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The Previous Day, launch time minus 13+50 (1600 Local)

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Henry followed a familiar pattern in preparation for his

11 March 2006 flight supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Although this was his

first operational mission on this deployment to the host country base in Southwest Asia,

the veteran of more than 17 years flying the U-2 knew the routine. He began his crew

rest at about 1600 local time. After a call home, he went for dinner. With a menu limited

to fish, “some funky looking chicken” and sausage, he opted for the sausage, a salad and

rice. Returning to his quarters, he wanted to wake up at 0300 so he took a prescribed

Restoril at 1800 to ensure he would be asleep by 1900. Although a phone call at 1830

related to his acting squadron commander duties caused him some concern, he was soon

asleep and awoke at 0300 feeling fully rested.1

Henry arrived at the squadron early so he could don his full pressure suit and have

a little extra time to relax on 100% oxygen before going out to the airplane. U-2 pilots

breathe 100% oxygen for at least one hour prior to take off to eliminate excess nitrogen

from the body, nitrogen which could cause decompression sickness, a condition similar to

deep-sea diver’s “bends.” But in the locker room after donning the long underwear he

wore under his pressure suit, he suddenly remembered to call the Command Post

informing them that Captain Jeremy Potvin, the director of operations, would be in

charge during the mission. So he ran down the hall to Operations in his underwear,

called the Command Post, and rushed back to Physiological Support for his suit-up.2

Pre-breathe, launch time minus 1+15 (0335 Local)

He began his dress at the required one hour and fifteen minutes before takeoff.

The Physiological Support technicians had reported for work about two hours earlier.

They loaded Lieutenant Colonel Henry’s survival kit and parachute into the aircraft and

preflight checked his pressure suit ensuring that it passed all operational and leak checks.

The suit would protect him at altitudes where the human body could not survive without

it. The suit-up proceeded uneventfully and he closed his visor and began his pre-

breathing exactly one hour prior to takeoff time.3

Henry expected a “nice, steady flow of air, but it was intermittent” and he felt as

if he had to override the anti-suffocation valve to inhale. The technicians checked all the

connections and hoses, but could find no problem. Staff Sergeant Jungu Shin, the

physiological support supervisor, later explained that Lieutenant Colonel Henry was

allergic to the newer neoprene face seal and wore the older latex one. The softer latex

seal allowed the lining that surrounds the pilot’s face to move back and forth, which

could have caused the sensation Lieutenant Colonel Henry was feeling. Also all the

physical activity had left him perspiring and this could hamper an airtight seal around the

pilot’s face. A quick magna-helix check confirmed there was no ambient air leaking

from the suit into the helmet cavity and ensured that he was breathing 100% oxygen.

Ambient air leaking into the face cavity would dilute the oxygen and lead to hypoxia, a

condition caused by decreased oxygen levels in the body. The technicians then offered to

preflight his backup helmet in preparation for swapping it for the one he was wearing.

Henry decided he would tighten his face seal to see if that helped. This seemed to

improve the oxygen flow, so he opted to wear his primary helmet instead of changing to

the backup. But, he recalled later, the thought that something could be wrong with his

helmet lingered with him. He added that he also probably loosened the uncomfortably

tight face seal once he got into the cockpit.4

Takeoff (0551 Local, 1751 previous day at Beale)

The 100% oxygen soon dried the perspiration and the prebreathing proceeded

with no further difficulty. Henry arrived at the jet a little early. As is the normal

procedure, the mobile pilot had already preflighted the airplane, a task that would have

been very difficult for the primary pilot in a full pressure suit. The engine start, sensor

and data-link checks all went according to plan. A short delay on the runway caused him

to takeoff one minute later than the planned 0550 local time. The pre-dawn takeoff

allowed him to appreciate the beautiful sunrise as he climbed to altitude. Lieutenant

Colonel Henry spent the approximately two-hour flight time to the collection area

communicating with the Distributed Ground Station-2, the unit at Beale AFB, California

that received the data from his sensors and kept constant voice contact with him, and

enjoying the flight.5

The first signs, launch plus 4:00 (0950 Local, 2150 previous day at Beale)

