In Memory – Brig. Gen. Robbie Risner – A True Hero, Leader, and Great American

Robbie Risner - Military Photo

On October 22, 2013, Brig. Gen. Robbie Risner passed away from his final challenge on earth at the age of 88. Would you join me, his friends, family, the Vietnam POW community, and the military community in saluting and paying tribute to this great man?

He is one of the great Americans of our generation and the greatest generation; for me and my comrades in the Vietnam, he was a pivotal leader that allowed us to return home with honor. He was Lt. Col. Robbie Risner when I met him covertly in the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam. I had been a POW six months; he had already been there more than two and a half years.

Robbie Risner - Flight Suit

Brigadier General Robinson Risner is credited with destroying eight MiG-15s and damaging another while assigned to the 336 Fighter Squadron. On September 21, 1952, then Major Risner scored double kills. He achieved Ace status on September 15, 1952, downing his fifth MiG-15. These were just a few of his achievements before his Vietnam POW experience from 1965-1973 (U.S. Air Force photo)

As the senior ranking office during that time, he was often tortured for exerting leadership to solidify our team work and resistance to the communists. When I made contact with him, he had already been through the “ropes” torture or pretzel several times and had just come out of 10 months of total darkness and isolation. Still Robbie was upbeat and clearly in charge. He always bounced back and led with great courage showing us how to resist, survive and return with honor. Robbie was a man of great faith, and he trusted that God had a plan for his life.

Today, he fulfilled that plan and joined the angels. I singled out this great hero in my latest book, Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, for his courageous and sacrificial leadership in the most difficult times. Also, the career highlights of General Robinson Risner are available on the Veterans Tribute website, and more about his life can be read on his Wikipedia page.

We welcome your comments and well-wishes in this forum, and thank you for taking a moment to remember this great man.


Robbie Risner and Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis and Robbie Risner celebrating together at an event in 2010.

Related Links:

Veterans Tribute Website


Video – Lee Describes his First Meeting with Robbie Risner

Leave a Reply