval rescue operation of the Vietnam War. During this time, Verich fired a flare that directed the HS-2 rescue helicopter from the carrier HORNET (CVS-12) to his position. The helo pilot and his crew braved intense enemy fire to finally drag Verich up into the quivering aircraft.
It took 20 minutes and three tries to grab the helo's rescue sling, but Verich finally grabbed hold. The helicopter pilot, Lieutenant Neil Sparks, received the Navy Cross for his exploit.
Butch is a retired attorney and District Attorney and currently resides in Laona, WI.