After about two hours on station, or approximately four hours into the flight, he

had been looking down completing flight related tasks and when he looked up he

perceived the airplane rolling to the right, twice. He thought, “What was that?” The

U-2’s autopilot was on and the instruments indicated the wings were level. Knowing

this, Henry wondered if perhaps the glasses he wore when flying had the wrong

prescription. His thoughts returned to his oxygen flow when he had first donned his

helmet that morning, but he dismissed the idea and concluded that he had just raised his

head too quickly. He also noticed a “low-level” pain in his knees, but decided “it is just

old age.” As a precaution he manually inflated his suit and, when he did, the pain went

away. This indicated to him he was probably experiencing “the bends”, a condition

caused by nitrogen bubbles in the joints. He had had previous episodes and knew that

excess movement could exacerbate the problem. So he thought he could minimize the

pain by limiting physical activity.6

As Henry adapted to the pain in his knees, the ground station informed him his

sensors were having some problems and asked him to adjust his altitude and enter new

coordinates into his onboard computer. He punched in the new coordinates, but reversed

the first and the last two numbers. The ground station caught the error when he read the

coordinates back for confirmation. He made the correction and “shrugged it off” as his

not hearing the message correctly. This phase of the flight required constant altitude

changes so Lieutenant Colonel Henry was “direct steering” the aircraft. With increased

activity, he felt tired, with a “low-level” headache. He thought, “I have been so busy that

I haven’t had anything to drink in awhile.” The headache and tiredness persisted even

after he drank a bottle of Gatorade. Perhaps a tube of chocolate pudding, which

contained caffeine, would help. After the pudding, he seemed to feel better, but he still

had the headache.7

Captain Shawn South, the ground station mission commander, then asked Henry

to enter new coordinates. This time the process seemed to him to take forever and two or

three times he had to ask Captain South to repeat the numbers. Henry wondered, “Why

am I having such a difficult time concentrating?” As he pondered this question, he

perceived the airplane rolling to the right twice more. Again, the autopilot was on and

the instruments confirmed that he was flying straight and level. He realized something

“was not right,” but could not figure out what was wrong. He also attributed a “hot

flash” up his back to a warm cockpit and opened the vent on his pressure suit a little more

to relieve it.8

But the “hot flash” reminded him of hypoxia symptoms he had experienced

during periodic physiological training altitude chamber flights. The corrective action for

hypoxia is additional oxygen, so he pulled the “green apple” to activate his emergency

oxygen supply. He recalled using both hands and “pulling and pulling” on the green

apple and concluding somewhat illogically “that thing is rusty.” The problem

concentrating, the perceived aircraft rolls, and a possible hypoxia symptom caused his

thoughts to return to his initial difficulty with his helmet and the preflight prebreathing.

Checking his liquid oxygen supply and noting that system #2 read .2 liters higher than

“full,” he tried unsuccessfully to calculate his oxygen consumption rate. He also wanted

to determine his on-station time to ensure his mission was effective, but that, too, proved

too complicated. Not feeling well without knowing why, he considered terminating the

mission and returning to base early. But the ground station interrupted his thoughts with

a request to revisit one of his target points after which he would proceed to the exit point

for his return to base. He readily agreed, thinking to himself “I am on my way home,”

without realizing it would be another hour-and-a-half before that was true.9


Acknowledges symptoms to Ground Station, launch plus 7:00 (1250 Local, 0050 at


After making the needed adjustments, he headed for the designated target point.

The next thing he realized he had passed that point and was moving toward another.

Confused by missing the target point, he typed in “direct steer to” the exit point and read

“54 minutes to fly to exit.” Not until he was flying toward his exit point did he ask the

ground station mission commander to inform Operations that he was “not feeling well.”

