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Patrick Brady

Brady, Patrick Henry

Helicopter Pilot/Author
Enshrined 2013 1936-Present


Patrick Henry Brady was born on October 1, 1936, in Philip, South Dakota, to LaVona Lammon and Michael Brady.

Brady attended Seattle University where ROTC was mandatory for two years. He hated ROTC and was dropped from the program.   Later, after marrying his high school sweetheart, Nancy Parsek, and fearing the draft, he was allowed back into ROTC.

He graduated in 1959 with a degree in psychology and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps.

After an initial assignment to Berlin he attended the Army Intelligence School.   A background check uncovered some un-reported youthful incarcerations and Brady was expelled.

Fortunately a slot for Brady was found in the Army’s basic helicopter school.  Despite nearly washing out, Captain Brady earned his wings in December 1963.

In January 1964 Brady volunteered for Vietnam and was assigned to the 57th Medical Detachment – Helicopter Ambulance, led by Major Charles Kelly.   The unit’s call-sign was “Dust Off,” a cry for help and was the most famous of all Vietnam call-signs.

Major Kelly was in a battle to save Dust Off from ill advised Army leadership who wanted to use Kelly’s helicopters for hauling “ash and trash,” pinning portable red crosses onto helicopters only when needed for patient evacuation.

Kelly was outraged and charged his pilots to prove their worth by evacuating patients under conditions never before attempted; at night, in weather and during the battle. Nothing was to come between the crew and the patient.

Kelly became a legend and Brady began to develop survival flying techniques for patient rescue in weather and under fire.

On July 1, 1964, on a rescue mission, Major Kelly came under fire.  Friendlies screamed to get out.  Kelly’s last words, “When I have your wounded,” were uttered as he took a fatal round.

Despite efforts to change Dust Off, Kelly’s dying words became the standard and nothing more was heard about portable red crosses. Thanks to Kelly and his men, Dust Off would rescue some one million souls in Vietnam, setting unmatched lifesaving records.

Brady left Vietnam and was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia where he continued to fly med-evacs in the antiquated H-19.  In late summer 1967 Brady trained and outfitted the 54th Medical Detachment for deployment to Vietnam in August.

The 54th was based at Chu Lai. The war had intensified since Brady’s first tour. Dust Off had gone from supporting 16,000 troops to half a million.  Night, weather and terrain were as deadly as the communists.

Brady furthered his flying skills and the 54th became specialists in combat pickups at night, in weather, and under fire, using techniques never before used in combat.

On January 6, 1968, Brady was rousted from off duty to help with an extraordinary causality situation. Despite repeated warnings that the missions were impossible – due to weather, the enemy, or land mines – on three different missions Brady extracted patients from areas where other aircraft had failed.

On two occasions his aircraft were hit by automatic weapons fire, and damaged by an exploding mine on a third.  Two crewmembers were wounded and by nightfall his three aircraft had over four hundred holes in them.  But most notably, Brady and his crews had rescued nearly a hundred patients.

Brady has said that day was much like most days for him and the men of the 54th.   The difference was someone cared enough to write about it.  For his actions that day, Brady was presented the Medal of Honor by President Nixon on October 9, 1969.

In two tours in Vietnam, Brady flew over 2,500 combat missions, and rescued over 5,000 wounded.

Brady earned an MBA from Notre Dame in 1972, and served the Army for 34 years, retiring as a Major General.  He and his wife Nancy have six children, 13 grandchildren and one great grandson.

Today Brady is active in the Medal of Honor Society’s Character Development Program, dedicated to teaching our youth how to become heroes and the importance of courage, sacrifice and patriotism – to them and to America.

Brady, and his daughter Meghan, an Iraq War veteran, published the book, Dead Men Flying, about his Vietnam experiences.  It serves as his tribute to Major Kelly’s legacy and to the humanitarian effort of the Vietnam veteran unreported in the annals of warfare.

Tonight we are proud to welcome the top helicopter pilot of the Vietnam War, a pioneer of aeromedical evacuation, and our most highly decorated living veteran, Major General Patrick Henry Brady, into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.