Charles L. Kelly

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Charles L. Kelly was a United States Army helicopter pilot during The Vietnam War. Born April 10, 1925 in Wadley, Georgia, Major Kelly was the Commanding Officer of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) from 11 January 1964 until he was killed in action on 1 July of the same year while trying to evacuate a wounded American advisor along with several ARVN wounded.

Kelly was called "Crazy Kelly" and "Mad Man" for his willingness to fly into danger to rescue the wounded. Kelly often flew missions at night, claiming that all the times he had been hit had been during daylight.

1 July 1964[edit]

Kelly was killed in action on July 1, 1964, when, after being warned out of a "Hot" landing zone, he replied, "When I have your wounded." A bullet entered through an open cargo door and pierced his heart. Major Kelly became the 149th American to die in Vietnam. The following day, an officer tossed the bullet on his desk in front of Kelly's successor, Captain Patrick Henry Brady and asked if they were going to stop flying so aggressively. Brady picked up the bullet and replied, "we are going to keep flying exactly the way Kelly taught us to fly, without hesitation, anytime, anywhere."[1]Kelly is buried in Georgia[2]

Awards, Decorations and Honors[edit]

Kelly was posthumously awarded the US Army's Distinguished Service Cross. He was also awarded South Vietnam's Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the National Order of Vietnam, Fifth Class, South Vietnam's highest award. Fort Rucker's Kelly Hall, in which Army Air Traffic Controllers were trained in the 1980s, is named in his honor.

Documentary Film Tribute[edit]

In 2002, the documentary film crew of In the Shadow of the Blade honored Kelly's story at their landing zone near Columbus, Georgia. After hearing the story of his father's courage from Vietnam Dustoff colleague Ernest Sylvester, Charles Kelly, Jr. flew in the left seat of the documentary's restored UH-1 Iroquois, emulating his father's wartime experience.


  • Dorland, Peter; Nanney, James (1982). Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History - United States Army. 
  • Lucas, Jim G. (April 22, 1964). "Night 'Copter Missions routine for 'Mad Man.'". El Paso Herald-Post. 

Plaque and display at the Army Aviation Museum at Ft Rucker AL


  1. ^ "WHEN I HAVE YOUR WOUNDED". Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  2. ^ Charles Kelly buried at Find a Grave

External links[edit]