RIP 2000

Name: Richard Paul Keirn
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 47th TFS
Date of Birth: 73 in 1998 [circa 1925]
Home City of Record: Lorain OH
Date of Loss: 24 July 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210700N 1050900E (WJ155348)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C
Missions: 11
NOTE: B-17 co-pilot in WWII, DOL - 11 Sept 1944, 350th BMS, 14 missions
      Stalag Luft 1, Germany - released 15 June 1945
Other Personnel in Incident: Roscoe H. Fobair (missing)


Source: Compiled by the P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following:
raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews. Updated March 2001 by the P.O.W.
NETWORK with information provided by Sherye Keirn McKenzie. 2017

NOTE: The family, in providing new and more accurate information, had asked
that the above information be deleted from this biography. As the above
statistical data is taken directly from the PMSEA, [the military document
this entire data base is dependent on for consistency], we felt that doing
so would lose valuable research and statistical data and we have therefore
left it in place.

Richard Paul "Pop" Keirn
Colonel, USAF, Retired
Born 29 July 1924, Akron, Ohio

Reported to the San Antonio Cadet center at the age of 18, in 1942, then on
to Muskogee, OIC, for primary flight training.  Basic at Coffeeville, KS.,
and advance single engines at Moore Field, TX.  He received his commission
and was assigned to Coffeeville, as an instructor pilot.  Later, he trained
for B-17's at Dyersburg, TN.  In June 1944, he joined the 100th Bomb Group,
Sth Air Force, in England.  In September, while on his lgth mission deep
inside Germany, Keirn's B-17 took severe hits.  He and his crew bailed out
over Leipzig.  After several weeks of hospitalization, he was sent to Stalag
Luft 1, Barth, Germany, where he remained until the camp was liberated by
Russian soldiers just after V-E Day.

He returned to the United States in June 1945, married his waiting Navy
W.A.V.E., Hazel, July 20,1945.  Keirn spent time assigned to Minter Field,
California, and Wright-Pafterson AFB, Ohio, keeping up his flying status.
He left active duty service January 1947.  Joining the 164th Fighter
Interceptor Sqn., with the Ohio Air National Guard, he flew Mustangs, F-80's
and F-84E's, until his recall to active duty in 1956.  Flying F-10OD's with
the 511th TFS at Langley AFB; (1956 -157); F-86's with the 336th TFS of
Kadena AFB, Okinawa, then instructor pilot of F-10OD's with the newly
activated 12 TFS, Kadens, and C-119's, L-20's, C-47's with the Air Base Wing
at Kadena, (1957-'60); Divisions and Plans Officer flying T-33's with the
333rd TFS, Seymour-Johnson AFB, 1960-'62; On to MacDill AFB. assigned to the
47th TFS.  Checked out in the F-4C Phantoms, survival school at Stead and
Langley, declared "combat ready".  Keirn was dispatched to Ubon, Thailand,
as Assistant Operations Ofricer.

Twelve days after being "in-country", he filled-in for another pilot on
sick-call, for his 5th mission.  As Command Pilot, he flew northwest of
Hanoi when his aircraft took a hard vertical hit, then a violent explosion
ripped through the craft Fire swept through the vessel.  His had just become
the first on record American aircraft downed by a Russian-made SAM
(Surface-to-Air Missile).  That was July 24, 1965.  He parachuted down on
the side of a mountain during monsoon, was captured the next day.  He has
injured both ankles, sustained flash burns over hands, shoulders and face
and carried a piece of shrapel in his leg until returning to the States.  He
was a prisoner of war in Vietnam 7 years, 7 months, released in February
1973, during operation "Homecoming".

Keirn completed Air War College in 1974, was assigned to the 507th TACG
flying 0-2's, at Shaw AFB, was later appointed Assistant Director of
Operations with the 9th Air Force.  Finally, hanging up his hat after 33
years, 7 months and 21 days, he retired June 30, 1976.

He and Hazel settled in their "dream home" in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida.

Speaking publicly whenever called.  He made several speeches at MacDill AFB
and Patrick AFB, for MIA/POW Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.

Colonel Keirn holds the following medals/awards: The Silver Star; Legion of
Merit w/Oak Leaf Cluster; Distinguished Flying Cross w/2 Oak Leaf Clusters;
Bronze Star w/3 Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal w/Oak Leaf
Cluster; Joint Air Force Army Commendation Medal, WWII and Vietnam; Purple
Heart w/4 Oak Leaf Clusters, WWII and Vietnam; Combat Readiness, Vietnam;
Good Conduct Medal, WWII; World War 11 Victory Medal; European Theatre, Nine
Battle Stars, WWII; Humane Action; National Defense, WWII; Vietnam Service
Medal; Armed Forces Reserve; Presidential Unit Citation, WWII; Air Force
Outstanding Unit, WWII; Air Force Longevity; Small Arms Medal; Vietnam
Campaign Medal; Prisoner of War Medal with Bronze Star, WWII and Vietnam;
and the French Croix de Guerre, WWII, with Palm.

In 1995, Richard and Hazel celebrated their 50th anniversary and published
his book "Old Glory Is the Most Beautiful of Air.  His personal story of
being a prisoner of war during two wars, one of only two men to do so.  On
25 May 2000, Colonel Richard "Pop" Keirn, passed away at Holmes Regional
Medical Center, Melbourne, Florida.  He was buried at Florida Memorial
Gardens on Memorial Day, May 29,2000, with an Honor Guard and full military
honors including a missing-man flyby of F-15's over the restricted air space
of Patrick AFB and Cape Canaveral, Florida.  "With his passing, our country
has lost a great American patriot and hero.  There is a certain grace to his
going at this holiday." said his son, Steve, during the eulogy he presented.
"Pop would have loved seeing all the flags flying." said daughter, Sherye.

Colonel Keirn is survived by his wife of nearly 55 years, Hazel, son, Steve,
daughter, Sherye and 4 grandchildren.


Richard Keirn retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel in June
of 1976. He and his wife Hazel reside in Florida.

On May 20, 1998, The NETWORK had the pleasure of meeting "Pop." He was one
of 280 former POWs in Dallas for the Silver Anniversary Reunion. One of the
highlights of our conversation was the statement by his wife, "We'll be
married 53 years on July 20."


From - Sat May 27 14:18:54 2000

Some sad news to pass on to all:  Pop Kiern died Thursday evening.
Complications from a procedure plus all the other ailments he had been
fighting over the years. The funeral will be on Memorial Day at 11:00am at
Florida Memorial Gardens north of Melbourne. The funeral will be with full
military honors and a military flyby. (His daughter called the White House
and got permission to overfly the Kennedy restricted area). The family
requests no flowers. May God bless Pop and comfort Hazel and the family.


The Plain Dealer  Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, May 30, 2000


   Retired Air Force Col. Richard P. Keirn, 75, an Akron native and former
Lorain resident who was one of only two Americans held prisoner in both
World War II and the Vietnam War, was buried yesterday at Florida Memorial
Gardens in Rockledge, Fla...


Hi Everyone,

I just received a note from Sherye, Pop Keirn's daughter, that Pop's wife,
Hazel passed away on January 19th, 2014.  She was laid to rest, next to Pop, on
Jan 27th. 




1st Lt Jerry Hutcheson, was the  Navigator on Richard Keirn's B-17 when he became a POW the first time, 
in WWII:


During National POW/MIA Recognition Day today, Richard Keirn would enjoy a lot of local attention as one of the best-known among former prisoners ...

A POW twice: VA physical therapist discovers remarkable connection


More info