Ron Rasmussen was shot down during the Vietnam War on July 11, 1970, over the A Shau Valley in the northern part of South Vietnam near the Laos border.
On Memorial Day 2012, President Obama officially launched a 13-year project to mark the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War.
That day in July 1970, Rasmussen, a Marine pilot with the rank of captain, was flying a visual reconnaissance mission in a TA-4F Skyhawk, assigned to Headquarters & Maintenance Squadron 11, of Marine Aircraft Group 11 out of Da Nang air base in the Republic of Vietnam. Rasmussen's assistant intelligence officer, 1st Lt. W.W. "Chip" Mills, was the back seat crewman.
Rasmussen grew up on a farm at Whitehall, Wis., and now lives in Neenah, Wis. "From 8 years old on, I had my head in the clouds after receiving three model airplanes from my mother for Christmas. All I ever wanted to do after that was to fly, military jets in particular," he said.
He piloted a cargo plane into Minot for about two years. During his layovers in the city Rasmussen spent much of his time volunteering at the Dakota Territory Air Musuem in Minot. He is an air museum member.
Rasmussen's flying career includes two tours in Vietnam with the Marines; flying with the Marine Reserves, flying helicopters with the Wisconsin Army National Guard and flying Phantoms with the Indiana Air National Guard.
"In round numbers I had 34 "good" years out of 37, having lost three years in the transitions from USMC (U.S. Marine Corps) to ARNG (Army National Guard) to ANG (Air National Guard) and back. I had the privilege of wearing three different uniforms, fly jets twice and fly helicopters twice. In all the transitions I was a captain twice, a major twice, and a warrant officer twice spread over three services. It was a good career, a grand adventure!" said Rasmussen in his biographical information.
In civilian life, Rasmussen has flown airline passengers and cargo for many years. He continues to fly cargo. Incidentally, his father, Rueben, was born in eastern North Dakota.
An exhibit about Rasmussen during the Vietnam War is displayed in the air museum. Currently, the museum is open by appointment. It opens for the season in mid-May.
Following is Rasmussen's account when he and Mills were shot down and then rescued.