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Medal of Honor Recipient Leo K. Thorsness Dies at Age of 85

Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam POW, retired Col. Leo Thorsness appears on the 2012 Gathering of Eagles panel at the Air Command and Staff College Wood auditorium on June 7, 2012. (BUD HANCOCK/U.S. AIR FORCE)
Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam POW, retired Col. Leo Thorsness appears on the 2012 Gathering of Eagles panel at the Air Command and Staff College Wood auditorium on June 7, 2012. (BUD HANCOCK/U.S. AIR FORCE)

Medal of Honor recipient Col. Leo K. Thorsness died Tuesday in St. Augustine, Florida, according to a news release from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. He was 85.

The U.S. Air Force veteran was shot down over North Vietnam and subsequently held captive by the North Vietnamese at the Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton." He was released on March 4, 1973, almost six years after he was shot down. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon on Oct. 15, 1973. He retired from the Air Force in 1973.

Thorsness was born Feb. 14, 1932 in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. He attended South Dakota State College in 1950 and enlisted in the Air Force a year later. He graduated from the Aviation Cadet Program with a commission earning his wings. He served as a fighter pilot with Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command before he was sent to Vietnam with the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron. He and his wingman were shot down in April 1967.

He is survived by his wife Gaylee. Funeral services have not been announced, according to the news release.

 

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