At this point he was approximately seven hours and ten minutes into the mission and

about three hours after he first noticed pain in his knees and sensed the aircraft roll to the


Captain South notified Operations at Lieutenant Colonel Henry’s deployed

location that he was not feeling well. Being too far away from Henry to talk with him

directly, Captain Ralph Shoukry, who was “air boss” that day, asked Captain South to

have Henry more clearly define his condition. Henry replied he was “not really feeling

out of it,” but added that he was feeling “pretty crappy . . . about an eight on a scale of

one to ten.” After confirming that his cabin altitude was “holding good at 28.1 (28,100

feet pressure altitude) and that the suit’s oxygen flow was good, he said he would be able

to return to home station rather than divert to an alternate base.11

About 45 minutes later Henry left the country where he had been collecting data

and began the return flight home. As he reached the exit point, Captain South asked him

to retrieve the computer file that contained the information for his flight home. A couple

of minutes later Lieutenant Colonel Henry replied, “I don’t remember how to.” Captain

South sensed the severity of the situation and directed the person sitting next to him to

notify the Beale AFB Command Post to have a U-2 pilot come to the ground station

immediately. The Command Post alerted Colonel Gregory Kern, the 9th Operations

Group commander, who suggested calling Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Olesen, 9th

Operations Support Squadron commander. Olesen, who had just gotten into bed and felt

physically unable to perform effectively, referred the Command Post to Lieutenant

Colonel David Russell, Henry’s 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander at Beale


The people in the deployed location’s Operations did not immediately realize that

Henry’s condition was serious. Even when he had difficulty changing files, they

attributed it to his unfamiliarity with the new procedures in the upgraded block-20 U-2

cockpit. They assumed he had probably forgotten to change the autopilot setting before

attempting to transfer files. They instructed Captain South to tell Lieutenant Colonel

Henry to take the airplane off autopilot. When that did not correct the situation, Captain

Shoukry, frustrated with trying to relay instruction through a non-pilot via a chat-room,

found a secure classified phone and called Captain South to talk directly. He detected the

worry in South’s voice and learned that he had already requested the Command Post send

a U-2 pilot to the ground station. Captain Shoukry again relayed instructions for

changing files, but Henry was unable to comply. When Lieutenant Colonel Russell

arrived at the ground station and assessed Henry’s condition, he informed Shoukry that

Henry was “really messed up.”13

Lieutenant Colonel Russell arrives at DGS-2, launch plus 8:05 (1355 Local, 0155 at


Lieutenant Colonel Russell, a veteran U-2 pilot himself, reached the ground

station and immediately began talking to Lieutenant Colonel Henry. Henry explained he

was having trouble remembering how to do things and was “having to hand-fly the jet”

because the autopilot would not engage. Adding, “I am really worried about my heading

right now, cause I’m all over East Bejeezus.” Henry had good cause to worry because he

was very near and flying toward heavily defended, denied airspace. Russell told Henry to

turn right and when the aircraft had turned enough to head in a safer direction Russell

said, “Stop turn!” Henry could follow these simple directions.14

Russell then ascertained that Henry had changed the navigation files, but could

not direct steer to the next point in the file. Russell carefully talked Henry through

recycling all his switches to restore the autopilot:

(Russell) “Let’s try a direct steer. On the bottom of the four carrots, punch the carrot and
then direct to DP 14.”
(Henry) “OK. Standby. . . . . . I can’t remember how to get there, Dude.”
(Russell) “OK, up to the left of your center or actually about your left display, you got a
small controller next to where all the numbers are. You got four buttons. The fourth
button down, where you got the vertical stack, push that one.”
(Henry) “You’re losing me.”
(Russell) “OK, the up front controller that has the radio frequencies on it. You got the
two numbers that are on the bottom of that display.”
(Henry) “I’m sorry. I’m really out of it.”

Eventually Russell successfully led Henry through the steps to reengage the autopilot.15

Additional complications, launch plus 8:43 (1433 Local, 0233 at Beale)

With that crisis temporarily contained, Russell could concentrate on Henry’s

condition. He suggested that Henry manually increase the pressure in his suit, which

would have the same effect on the body as descending to a lower altitude. Henry

complied and almost immediately vomited into the helmet’s face cavity. He later

recalled the chocolate pudding from earlier in the flight and the sausage from the

previous evening covered the inside of his visor making it difficult to see. At first he

mistook the brownish pudding for blood, which scared him even more. He opened his

visor and tried to clean the inside, even though his cabin altitude was at 28,100 feet.

