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James Robinson Risner

Date of birth: 16-Jan-25
Place of Birth: Arkansas, Mammoth Spring
Home of record: Tulsa Oklahoma
Status: POW

Robinson Risner flew -38 and P-39 fighters during World War II, He became an ACE during the Korean War with eight victories and then in 1957 gained additional acclaim when he set a transatlantic speed record while flying the Lindbergh Anniversary Flight. He received his FIRST Air Force Cross when he was shot down and rescued, becoming the FIRST LIVING recipient of the new award. Shot down again on September 16, 1965, he was captured and held as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam, earning a SECOND Air Force Cross before he was released on February 12, 1973. He is one of only three double recipients of the award (along with Captain John Dramesi and Captain Leland Kennedy), a record exceeded only by the THREE Air Force Crosses awarded to Major James Kasler. His 1973 autobiography is titled "The Passing of the Night: My Seven Years as a Prisoner of the North Vietnamese." He retired as an Air Force Brigadier General on August 1, 1976.

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

Air Force Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Lieutenant Colonel James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving with the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action as Mission Commander and Air Coordinator for air strikes in North Vietnam on 3 and 4 April 1965. On these dates, Colonel Risner led two successive operations against vitally important and heavily defended Viet Cong targets. Performing in the role of Air Coordinator, Colonel Risner arrived over the target area before the main strike force, evaluated the effectiveness of each strike, redirected subsequent strikes and provided flak suppression against defenses that would hinder delivery aircraft in the performance of their mission. On the initial attack while exposing himself to heavy ground fire, Colonel Risner's aircraft sustained a direct hit in the left forward bomb bay area, filling the cockpit with smoke and fumes. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he flew his badly damaged aircraft over heavily fortified hostile territory before successfully landing at a friendly airfield. On 4 April, he again led an attacking force of fighter aircraft on a re-strike against the same target. Colonel Risner initiated the attack, directing his aircraft into the target in the face of heavy automatic ground fire. His aerial skill and heroic actions set an example for the others to follow. In the course of the operation, Colonel Risner's unit encountered the first MiG force committed in aerial combat against the United States forces in Southeast Asia. However, he refused to be diverted from his primary mission of completing the destruction of the assigned target. Colonel Risner's actions not only deprived the Communist forces of a vital supply route and much needed equipment but further served to emphasize the high degree of United States determination in Southeast Asia. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship and aggressiveness, Colonel Risner reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Department of the Air Force, Special Orders GB-109 (May 7, 1965)

Action Date: April 3 & 4, 1965

Service: Air Force

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Company: 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron

Division: Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand

Air Force Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Air Force Cross to Lieutenant Colonel James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 31 October 1965 to 15 December 1965. During that period the Vietnamese intercepted a series of prisoner messages which clearly indicated the danger of General Risner's leadership to their exploitation methods. He was extensively tortured for information but successfully resisted their demands and established a standard of honorable conduct and resistance which was followed by hundreds of Americans after him. The extremely harsh treatment inflicted upon him was to become a way of life for him in the subsequent years. Through his extraordinary heroism, leadership, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, General Risner reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Department of the Air Force, Special Orders GB-1159 (October 29, 1974)

Action Date: October 31 - December 15, 1965

Service: Air Force

Rank: Brigadier General

Division: Prisoner of War (North Vietnam)

Air Force Distinguished Service Medal

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Brigadier General James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, was awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam.

General Orders: Department of the Air Force, Special Orders GB-1159 (October 29, 1974)

Action Date: Vietnam War

Service: Air Force

Rank: Brigadier General

Division: Prisoner of War (North Vietnam)

Silver Star

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Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, for gallantry in action against an armed enemy as Pilot of an F-86 type aircraft, 336th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, FIFTH Air Force on 15 September 1952. After dispelling four MiG's attacking friendly fighter-bombers, Captain Risner fearlessly pursued one of them through extremely hazardous low level flight and heavy concentrations of flak until the enemy was destroyed. Withdrawing, Captain Risner fearlessly pursued one of them through extremely hazardous low level flight and heavy concentrations of flak until the enemy was destroyed. Withdrawing, Captain Risner noticed fuel streaming from a flak hole in his wingman's aircraft and quickly realized that his wingman would soon flameout. Although low on fuel himself, Captain Risner unhesitatingly, and without regard for his own personal safety, attempted twice to push his wingman home. However, each time he made contact with the tail of his wingman's aircraft, leaking fuel and hydraulic fluid covered his canopy, rendering such action extremely dangerous. Still refusing to leave his wingman, Captain Risner shut down his engine and glided to his base. He made a successful air start over the field but flamed out, and was forced to make a dead-stick landing. The outstanding gallantry and exceptional airmanship displayed by Captain Risner, both in the facer of the enemy and in his unselfish desire to safeguard his wingman, were in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service, and reflected great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Forces, and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Headquarters, Far East Air Forces, General Orders No. 653 (December 29, 1952)

