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Wreaths across America - radio interviews

Lewis Watt, DFC Society Secretary

Lewis’ received a civil engineering degree from Tufts University in1962 and a MSA degree from the George Washington University in 1972. His twenty-six-year Marine Corps Career included two combat tours in Southeast Asia, five years as a test pilot at Patuxent River, MD, and tours in Washington. Lewis flew a hundred different type/model/series of aircraft, four of them on his thousand hours of combat sorties. His assignments include command of the Cherry Point, NC, Aviation Depot, and Program Manager for the AV-8B Harrier program. Leaving the Corps, Lewis tried various R&D and management positions at the Applied Research Lab at Penn State University, co‑founding RLW Inc.  The company was acquired in 2008 by Impact Technologies LLC, in turn acquired by Sikorsky Aircraft Company. Lewis teaches
freshman engineering courses at Penn State.

Lewis’ awards include: Legion of Merit (2 awards); meritorious Service Medal; Distinguished Flying Cross; Air Medal (29 awards); and Joint Service Commendation.

Lewis is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and The Distinguished Flying Cross Society.

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Byron Derringer, Great Grandson of WWI Aviator Captain James Ely Miller, both DFC Society Members

The Distinguished Flying Cross was established on July 2, 1926, with eligibility back to April 6, 1917 when the USA declared war on the German Empire. The intent was to make WWI aviators eligible. However, no DFC was awarded for WWI until Captain Miller’s posthumous award to his family in June 2017. Capt. Miller remains the only DFC award for WWI. 

Captain James Ely Miller holds a significant place in the annals of American aviation, being recognized as the first American aviator killed in action serving with an American unit during World War I. He has the distinguished honor of becoming the first and only recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross in WWI, and he also stands as the first U.S. Airman eligible for the Purple Heart due to his valiant sacrifice in air-to-air combat against the enemy while in service to the Armed Forces of the United States.

The live interview promises an intimate exploration of Captain Miller's unparalleled legacy, as Byron Derringer shares insights into the remarkable life and achievements of his great grandfather. Mr. Derringer will shed light on Captain Miller's vital role as the inaugural commander of the 3rd Aviation Instructional Center (3rd AIC) located in Issoudon, France. This pioneering center played an instrumental role in shaping aviation instruction and training that laid the foundation for all subsequent developments in the field of aviation. 

He went on to command the 95th Aero Squadron, and he taught Eddie Rickenbacker to fly. Rickenbacker would become America’s most successful fighter ace of World War I.

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William S. Reeder, Jr. Ph.D., Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), DFC Society Member - Coming Soon!

Two combat tours in Vietnam and POW, Army Aviator of the Year, Army Aviation Hall of Fame Member

William Reeder is a retired colonel and a thirty-year Army veteran with two tours of duty in Vietnam as an Army Aviator. He has more than three thousand hours of flight time including over one thousand hours in combat. During his second combat tour, he was shot down and captured by the communist North Vietnamese, spending nearly a year as a prisoner of war.  He wrote a book on that experience, Through the Valley: My Captivity in Vietnam, published by the Naval Institute Press in 2016. A second book, Extraordinary Valor: The Fight for Charlie Hill, about one of the most significant, yet little known battles of the Vietnam War, was published by Lyons Press in 2022.

He received two Distinguished Flying Crosses, one for his actions during an armed OV-1 Mohawk mission over Laos in 1969, and another for support to besieged South Vietnamese Rangers, as an AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter pilot, during the 1972 Easter Offensive. He was shot down on both missions.  His other military awards include the Silver Star, the Valorous Unit Award, and three Bronze Star Medals. He has three Purple Hearts, the POW Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star, and numerous Air Medals (one with “V” device for valor). In 1977 he was named Army Aviator of the Year and was inducted into the U.S. Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2014.

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