Army Aviation Hall of Fame 1980 Induction
LTC Robert L. Runkle distinguished himself as an Army aviator through his efforts to bring aviation closer to the Soldier engaged in combat on the battlefield.
During his initial assignment in Vietnam in 1961, while assigned to the first utility helicopter company sent there, Runkle recognized the necessity for aircraft and troop protection from enemy ground fire.
He pioneered the use of machine guns and rockets mounted on helicopters in combat as a solution to this hazard.
The lives of many Soldiers were saved by virtue of having close-in fire support available to them from these aerial "gun-ships."
Runkle returned from his first tour in Vietnam to apply his experience to the development of more advanced fire support systems and the tactical employment of both observation and gunship helicopters.
In April 1968, while commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment back in Vietnam, Runkle led his unit in a very difficult air assault mission as part of Operation PEGASUS to relieve the American Marines at the besieged Khe Sanh combat base in northwestern Quang Tri Province.
On April 4, while flying his helicopter in continued support of the operation, he encountered heavy enemy ground fire and was shot down, being killed in action.
While Runkle gave his life, his advancements in the ground support role of Army helicopters in combat saved the lives of countless Soldiers.