After partially clearing the visor, he closed it but did not remember hearing the familiar

“click” to signal it was sealed. An unsealed visor would have left him vulnerable to

hypoxia. Also his eyes burned from the vomit’s acid and he again opened his visor to

wipe them.16

By this time Henry was within about 300 miles of his home base. He suggested

that he call Operations there to alert them he was near. Russell attempted to guide him

through the necessary change in communication settings, but Henry again had great

difficulty in follow even simple instructions. After failing to make the correct

adjustment, he told Russell, “I feel like a real idiot.” But Russell reassured him, “This

isn’t your fault, man. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to back you up.” He also

told him to stay on the same communications setting and Operations could call him on

that channel. Russell also suggested that Henry descend from 68,000 feet down to

52,000 feet, hoping the additional pressure would help Henry’s condition.17

After the descent, Russell began talking Henry through the steps for landing. He

lowered his landing gear without difficulty, but he could not get the flaps into the “gust

up” position. Russell opted to postpone dealing with that until later while getting Henry

turned to a heading toward the airfield. Henry then reported “It’s getting hard to

breathe. . . . Hard to breathe out.” He then vomited again. This time the vomit clogged

the oxygen inlet port in the helmet’s face seal and his microphone, reducing his oxygen

flow and making it impossible for him to transmit. Russell quickly recognized the

problem and had Henry make a couple of gradual turns to confirm that he could still hear

and then continued giving landing instructions:

(Russell) You need to level off at 15,000 feet and come to a 290 heading.
You need to come back to the left there, you got a lot of right banking.
Stay there at your present altitude at16,000 feet and wings level and that’ll get you
toward the field.
You’re drifting left of heading, so you need to start a right turn. . . . OK, you can go
ahead and stop your turn.

Russell constantly monitored Henry’s altitude and attitude and relayed corrections to

guide him back to the base. Henry later related that he had lost all color vision and the

vision on his left side. This left him only able to see the instruments directly in front of

him or to the right. “I could see the altitude. I could see the attitude. I could see my

heading. But my airspeed was gone.” With the U-2’s narrow range between over-

speeding the aircraft and stalling, this created a potentially critical situation.18

Preparations at the Deployed Location, launch plus 8:05 (1355 Local)

Meanwhile, the U-2 community at Henry’s deployed location began preparing for

an emergency landing or worse. With Russell’s assessment of Henry’s condition Captain

Shoukry and the other U-2 crewmembers divided tasks and responsibilities. Captain

Jeremy Potvin worked with the mission planners to constantly monitor Henry’s progress.

Potvin also contacted the host country’s air traffic control, which cleared airspace within

the host country and other countries in Henry’s flight path. Shoukry and Major Bob

Gardner alerted the Fire Department. Captain Alex Castro called the other ground

support personnel and gathered everyone into Operations to brief them on the situation.19

Shoukry and the other crewmembers then formulated their recovery plan. He

would remain the air boss and position himself adjacent to the runway with the flight

surgeons in an ambulance next to him. Castro would be the mobile who waited at the end

of the runway and advised Henry during the landing.1 Captain Ross Franquemont would

assist Castro. Gardner, an ex-fighter pilot, would be in the tower and Potvin would

continue as director of operations. When Henry landed, Shoukry and the flight surgeons

would be the first on the runway after Castro followed Henry’s touchdown. Maintenance

personnel would then bring the tow-bar and the “how-dow” stand to allow the ground

crew access to the cockpit. Shoukry and the others would get Henry out of the airplane

on the runway and the flight surgeons could immediately assess and treat his condition.

