Three-time Air Force Cross honoree and POW Col. James Kasler to be honored at Olivet
Posted: Apr 29, 2014
Olivet will honor the extraordinary life and service of Col. James Helms Kasler during a special memorial service, May 4, 2014, at 4 p.m., in the Betty and Kenneth Hawkins Centennial Chapel. One of the U.S. military’s most decorated soldiers, Kasler passed away on Thursday, April 24, at the age of 87.
The public is welcome and encouraged to attend this memorial service.
Col. Kasler was a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was a three-time recipient of the Air Force Cross, the second highest U.S. decoration for bravery behind the Medal of Honor. No other U.S. warrior has ever received that distinction.
An August 1966 article in Time Magazine labeled Kasler “the hottest pilot” in Vietnam and said his wing mates called him “a one-man Air Force.” That same week, on his 91st bombing mission in South Vietnam, he was shot down near Hanoi while providing cover for his wingman. His right leg shattered. He was subsequently captured and spent August 1966 to March 1973 at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where he suffered unimaginable torture.
Col. Kasler flew a combined total of 198 combat missions. With a total of 76 awards for valor and service, Kasler received the aforementioned three awards of the Air Force Cross, was decorated twice with the Silver Star, a Legion of Merit, nine awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts and eleven awards of the Air Medal.
After Col. Kasler’s retirement from the Air Force, he bought and redeveloped the South Shore Golf Course in Momence, Illinois. He and his wife, Martha, became valued members of the Kankakee community, including as longtime friends and financial supporters of Olivet Nazarene University. A bronze statue was dedicated to Kasler by the people of Momence and Kankakee County on September 15, 2007, at the Kasler-Momence Veteran’s Park.
For additional information about Sunday’s memorial service, contact Olivet’s Office of Alumni and University Relations at 815-939-5258.