Robbie Risner

By Kamps, Charles Tustin | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Robbie Risner


Kamps, Charles Tustin, Air & Space Power Journal


When the term American hero comes to mind, so does the name Robbie Risner. Born into modest circumstances in 1925 in Arkansas, James Robinson Risner enlisted in the US Army Air Forces in 1943. After getting his wings, he was assigned to duty in the Panama Canal Zone and thus missed the "action" of World War II, eventually passing into the Oklahoma Air Guard in 1946. His subsequent career, however, more than made up for this in-auspicious start.

Captain Risner arrived in Korea in May of 1952. Flying F-86s with the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, he became an ace by downing five MiGs in less than four months. All told, he shot down eight communist jets before the end of the war. Becoming an ace fighter pilot is a great accomplishment, but Robbie Risner displayed courage and skill that went beyond tactical competence.

On 22 October 1952, he and Joe Logan, his wingman, were screening a group of fighter-bombers close to the Yalu River and ended up penetrating Chinese airspace all the way to Antung. Returning toward the Yalu after a low-level kill, the pair caught flak, and Logan's jet was shot up badly. Losing fuel and hydraulic fluid, it would not be able to fly the 60 miles to the nearest air-sea rescue point. Sizing up the situation, Risner had Logan shut down his engine while Risner nosed his own F-86 up to the tailpipe and literally pushed the crippled plane through the air at 190 knots! In spite of this heroic effort, Risner's friend drowned after bailing out of the stricken F-86 and becoming entangled in the parachute lines.

Lieutenant Colonel Risner's tour in Vietnam took a decidedly different-and longer-turn. Flying F-105s with the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat, Thailand, he was leading a strike against North Vietnam's infamous Thanh Hoa Bridge on 3 April 1965, when fire from anti-aircraft artillery severely damaged his plane. …

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