The Fire Department, which normally assumed command during a flight emergency,

agreed that the U-2 community could be in charge if Henry made a safe landing. If the

aircraft crashed or ran off the runway, then the Fire Department took command.20

The Air Show, launch plus 10:05 (1555 Local, 0355 at Beale)

Lieutenant Colonel Henry, meanwhile, suddenly realized he had entered clouds

and weather. The host nation had already launched two Mirage fighters to guide the U-2

back to the airfield. The Mirages joined Henry at 9,000 feet, while he was in weather, in

a left roll and a stall. Both Henry and Russell later marveled at the fighter pilots’

remarkable airmanship. The lead pilot later told Henry that the U-2 was in a left spiral

and a full stall when the Mirages reached him. Henry perceived the U-2’s extremely loud

stall warning tone as a mere annoyance, but apparently it was enough to revive him

The U-2 landing is the most difficult portion of the flight. The pilot has limited visibility, so another pilot
(the mobile) waits just off the end of the runway approach, then follows the airplane down the runway
constantly guiding the pilot and informing him of his altitude above the runway.

somewhat. In an attempt to get his attention, one pilot flew directly over the U-2, so

close that it shook the airplane. Henry remembered thinking, “Wow, this is really cool.”

Russell, meanwhile, instructed him to follow the Mirages.21

As Henry followed the Mirages, he saw a “sucker hole” break in the cloud cover

and went through it. This brought him out of the weather, but he was at 1,000 feet

altitude and within 1½ miles on the host country’s international airport. Fortunately, the

host country’s flight controllers had already cleared the airspace. However, Henry was

flying below the tops of 2,000-foot radio towers that stood near the airport. The Mirages,

fearing they would hit the towers’ guy wires, separated from the U-2 and climbed above

the towers. Henry flew between them. 22

Still trying to guide him home, Russell called:

Kevin, you are over downtown. It is the wrong airport, Buddy. Turn left! Stop your
turn! Now the airfield is in front of you at about seven miles.
Hey, Kevin, the airfield is in front of you at one o’clock. You should be able to see the
airfield. You are over the airfield now, look outside! 23

On the ground, Captain Shoukry, Master Sergeant Shannon Ledgewood, the

physiological support supervisor who had taken over for Sergeant Shin, Captain (Doctor)

Christina Millhouse, a flight surgeon, and the recovery crew waited. Captain Shoukry

recalled that Henry lined up between the two runways on various passes over the airfield,

so Captain Castro did not know where to position himself to guide Henry’s landing. So

he and Shoukry would park at alternate ends of the runways and act as mobile depending

on which direction Henry landed. They then watched Henry descend lower and lower,

Shoukry told Major Kirt Stallings, the safety officer sitting next to him, “At some point

we have to tell him to get out of the aircraft because he is descending into the dirt.” Then

he heard Castro yelling “bailout” and Shoukry joined in telling Henry to eject. But,

apparently the only voice he could hear was that of Lieutenant Colonel Russell. Henry

later learned that if he had ejected, his aircraft would have probably landed in “tent city”

where the enlisted people were billeted.24

There was a 50-foot high blast shield between Shoukry’s and Henry’s positions

and Henry disappeared from Shoukry’s view behind the blast shield. Shoukry later

recalled a strange thought went through his head: “Am I going to hear the explosion, am I

going to feel it, or am I going to see the flash first?”25

Sergeant Ledgewood, adjacent to the runway in the physiological support vehicle,

watched the unfolding drama:

I didn’t know if I wanted my seatbelt on or off, because the way he was flying I
wondered if I could get out of the van or move it fast enough if he came toward us. . . .
we watched him come in and watched him turn and take a nose down attitude, but he was
nowhere near the runway. I actually put the van in gear and started rolling, as did the fire
truck next to me. . . . we could see him diving toward the ground. . . . My heart was in my
throat. ‘This is it!’ . . . we knew it was over. . . . From the angle we were at we lost him
behind the hangars. That is how low he was to the ground. We saw the dust and were
waiting for the explosion.26

