Duane Martin was born on January 2, 1940, in Denver, Colorado. He was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force through Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas, on February 5, 1963. Martin completed undergraduate pilot training at Webb AFB, Texas, on April 8, 1964, and he completed helicopter pilot training on September 21, 1964. Lt Martin's first assignment was with Detachment 9, WARC, at Portland IAP, Oregon, where he served from September 22, 1964, until he went to Southeast Asia in 1965. Lt Martin served with Detachment 3, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Tan Son Nhut AB in the Republic of Vietnam. His helicopter was shot down over North Vietnam on September 20, 1965. Lt Martin was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War by the Pathet Lao and held in Laos. He managed to escape with U.S. Navy Lt Dieter Dengler on June 30, 1966, but was killed before he could reach safety. His remains have never been recovered from Laos.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The Air Force Cross is presented to Duane Whitney Martin, First Lieutenant, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as Pilot of an HH-43B helicopter over North Vietnam on 20 September 1965. On that date, Lieutenant Martin participated in an extremely hazardous attempted recovery of a downed pilot. The mission required a flight of over 80 miles, mostly over hostile controlled territory. Evaluation of the environment in which the downed pilot was located indicated that maximum performance would be demanded from each crew member if successful recovery was to be effected. Without hesitation and complete disregard for his own safety, and though exposed to intensive hostile ground fire, Lieutenant Martin performed with courage and professional precision in a supreme effort to rescue a fallen comrade. Lieutenant Martin's courageous action and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the American fighting man under attack by an opposing armed force. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, First Lieutenant Martin reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.