Action Date: September 15, 1952

Service: Air Force

Rank: Captain

Company: 336th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

Division: 5th Air Force

Silver Star

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Lieutenant Colonel James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force over North Vietnam on 9, 11 and 12 September 1965. On these dates, Colonel Risner led a strike force of F-105 aircraft against a highly important and heavily defended target deep in enemy territory. His courage and aggressiveness were continually evident as he faced multiple enemy threats in the successful accomplishment of each assigned mission. By his gallantry and devotion to duty Colonel Risner has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces, Special Orders No. G-184 (October 26, 1965)

Action Date: September 9, 11, & 12, 1965

Service: Air Force

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Company: 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron

Division: Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand

Distinguished Flying Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial combat against enemies of the United Nations in Korea, on 5 August 1952. As the flight leader of four F-86's which were scrambled to intercept a formation of MiG's in the area of Pyongyang, Captain Risner sighted three formations, approximately twenty MiG's in all. One formation of six MiG's were attacking a flight of F-86's so Captain Risner's flight split into two elements and he initiated a vicious attack which momentarily stunned the enemy. Positioned behind the number two MiG Captain Risner fired several short bursts which struck the enemy aircraft in the engine and left wing root. Not satisfied with the damage already inflicted he followed the MiG through a series of violent evasive maneuvers firing several more bursts into the tail section causing it to smoke, explode and disintegrate. The MiG was last seen in a spin emitting smoke and fire. Through his superlative airmanship and selfless devotion to duty Captain Risner has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Headquarters, 5th Air Force, General Orders No. 614 (October 10, 1952)

Action Date: August 5, 1952

Service: Air Force

Rank: Captain

Distinguished Flying Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial combat against enemies of the United Nations in Korea while serving as a Pilot, 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, on 5 September 1952. As leader of a flight of four F-86's Captain Risner sighted several flights of MiG's circling above him. He then observed four MiG's begin a diving attack on two F-86's, one of which hit a hung wing tank. Captain Risner dispatched his element as high cover and immediately went to the aid of the F-86's. By this time the leading MiG had closed within firing range and opened fire on the F-86 with the hung tank. Captain Risner unhesitatingly attacked the leading MiG and firing he hit the MiG from a range of 3,000 feet. He stayed with the leading MiG following him through several maximum performance maneuvers. In a brilliant display of flying skill Captain Risner cut off the enemy until at close range his withering fire started the MiG burning and the pilot was forced to eject. Captain Risner's courage and his brilliant marksmanship prevented the probable loss of an F-86 resulting in the destruction of one MiG. Through his actions he has brought the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Headquarters, 5th Air Force, General Orders No. 704 (November 28, 1952)

Action Date: September 5, 1952

Service: Air Force

Rank: Captain

Regiment: 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing

Division: 5th Air Force

Distinguished Flying Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Major James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as the Pilot of an F-86 aircraft, 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, on 21 January 1953. On this occasion, Major Risner was leading a flight of four F-86's on a combat air patrol, when he attacked twelve MiG aircraft. During the ensuing engagement, Major Risner concentrated his attack upon one of the enemy aircraft. As he followed the MiG through many violent evasive maneuvers, Major Risner fired three short bursts, which disabled the enemy aircraft, forcing the pilot to abandon his crippled MiG. Simultaneously, with the enemy pilot's ejection, Major Risner's windshield was struck by debris from the disintegrating MiG. Furthermore, the flying glass particles from the shattered windshield inflicted numerous lacerations upon Major Risner's face, right hand, and entered his right eye, causing temporary blindness. Despite the combination of wounds, temporary blindness, and intense cold caused by the frigid air blasts, Major Risner safely landed his aircraft at the home base. Through his incredible tactical ability, airmanship, and courage, Major Risner not only destroyed one MiG-15, but saved his F-86 from certain destruction. By his gallantry in action and devotion to duty, Major Risner has brought great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Headquarters, 5th Air Force, General Orders No. 222 (April 3, 1953)

Action Date: January 21, 1953

Service: Air Force

Rank: Major

Regiment: 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing

Division: 5th Air Force

Prisoner of War Medal

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

Colonel James Robinson Risner, United States Air Force, was held as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from September 16, 1965 until his release on February 12, 1973.

Action Date: September 16, 1965 - February 12, 1973

Service: Air Force

Rank: Colonel

Division: Prisoner of War (North Vietnam)