Doctor Millhouse, in the van with Sergeant Ledgewood, could not bear to watch

Lieutenant Colonel Henry crash. She put her head in her hands, closed her eyes and

prayed, telling Ledgewood, “Let me know when you see a fireball. We will probably be

able to hear it, but let me know when you see it.”27

Lieutenant Colonel Henry, barely aware of his surroundings, heard the “really

soft, really quiet” stall warning tone. He “kind of woke up” to a sudden ground rush and

what appeared to him to be a runway overrun filling his screen. The sudden ground rush

triggered an unconscious instinctive response and he pulled back on the yoke and

increased power and climbed back to a safer altitude. Instead of an explosion Doctor

Millhouse heard the incredibly sweet sound of the U-2’s engine roar under increased

power. Henry later learned what he perceived as an overrun was the cobble-stone

camouflage of a Mirage shelter.28

The Mirages rejoined Henry and, “saber dancing” to fly slow enough to stay with

him, eventually led him back to the runway. Russell continued talking to him:

Kevin, if you have the field in sight, you need to set up for a nice, steady straight-in. If
you can’t set up for a nice, steady straight-in, then you’re gonna have to exit the aircraft.
So you need to set yourself up. Nice building block approach, brother. You need to set
up for a normal pattern. If you can see the airfield, set it up for a good pattern. If you
can’t then you’re going to have to step out.

Unfortunately, Henry was too low and too fast for a safe landing. So he would have to go

around and try again.29

As he approached the runway again, Russell lost communication with him. As

the Mirages guided him around for another attempt, Russell’s link was restored. Russell

to Henry:

You should be pretty much over the field there. You need to take a couple of deep
breaths, man, see if you can get this together. We’re going to have to make a call here
soon, I think.
OK, Kevin, mobile says it looks like you’re in the break over the field. Remember, try to
roll your flaps and maintain 90 knots . . . you’re a little bit low for being over the field.
You need to level off if you’re still in the break. You need to watch your altitude. Watch
your altitude.
OK, Kevin, mobile says there’s a Mirage out there in front of you. You need to follow
the Mirage. Follow the Mirage.
Keep an eye on your speed. 90 knots at least.
OK, I show you descending, hopefully you’re on base. If you’re not on base, then do not

This time Henry lined up with the runway. Shoukry recalled it was a classic

approach with aircraft configured for landing. “He had everything out and had his

landing light on.” He passed over the end of the runway at about 12 feet and did a

beautiful, two-point landing, then put the brakes on and brought the aircraft to a stop.

Back at Beale, the transmission came: “Aircraft is recovered. Thank you.” In the ground

station where no one had left after their shift ended several hours earlier, everyone

breathed a sigh of relief. The time was 0551 at Beale and 1651 at the deployed location,

eleven hours after takeoff.31

On the ground, launch plus 11:00 (1651 Local)

Despite the plan that Shoukry would be the first at the aircraft, maintainers ran in

and inserted safety pins to secure the landing gears with the aircraft engines still running.

Shoukry gave Henry the sign to shut down the aircraft and he acknowledged and

complied. Maintainers pushed the “how-dow” ladder up to the airplane and Shoukry

quickly reached the cockpit and shut down all the primary systems. Castro followed him

up the ladder and inserted the ejection seat’s safety pins. They tried to remove Henry’s

helmet, but failing to get it separated from the neck ring, they called Ledgewood, the

physiological support supervisor. Ledgewood joined them and unlocked the helmet from

the neck ring. They then decided to lower Henry to the ground before removing the

helmet. Several others climbed the stand, then Shoukry climbed into the cockpit and

lifted Henry’s legs as the others removed him from the cockpit and carried him down the

ladder and laid him on a stretcher.32

Colonel (Doctor) James Little, the Air Force’s foremost authority on hyperbaric

medicine and deployed to the base’s expeditionary medical group, and Doctor Millhouse

met Henry at the bottom of the stairs. Henry was “pasty white” and unresponsive, in and

out of consciousness, with his eyes closed. Ledgewood removed Henry’s helmet and

immediately began administering 100% oxygen, coincidentally Millhouse, Ledgewood

and his crew had practiced this procedure earlier that day in response to Doctor Little’s

query, “You have a pilot coming back with DCS [decompression sickness], what do you

do?” With Henry out of the airplane, Doctor Little said, “Get him out of that @#$%# suit

right now!” Wanting to preserve the suit intact for later examination, Ledgewood, with

help from the two physiological support technicians accompanying him, removed the

pressure suit. Ledgewood directed one of the technicians to take the suit and helmet back

to their shop, place them in plastic bags and lock them up. Doctor Little directed that a

medical technician began an IV. Even though Henry’s eyes were closed, he could hear

the activity around him and thought, “They are going to give me an IV . . . and that is

going to hurt. I don’t want to look.” Doctor Little then raised Henry’s undershirt and a

deep purple marbling covered his chest, a common symptom of decompression sickness.2

