On June 19, 1968, Lassen, then a 27 year old Lieutenant flying a UH-2 Sea sprite, embarked on a mission to recover two downed naval aviators whose plane had been shot down deep in North Vietnamese territory. Upon reaching the hilly terrain where the aviators were hiding, LT Lassen made several attempts to recover the aviators, but dense tree cover, enemy weapons fire and intermittent illumination frustrated his efforts. Determined to complete his mission, LT Lassen turned on the landing lights of the helicopter, despite the danger of revealing his position to the enemy. After the pilots made their way to the helicopter and with his damaged helicopter dangerously low on fuel, LT Lassen evaded further antiaircraft fire before landing safely at sea onboard a guided missile destroyer-with only five minutes of fuel left in the helicopter's fuel lines.
The account of the rescue was logged as a successful, routine search and rescue mission. But at the home base for Helicopter Combat Squadron Seven, the rescue flight of June 19, 1968, will always be acclaimed as one of the most daring feats of flying to come out of the Vietnam Conflict.
LT Lassen became the first naval aviator and fifth Navy man to be awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in Vietnam.
MEDAL of HONOR CITATION
CLYDE EVERETT LASSEN
Lieutenant, United States Navy
Helicopter Squadron 7, Detachment 104
Embarked on USS PREBLE
Republic of Vietnam
19 June 1968
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as pilot and aircraft commander of a search and rescue helicopter, attached to Helicopter Support Squadron 7, during operations against enemy forces in North Vietnam. Launched shortly after midnight to attempt the rescue of 2 downed aviators. Lt. (then Lt.(jg.)) Lassen skillfully piloted his aircraft over unknown and hostile terrain to a steep, tree-covered hill on which the survivors had been located. Although enemy fire was being directed at the helicopter, he initially landed in a clear area near the base of the hill, but, due to the dense undergrowth, the survivors could not reach the helicopter. With the aid of flare illumination, Lt. Lassen successfully accomplished a hover between 2 trees at the survivors' position. Illumination was abruptly lost as the last of the flares were expended, and the helicopter collided with a tree, commencing a sharp descent. Expertly righting his aircraft and maneuvering clear, Lt. Lassen remained in the area, determined to make another rescue attempt, and encouraged the downed aviators while awaiting resumption of flare illumination. After another unsuccessful, illuminated rescue attempt. and with his fuel dangerously low and his aircraft significantly damaged, he launched again and commenced another approach in the face of the continuing enemy opposition. When flare illumination was again lost, Lt. Lassen, fully aware of the dangers in clearly revealing his position to the enemy, turned on his landing lights and completed the landing. On this attempt, the survivors were able to make their way to the helicopter. In route to the coast he encountered and successfully evaded additional hostile antiaircraft fire and, with fuel for only minutes of flight remaining, landed safely aboard U.S.S. Jouett (DLG-29). Lt. Lassen's extraordinary heroism at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Navy."
The medal was officially presented 16 January 1969.
Current USS Lassen
USS Lassen (DDG 82) was laid down on 24 August 1998 at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., christened on October 16, 1999 and commissioned on 21 April 2001 at the Florida Aquarium Pier in Tampa, Fla.
In July 2002 participated in the biennial exercise "Rim of the Pacific" (RIMPAC) 2002.
In January 2003 USS Lassen departed San Diego for its maiden Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment, with the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Battle Group. Lassen participated in exercise Foal Eagle.
On September 2, 2005 USS Lassen arrived at its new forward-deployed operating base Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka.
In June 2006 Lassen participated in exercise Valiant Shield '06. In November participated in the largest bilateral exercise, ANNUALEX.
In February 2007 USS Lassen departed Yokosuka, Japan, for a routine underway period. In November Lassen participated in ANNUALEX 19G.
In September 2009 Lassen participated in the Multi-Sail 2009 exercise. In November Lassen participated in Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 21G.
In March 2010 DDG 82 participated in the bilateral exercise Foal Eagle 2010. In April Lassen participated in a week-long bilateral exercise Malabar 2010. In May USS Lassen participated in the second phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise. In July she participated in a combined alliance maritime and air readiness exercise Invincible Spirit. In September Lassen departed for an annual Fall Patrol, as part of the USS George Washington (CVN 73) CSG. In December Lassen participated in joint exercise Keen Sword 2011.
In November 2011 USS Lassen participated in a bilateral Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) as part of the USS George Washington CSG.
In April 2012 April 16, USS Lassen participated in a Ship Anti-Submarine Warfare Readiness/Effectiveness Measure (SHAREM) 170 exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships. In May Lassen participated in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2012
In January 2013 USS Lassen departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka for a western Pacific patrol.
1st USS Lassen
The first USS Lassen (AP-3), named after a peak in the Lassen Volcanic National Park, Calif., originally named the Shooting Star, was launched by the Tampa Shipbuilding Co., Tampa, Fla. Under a Maritime Commission contract 10 January 1940 she was acquired by the Navy 15 November 1940 and commissioned 4 days later with Lt Comdr. A. B. Kerr as the commanding officer. She was later commissioned in full on 27 March 1941 with Comdr. R. S. Berkey as the commanding officer.
In the months prior to the war, this ammunition ship had made deliveries along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in July sailed to Pearl Harbor. On 22 November 1941 she departed Norfolk for San Francisco, her homeport. After round-trip voyages to the Samoan Islands, Fiji Islands, and Pearl Harbor Lassen began duty as an advanced base supply ship. Departing San Francisco 26 August 1942, Lassen replenished ships out of Dumbea Bay, New Caledonia, from 19 September 1942 to 17 January 1943. She serviced ships from Efate, New Hebrides, and Noumea, New Caledonia, before returning to her homeport 24 November.
As part of Vice Adm. W. L. Calhoun’s 7th Force, Pacific Fleet, Lassen arrived Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands 2 February 1944. She replenished ships in the Marshall Islands, and at Manus Island, Admiralty Islands. As part of “the train” at Kossol Passage, Palau Islands, 25 September to 2 October and at Ulithi Atoll from 4 October to 18 November, she earned her first battle star. Upon returning to the western Carolines 23 February 1945, Lassen, along with her sister AEs, worked out techniques for transferring large quantities of ammunition while underway. She accompanied TG 50.8 in raids during 13 March to 14 June supporting the Okinawa campaign. Her third battle star was earned while accompanying TG 30.8 during 8 July to 6 August off the coast of Japan.
V-J Day found Lassen operating out of San Pedro Bay, Leyte. On 25 October she departed for the United States via Eniwetok, where she embarked 112 passengers. She proceeded down the coast by stages and arrived in San Diego 27 March 1946. Lassen decommissioned 15 January 1947 and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet, remaining a unit of that fleet until struck from the Navy list 1 July 1961.
Lassen received three battle stars for World War II service.