HomeNewsArticle Display

A true airpower giant

Brig. Gen. Robinson Risner is credited with destroying eight MiG-15s and damaging another while assigned to the 336 Fighter Squadron in Korea.  On Sept. 21, 1952, then-Major Risner scored double kills. He achieved ace status on Sept. 15, 1952, downing his fifth MiG-15. Risner entered the Air Force in 1944 and flew P-38, P-39, and P-40 fighers with the 30th Fighter Squadron in Panama from 1944 to 1946.

Then-Maj. James Robinson “Robbie” Risner poses with F-86 Sabre in South Korea. Brig. Gen. Risner enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He flew more than 108 combat missions in the Korean War, shot down eight MiGs, and became the 20th jet ace of that war. Risner passed away Oct. 22, 2013.

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --

We lost another Air Force hero this week. Brig. Gen. James Robinson “Robbie” Risner was part of that legendary group who served in three wars, built an Air Force, and gave us an enduring example of courage and mission success.   

Most of today’s Airmen know General Risner because of his leadership and heroism as a Vietnam War POW, but his story actually started well before that.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He flew more than 108 combat missions in the Korean War, shot down eight MiGs, and became the 20th jet ace of that war.   

During the Vietnam War, Risner was an F-105 squadron commander. On March 16, 1965, he was shot down, but made it to the Tonkin Gulf before bailing out and was rescued. A month later, Time magazine featured him on their cover.  On Sept. 16, he was shot down again, and this time, was captured. To make things worse, his captors had the Time article, and made him their "prized prisoner,” which meant more abuse.  Risner served as a leader in the Hoa Lo Prison -- first as senior-ranking officer and then vice commander of the 4th Allied POW Wing. Some called him "the most influential and effective POW there."

One day in 1971, Risner and several colleagues organized a church service, a forbidden act, which led to more punishment. As their captors led Risner away, Col. “Bud” Day and the more than 40 other POWs in the room began singing “The Star Spangled Banner” to show their support. Hearing the defiant singing, Risner walked away with his back straight, head held high, full of pride.

When asked later how he felt at that moment, Risner said “I felt like I was 9 feet tall and could go bear hunting with a switch.”  That moment and his words are reflected by a statue, exactly 9 feet high, that now stands at the U.S. Air Force Academy.  Bud Day spoke at the unveiling of the statue, saying, “We knew he was in fact 9 feet tall. This is a life-size statue.” 

He was awarded two Air Force Crosses for heroism in Vietnam, the first for leading the attack on the “Dragon’s Jaw,” a bridge that was one of the toughest targets in North Vietnam and withstood 871 attacks. The second was given for his leadership in the POW camp and courage under torture.

After more than seven years in captivity – more than three of which were in solitary confinement -- Risner was released. He was briefly hospitalized and reported he was ready for duty "after three good meals and a good night’s rest." He spent his remaining years in uniform commanding the 832nd Air Division, and serving as the vice commander of the AF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center, where he also commanded Red Flag. He retired in 1976.

Like many heroes, Risner spent a great amount of his remaining years sharing his story with our Airmen. At an event in the 1990s, he met a Russian MiG-15 ace who’d flown during the same time Risner had been in Korea.  The Russian pilot asked if they’d ever faced each other in combat.  Risner responded: "No way; you wouldn’t be here."

When I visit USAFA next week, I look forward to visiting Risner’s statue and reflecting on his life and what he stood for.  A few words come instantly to mind … pride, courage, tenacity, and integrity.  I’m proud to serve in Robbie Risner’s Air Force and to try and live up to his example. 

Today’s Airmen know we stand on the shoulders of giants.  One of ‘em is 9 feet tall…and headed west in full afterburner…     

Airpower…built by legends!

Engage

Twitter
Col David S. Miller, 377th Air Base Wing commander, recognizes the contributions of Native Americans in honor of Am… https://t.co/8wYjxE8iWO
Twitter
'Tis the season ❄️ Special warfare Airmen conduct training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The small… https://t.co/SGjNKpNdYf
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: ICYMI: F16s from @Spangdahlem_AB are in the @CENTCOM AoR as part of a dynamic force employment to deter aggression & promote…
Twitter
Air power on display. https://t.co/M5SUj3Gq9K
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: USAFCENT invests $3 million to upgrade its Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. The CAOC also touted its dis…
Twitter
Global reach A B-52 Stratofortress flies in formation with F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-15E Strike Eagles during a… https://t.co/nw1bwI08gH
Twitter
The record scoring provides objective data for more informative assignment placement, hiring for special duty posit… https://t.co/zynYnvbMaC
Twitter
Updating training to better prepare future leaders Squadron Officer School's new curriculum challenges students to… https://t.co/pcbCqVbQ4F
Twitter
What are you having for dinner? 🍗 This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for our Airmen and families who make sacrifi… https://t.co/ID1vU6CWkH
Twitter
Looking to the future The Arnold Engineering Development Complex at Arnold AFB, Tennessee, is leading the way for… https://t.co/uPDfihgdmq
Twitter
RT @USAF_ACC: #ICYMI @DMAFB trained dynamic force employment and agile combat employment during Exercise Bushwhacker 20-07. @ACC_Commander
Twitter
Ensuring the Nuclear Triad remains safe, secure, effective and ready. @MaxwellAFB, Alabama was selected as the pre… https://t.co/3ntc4MdzK8
Twitter
During the spring of 2020, the 35th Contracting Squadron solicited 35th Fighter Wing units for innovative ideas tha… https://t.co/y0H3oNR87q
Twitter
Coming in hot Crew chiefs assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Air Maintenance Squadron conduct hot-refuel training… https://t.co/bOue5e3y08
Twitter
Honoring heritage. The Tuskegee Airmen were not only pilots, they were support personnel as well. Although better… https://t.co/9dJPHKfnXS
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Thank you @Ng_Eng_Hen for welcoming me to discuss the close U.S.-Singapore security partnership. The @USAirForce looks f…
Twitter
Measuring base readiness @Spangdahlem_AB Airmen participated in a base readiness exercise on Nov. 17. During the e… https://t.co/DK6PKX7Irs
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,313,433
Follow Us