Henry continued to fade into and out of consciousness. Every time he began to fade,

Little would sharply tap him on the forehead and yell, “Kevin, Kevin.”33

The host country had earlier offered Doctor Millhouse an evacuation helicopter

and she gratefully accepted. The helicopter landed on the runway behind Henry’s

aircraft. As people loaded Henry onto the aircraft, Little said he wanted the two medical

technicians and Ledgewood to accompany him to the host country’s nearby Special

Operations Command Headquarters, which had a hyperbaric chamber: the most effective

means for treating decompression sickness. Millhouse would follow in a staff car with

additional supplies and equipment. Little asked if there were “paddles” onboard in case

he had to “jump start” his patient and was told there were. During the flight Henry closed

his eyes and heard Little yell “Get the paddles ready!” Henry thought, “Oh no! That is
Little later commented that Henry’s was the worst decompression sickness case that he had ever seen.

going to hurt. I don’t want that.” Fortunately, it was not necessary. Not wanting to fly

higher than absolutely necessary with a DCS patient, the helicopter pilot flew at treetop

level. The helicopter landed at a host country military base where a waiting ambulance

whisked him to the hyperbaric chamber.34

Doctor Millhouse arrived about five minutes later and recalled the hyperbaric

chamber facility crew was waiting for them. The dive, with Henry and one of the

accompanying medical technicians, began almost immediately and followed a Table Six

profile to a pressure equivalent of 60-foot depth under seawater and alternately breathing

100% oxygen for 20 minutes and ambient air for 5 minutes. After 1 hour and 15 minutes,

the chamber would rise to an equivalent of 30-foot depth, where Henry would remain for

2 hours and 30 minutes alternately breathing 100% oxygen for 60 minutes and ambient

air for 15 minutes. Doctor Little later extended the treatment for two additional hours,

making the total dive with descent and ascent times nearly 7 hours long. After the dive,

although Henry showed marked improvement, he was exhausted from his ordeal.

Doctors Little and Millhouse consulted and opted to have Henry spend the night in a

small room at the hyperbaric facility rather than moving him to a regular hospital. They

reasoned that if he “took a turn for the worse and needed another dive” it would be

readily accessible. Millhouse stayed with him, checking his vital signs every half hour

and periodically waking him to get a verbal response that he was okay.35

The next morning Millhouse completed several neurological tests on Henry and

he seemed near normal. She thought, “Everything is going okay. Let’s have him clean

up and we will do a full check after that.” She and Doctor Little thought Henry might not

need another dive treatment. When Henry tried to shave he kept folding and unfolding

his towel until he finally admitted he could not remember how to shave. The medical

technician guided him through the shave and, then, directed Henry to the shower. He

stepped in with his clothes still on. He thought, “This doesn’t feel right,” but did not

know what to do about it. The attending medical technician helped him remove his

clothes and Henry completed his shower. but Doctor Little knew that Henry still had

serious problems and decided to take him to a nearby military hospital for more extensive

tests. When getting into the car, Henry realized he needed to put his seatbelt on, but

could not remember how. At the hospital a neurologist ran several cognitive

examinations and confirmed Henry had some memory loss, especially short term

memory. Specialists also conducted a battery of other tests, including a CAT-scan, MRI

and EEG. The EEG and MRI revealed his brain still displayed extensive swelling.36

Doctors Little and Millhouse determined Henry should return to the hyperbaric

chamber for another dive. After the second dive he had considerable improvement. A

third dive followed the next day and a fourth the day after that. After the fourth dive

