WASHINGTON – Pilots and crew members of U.S. planes that struck targets where Saddam Hussein was believed to have been were awarded Distinguished Flying Cross medals, the military said Sunday.
Lt. Col. David Toomey and Maj. Mark Hoehn received medals for flying F-117A attack jets in a March 19 mission to bomb a complex where Saddam Hussein and his sons were thought to have been staying. The next day, U.S. ground troops invaded southern Iraq from Kuwait.
Also given the Distinguished Flying Cross were the crew of a B-1B bomber that launched an April 7 strike on a Baghdad house where Saddam was believed to have been staying. They are Capt. Chris Watcher, the plane's commander; Lt. Col. Fred Swan, weapons system officer; Capt. Sloan Hollis, pilot; and 1st Lt. Joe Runci, offensive systems operator.
The Florida-based Central Command, in charge of military operations in the Middle East-Persian Gulf area, announced the awards.
U.S. experts still have not determined if either strike killed the former Iraqi president. Search teams have visited both sites.
Toomey and Hoehn carried out their mission "in the finest traditions of our Air Force," Lt. Gen. Michael Moseley, the top air commander in the Persian Gulf, said in presenting the medals.
The two pilots took off less than two hours after being notified of the mission, which had been approved personally by President Bush, the statement said.
Both had problems during the mission. Hoehn's plane developed an unspecified problem during the flight, and he also had problems with his communications equipment, the release said. Toomey dealt with an unspecified "weapons system malfunction," the statement said.
The planes used satellite-guided, bunker-busting bombs to attack the compound.