Medal of Honor
Jackson to be honored at UGA
by W. Winston Skinner
Col. Joe M. Jackson, a Newnan native who received the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam, will be honored at the University of Georgia Homecoming game on Nov. 9.
Alan J. DeWitt of the Hilliard W. Banks Foundation in Cornelia said Jackson, who now lives in Kent, Wash., will be attending the game. UGA will be playing Appalachian State University. ' Our foundation worked with the folks at UGA to have them recognize all Medal of Honor recipients from the state of Georgia. We tried to get the four living Medal of Honor recipients to come, but the other three already had committed themselves to other activities since it is the weekend of Veterans Day,' DeWitt said.
'All 27 Medal of Honor recipients from Georgia will be recognized through the use of the scoreboard and slides with their pictures and other information,' DeWitt said. Maj. Stephen Pless, who received his medal in the same ceremony as Jackson, was also born in Newnan.
Pless was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1969. He and Jackson are depicted in a sculpture at Veterans Memorial Plaza in the Newnan city park at Jackson Street and Temple Avenue.
Jackson, 90, has numerous relatives who still live in Newnan. The Hilliard A. Wilbanks Foundation is named for a Medal of Honor recipient who was born in Cornelia and who died from battle injuries in Vietnam in 1967.
Jackson graduated from Newnan High School in 1940 and joined the military in 1941. He wanted to be a pilot but was not allowed into flight training at the time because he only had a high school diploma.
Instead, he became an aircraft mechanic. But after the United States entered World War II, pilots were desperately needed. After passing a special test, Jackson was admitted to the Army Air Corps and assigned to pilot training.
Jackson earned his wings in 1943 and served in several stateside positions.
At the end of World War II, he considered coming back to Newnan and starting a business, but the job market was poor and he decided to make a career of the military.
Jackson flew 107 combat missions in his F-84 fighter during the Korean War.
In the early 1960s, Jackson was stationed in Albany, Ga., with a detachment of U-2 reconnaissance planes, highaltitude aircraft used to make top-secret photos of suspected enemy bases or equipment.
Jackson was part of the U-2 operation that photographed Soviet missiles installed in Cuba. The missiles precipitated the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, during which the United States and Soviet Union came perilously close to war before Soviet leaders capitulated to Pres. John F. Kennedy's demands that the missiles be removed.
Jackson later served in Europe and was then assigned to duty in Vietnam. Instead of jets, he flew C-123 cargo planes.
Jackson was flying a C-123 on May 12, 1968, Mother's Day, when he flew the mission that rescued stranded American troops at Kham Duc and resulted in Jackson being awarded the Medal of Honor.