Henry felt near normal, but he remained at the host country hospital for a week with

Doctor Little spending the nights with him and Doctor Millhouse attending him during

the day. He could have left earlier, but Doctor Little knew a lot of people would want to

talk with Henry and felt his patient should fully recuperate before facing them. While

waiting in the hospital, Henry had three more MRIs. When a doctor unfamiliar with his

case viewed the third MRI, he could not see any abnormality at first and wondered why

the test had been conducted. After being told of Henry’s experience, he and two other

doctors reexamined the results and concluded there was a small lesion on the left frontal

lobe, but they could find no other problem. After being home for a short time, Henry felt

no residual effects from his ordeal and eagerly awaited the chance to fly the U-2 again.37

Post Script

Sgt Ledgewood shipped Henry’s suit and helmet back to the 9th Physiological

Support Squadron at Beale AFB, where technicians had the equipment and expertise to

fully test them. Although the microphone failed to work properly and the clogged inlet

ports impeded oxygen flow before the vomit was clean from them, they functioned within

prescribed specifications after cleaning. All leak and flow checks on the suit were also

within proper limits. Safety officials impounded Henry’s airplane, but extensive checks

of the oxygen system, the oxygen supply and the oxygen source revealed no


Medical authorities eventually did clear Lieutenant Henry to return to flying

status. He achieved his goal of flying the U-2 again. On his fourth flight, however, he

again experience symptoms and felt he might pass out. He safely returned to base and

landed his aircraft, but had to admit his flying days were probably over. Still, he feels

very blessed and knows that except for a series of fortunate circumstances, an incredible

display of teamwork by people around the world and God’s help he could have died.39
Interview (S), Dr C.F. Cross and Mr C.M. Mayse, 9RW/HO, with L/C K.M. Henry, 5 May 06, info used (U).
Ibid; interview (U), Dr C.F. Cross, 9RW/HO, with SSgt J. Shin, 9PSPTS, 13 Dec 06.
Intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used (U).
Ibid; transcript (U), DGS-2, “Transcript of Lt Col Henry IFE,” 11 Mar 06.
Ibid; interview (S), Dr C.F. Cross, 9RW/HO, with Capt S.T. South, 8 Nov 06, info used (U); interview (S), Dr C.F. Cross,
9RW/HO, with Capt R.R. Shoukry, 12 Jan 07, info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used (U); intvw (S), Cross with South, info used (U); interview (S), Dr C.F.
Cross and Mr C.M. Mayse, 9RW/HO, with L/C D. Russell, 99RS/CC, 3 May 06, info used (U); trans (U), “Henry IFE.”
Intvw (S), Cross with Shoukry, info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Russell, info used (U); intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used (U); trans (U),
“Henry IFE.”
Interview (U), Dr C.F. Cross, 9RW/HO, with MSgt S. Ledgewood, 9SPTS, 16 Nov 06; intvw (S), Cross with Shoukry,
info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross with Shoukry, info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Russell, info used (U); intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used (U); trans (U),
“Henry IFE.”
Ibid; intvw (S), Cross with Shoukry, info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross with Shoukry, info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Russell, info used (U); intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used (U); trans (U),
“Henry IFE.”
Interview (U), Dr C.F. Cross, 9RW/HO, with Capt C. Millhouse, 12 Dec 06.
Interview (U), Cross with Millhouse; intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Russell, info used (U); intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used (U); trans (U),
“Henry IFE.”
Ibid; intvw (S), Cross with Shoukry, info used (U); intvw (S), Cross with South, info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross with Shoukry, info used (U); intvw (U), Cross with Ledgewood.
Intvw (U), Cross with Ledgewood; intvw (U), Cross with Millhouse; intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used
Intvw (U), Cross with Millhouse.
Intvw (U), Cross with Millhouse; intvw (S), Cross and Mayse with Henry, info used (U).
Intvw (S), Cross with Shoukry, info used (U); intvw (U), Cross with Ledgewood.
Conversation (U), Cross and Mayse with Henry, 12 Feb 07.