“Risner said the four words that got him through his imprisonment were ‘I am an American.’”
A prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese from September 16, 1965, to February 13, 1973, Brigadier General Robinson Risner served as among the greatest symbols of the patriotic spirit throughout his life. Commissioned through the Aviation Cadet Program at age 19, he flew a flight squadron throughout World War II and returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to join the Oklahoma Air National Guard, where he was soon called up to fly in 109 fighter missions during the Korean War. While serving in Vietnam he earned the Silver Star before his airplane was shot down and he became a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. He returned home to Warr Acres, Oklahoma, after seven years of imprisonment and received the Air Medal and two Purple Hearts before President Richard Nixon announced his nomination to become brigadier general in 1974. Risner was made Honorary Mayor of Warr Acres upon his return in 1973 and in January of 1974, a reception and autograph party were held in the city for his acclaimed book, The Passing of the Night, which chronicled Risner’s experiences as a POW.
During the Korean War, Robinson Risner became the first living American to receive the Air Force Cross – the nation’s highest combat award – and earned jet “Ace” status when he shot down eight MIG interceptors.
Risner was a 1942 graduate of Tulsa’s Central High School.