An Irishman who was awarded America’s second highest military honor, the Distinguished Services Cross, during the Vietnam War will be remembered in a special ceremony in his native County Kerry later this month.

According to military records the President of the United States of America personally presented the Distinguished Service Cross to Second Lieutenant (Infantry) John I. O’Sullivan, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection to military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with 174th Aviation company, 14th Aviation Battalion, American Division.

The Tralee man who was a distinguished military and civilian helicopter pilot in the US Army, will be commemorated by Listowel town and County Kerry in conjunction with Listowel Military Tattoo at Listowel Racecourse on April 29.

2Lt John I. O‘Sullivan receives an award from Gen Bruce Palmer Jr.

2Lt John I. O‘Sullivan receives an award from Gen Bruce Palmer Jr.

According to Tralee Today, the commemoration will be attended by many of John O’Sullivan’s family and aviation friends, including several Vietnam veterans. To this day, John, who passed away in 2012, remains the second most highly decorated US Army Aviator. John received 1 DSC, 6 DFC, 5 Purple Heart, 3 Bronze Star, 3 Silver Star and 42 Air Medals.

A citation upon receiving the distinguished service cross reads:

“Second Lieutenant O’Sullivan distinguished himself while serving as fire team leader of a helicopter gunship team flying in support of allied operations near Quang Ngai.

“Although under a continuous hail of enemy automatic weapons fire, Lieutenant O’Sullivan led an aggressive attack on three companies of enemy soldiers that were entrenched in a Vietnamese village.

“Repeatedly exposing his aircraft to intense enemy automatic weapons fire, he eliminated four enemy soldiers and destroyed two enemy bunkers. His aircraft was then shot down by intense enemy fire as he descended to a low altitude to provide cover fire for another downed friendly helicopter.

Second LT Timothy I O'Sullivan in Vietnam.

Second LT Timothy I O'Sullivan in Vietnam.

“After surveying the damage to his downed ship, Lieutenant O’Sullivan returned to the cockpit and flew the crippled craft to a nearby air strip. He then obtained another gunship and returned to the area to take command of the fire team.

“While covering the recovery of the downed helicopter, he eliminated five more of the enemy. Responding to an urgent appeal for assistance from another allied unit, he again braved intense fire as he assaulted three enemy machine gun positions.

“During this encounter, his gunship was damaged by enemy fire. Undaunted, he continued his aggressive assault, destroyed the enemy machine gun positions, and completely routed the enemy force.

“Second Lieutenant O’Sullivan’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”

The commemoration will honor Captain O’Sullivan for these achievements, with the UK Huey ‘509’ helicopter flying in to Listowel Racecourse at the event which starts at 12 noon. For more information email at