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​Then Army Maj. Charles Kettles stands beside his heavily damaged helicopter after returning from a May 15, 1967, emergency extraction rescue operation. Courtesy photo.

​President Barack Obama will award a retired Army helicopter pilot the Medal of Honor next month for saving more than 40 soldiers during a battle in the Vietnam War, the White House announced Tuesday. On May 15, 1967, Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, who was a major at the time, led a platoon of UH-1D helicopters in support of the 1st Brigade of the the 101st Airborne Division, which was being ambushed by a battalion-sized force near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, according to the White House release. After leading several evacuation runs under fire, Kettles returned without aerial support to rescue a squad-sized group of soldiers who were stranded and pinned down. He is credited with saving the lives of 40 soldiers and four of his own crew members that day. He left Vietnam in November 1967, but returned for a second tour between October 1969 and October 1970. He retired from the Army in 1978. Kettles, who is 86 years old, will receive the nation’s highest honor for valor in combat from President Obama on July 18.