Special to MiltonLocal.com
A naval aviator who trained, taught, and commanded a squadron in Northwest Florida has a building named after him. The ceremony took place at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Jan. 17 at 10 a.m. in the base’s auditorium.
The ceremony rededicated the building as the CDR Clyde E. Lassen Auditorium to honor his courage and service to the nation. The ceremony served as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Lassen, a Florida native, was the only Navy helicopter pilot to earn the Medal of Honor during Vietnam.
Shortly after midnight June 19, 1968, Lassen and his crew were sent in their UH-2 Seasprite, called Clementine Two, to rescue two downed aviators who were shot down over North Vietnam. Despite taking heavy fire, flying in a damaged aircraft, and running extremely low on fuel, the team successfully pulled the pilots out on the fifth attempt.
It was the first night-time helicopter rescue attempt over Vietnam and earned Lassen the Medal of Honor, Lt. j.g. LeRoy Cook the Navy Cross, Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Bruce Dallas the Silver Star and Aviation Jet Mechanic 3rd Class Don West the Silver Star.
“This rescue was one of the most inspirational stories in helicopter aviation history,” Capt. Todd Bahlau, NAS Whiting Field Commanding Officer said. “We are excited to honor a true hero, who also served at NAS Whiting Field.”
Lassen received his enlisted training at NAS Pensacola before being commissioned. After his time in Vietnam he also served as an instructor pilot in the local area and ended his career as the Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT Commanding Officer at NAS Whiting Field.
This will be the second time a building at the installation will be named for Lassen. Previously, an Academic Training Building was named for him, however, the building was damaged during Hurricane Ivan and had to be demolished. A display case of Lassen memorabilia from that building forms the core of the auditorium lobby.
Naval Aviation Museum Historian Hill Goodspeed will be the features speaker for the occasion and retired Navy Capt. Dick Catone, a former Training Air Wing FIVE Commodore, spoke during the ceremony. The two officers, Catone and Lassen, knew each other when they were in theater together.
The auditorium serves as the location where 100 percent of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps aviators receive their Wings of Gold designating them as Naval Aviators. Training Air Wing FIVE holds winging ceremonies roughly every two weeks and produces more than 600 winged aviators annually. The rededication ceremony is open to persons with authorized base access to include: active duty and reserve personnel, family members, base civilian personnel and retirees.