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Loss Of An Elite Ace, Robbie Risner

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A nine-foot statue of Korean War ace and Vietnam veteran Brig. Gen. James Robinson “Robbie” Risner still stands at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, but the man himself was lost to the world with his passing at his home, Oct. 22. Throughout his career, Risner earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars, Eight Air Medals and two Air Force Crosses among his other awards and decorations. In the history of the Air Force only three other airmen have ever received more than one Air Force Cross, which is awarded for extraordinary heroism. But, for some, Risner is best known for one particular aerial feat performed in combat in 1952. 

In September of 1952, while flying in combat along the Yalu River during the Korean War, the F-86 flown by his wingman Joe Logan was hit by flak and lost fuel. Risner asked Logan to shut down his engine and began to push Logan’s jet with his own until they were clear of enemy controlled territory. As he did so, the pairing was jostled by turbulence and Risner’s windscreen was coated in hydraulic fluid and jet fuel leaking from Logan’s crippled jet. The effort worked and Logan was able to eject near Cho Do Island, which held an Air Force rescue detachment. Unfortunately, Logan hit the water, tangled in his chutes lines and drowned. (A similar event, performed in 1967 by Bob Pardo — video here — had a better outcome.) Risner himself was forced to eject more than once, and one such incident led to is capture. He spent more than seven years in Hoa Lo prison, Vietnam, also known as the Hanoi Hilton, before finally being released in 1973. His ordeal is detailed in his book, The Passing of the Night. James Robinson “Robbie” Risner suffered complications from a recent stroke and died at his home in Bridgewater, Va. He was 88 years old.

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