BYRNE, RONALD EDWARD JR.
Name: Ronald Edward Byrne Jr.
Rank/Branch: O4/United States Air Force, pilot
Unit: 67th FS
Date of Birth: 19 November 1928
Home City of Record: Great Neck NY
Date of Loss: 29 August 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 212800N 1045900E2
Status (in 1973): Returnee
NOTE: Flew the F-86 during the Korean War with 75 missions
Other Personnel in Incident: none
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK March 1997 from one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. 2018
REMARKS: 021273 RELEASED BY DRV
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
RONALD E. BYRNE, JR.
Colonel - United States Air Force
Captured: August 29, 1965
Released: February 12, 1973
Ammunition in his own aircraft was exploding and flames were whipping back
into his cockpit forcing Colonel Ron Byrne to bail out over enemy territory
on August 29, 1965. But before doing so, he completed his mission and
dropped his ordinance on target, an arsenal near the Red River in North
Vietnam. Shortly after hitting the ground, he was captured and taken to the
Hanoi Hilton where he spent the next 7 « years.
For 30 consecutive days Colonel Byrne was tortured, his hands manacled
behind him and his feet clamped in irons. "The North Vietnamese doctors told
me I was very close to death," said Colonel Byrne. "A doctor said he would
give me nothing to help unless I gave them the information they wanted. I
went back to my room and they continued the torture." But they did not let
him die because they needed him for propaganda purposes; when he came near
death, they gave him intravenous feedings, vitamins and the medication
necessary to save his life.
Colonel Byrne said that the Military Code of Conduct and the Air Force
survival training prepared the men to handle their treatment by the VC. For
example, the POWs held religious services despite VC directives to the
contrary. After the service, the captors would send the senior man to
solitary. The next junior man would immediately take command, services were
held again, and, in turn, he was ordered to solitary. After a while, the
North Vietnamese found they were filling all the solitary cells and were
forced to allow the holding of religious services.
In addition to needling the enemy, the POWs also cheered and supported each
other. When a man started to become depressed, another of the men might
start tossing out comments of pessimism to goad him. The depressed man would
snap back with optimistic arguments. In that manner, they maintained their
Born in Brooklyn, New York on 19 November 1928, Colonel Byrne was raised in
Great Neck, New York. He attended Parochial Grammar and public High School
in Great Neck. After three years in the United States Merchant Marine
Academy, he joined the United States Air Force, obtaining his wings and
commission in June 1952. He flew 75 air-to-air missions (F-86) in Korea in
1952-53. He then returned to Laredo AFB, Texas for two years.
He was assigned to Bunker Hill AFB (now Grissom AFB), Indiana in 1956 and
while there, met and married Joanne Kilcline. He was assigned to England
AFB (F-lOOs), Louisiana in 1957 for two years where twin sons, T. J. and Reb
were born (September 1958). In 1959-60 he attended Oklahoma State University
to finish the requirements for a Mechanical Engineering Degree. While there,
Sean Michael, the third son, was born (March 1960).
In 1961, 62 and 63 he was assigned as Project Officer with the Titan Missile
Program Office (Air Force Systems Command) in Los Angeles and San
Bernardino, California, where the fourth son, Darin, was born (April 1963)
He checked out in the F-105 in 1964 and was assigned to Kadena AB, Okinawa,
with the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
In August 1965 he started the second temporary duty tour in Southeast Asia
and after a few days, began 7 « years as the unwilling and unwanted guest of
the North Vietnamese - to be reminded of that fact by them in so many
unpleasant ways. He returned to the United States in February 1973 - the
rebirth into a world almost unknown and back to a nation that has justified
the faith that was placed in it and to a wonderful reception beyond belief.
Ronald Bryne Jr. retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel. He
resides in Arizona. His wife Marie passed away in April 2018 after a long
battle with kidney failure.