TFH 1/17: Colonel Robert F. Wilke, USAF

In January 1968, the 602nd Tactical Fighter Squadron (Commando) flew their A-1 does robaxin get you high Skyraider attack planes from Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base on missions against the communist enemy in Vietnam. They were most typically used for close air support and as escorts on search and rescue missions for downed airmen.

On January 16 & 17, 1968, Colonel Robert Frederick Wilke was supporting an ultimately successful mission to rescue two downed fliers. He placed his aircraft at extreme risk to accomplish the mission and was shot down. For his gallantry, he was decorated with our Nation’s second-highest honor: the Air Force Cross.

From Military Times’ Hall of Valor:

AFC-200pxThe President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Colonel Robert Frederick Wilke, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an A-1E Skyraider pilot of the 602d Tactical Fighter Squadron (Commando), Udorn Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action on 16 and 17 January 1968. On these dates, Colonel Wilke participated in the successful combat recovery of two downed aircrew members and commanded an effort to recover two other downed pilots. The latter attempted recovery required a penetration of and flight beneath an extremely low overcast condition. With complete disregard for his own safety, Colonel Wilke executed a slow spiral maneuver into the cloud formation, broke out beneath the overcast, and initiated his search in mountainous terrain with extremely limited air space. As he was conducting this low-level search in a heavily defended hostile environment, intense ground fire was being directed toward his aircraft and resulted in his being shot down over hostile territory. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Colonel Wilke reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Robert Wilke’s remains have never been recovered. He is listed on Panel 34E, Line 65 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In addition to his Air Force Cross, he was also decorated twice with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his skill in aerial combat.



4 thoughts on “TFH 1/17: Colonel Robert F. Wilke, USAF”

  1. So tonight I remembered to do something that I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. I went to my jewelry cabinet and took out the POW/MIA bracelet that I have for Colonel Robert Wilke and I put it back on. It was given to me on June 20th 2001 by a friend whose grandmother wore it when she was a nurse during the Vietnam war. I’d never heard of one before and looked up as much information as I could, and found a few things about Robert Wilke online, but not much. I wore the bracelet for years, almost never taking it off.

    About 6 and a half years after being given the bracelet I started playing a sport that required me to wear wrist guards and I would remove the bracelet before practice and put it on after. I started to get worried that I would lose it though, and so I made the decision to take it off but keep it safe. I know I could have ordered another one but there was something about having this particular bracelet with the history attached to it, having worn it for as long as I did, and why I wore it that I wasn’t willing to risk losing it.

    So tonight it’s back my wrist where it belongs. I decided to search for his name, wondering what has changed in the last decade or so, since the last time I searched. It turns out a lot, I’m not sure if all of the sites I found that reference him were around back then and I just couldn’t find them but there was a considerable amount of information that I found tonight that I hadn’t seen before.

    This blog was the first link that I clicked on and I really wanted to comment. I guess I’m just now getting to the point but the backstory felt important to me. I think it’s important to remember those who have sacrificed everything fulfilling their duty. I believe that someone should remember those who are still lost, in the sense that their remains have never been recovered. Most of all though, what this bracelet represents to me is that soldiers have names, they are people with families, hopes, dreams, and not just numbers or abstract concepts that it’s easier to just forget about.

    Tonight for the first time I saw a picture of the man whose name is on my bracelet. Even though I haven’t worn it for several years, I still thought about him, and I certainly did when I was wearing it. I don’t know if I can describe what it was like to actually see photos but it had an effect on me. I feel a little guilty about my 4 year hiatus from wearing the bracelet but I’m glad that I still have it and have kept it safe. I don’t think I’ll be taking it off again.

  2. Comment left on the original Their Finest Hour site by an anonymous user, March 12, 2014 before comments were closed:

    where can i buy amoxil I’ve worn Colonel Wilke’s bracelet since around 1970. My college girlfriend gave it to me. I liked the concept of the bracelet, but thought I wouldn’t be wearing it for long (we were all invincible, then). I’m still wearing it today. It has only been off when accidentally snagged on something or for medical scans. In any case, I get sensation best described as panic – a part of me is missing!

    I researched Colonel Wilke about 15 years ago and haven’t done anything since. An unrelated discussion with a friend brought up a question about the bracelet. That relit my interest, so I punched in the Colonel’s name. This site is one of several that popped up.

    There is so much more information available now, than when I first searched. It is very “settling” to learn more about the man whose name I’ve carried for so many years. The military rejected me, but a lot of my high school friends were called. Some never returned. I’ve realized, over the years, that I wear my bracelet not only for Colonel Wilke, but for the friends I lost.

  3. have also been wearing a bracelet for Col. Wilke since 1997. “Adopted” him and another MIA (Michael J. Kustigian). Kustigian was from same city where I was born. Thanks for posting this, and like those who previously posted, I appreciated seeing a photo. Most of my original reading about Wilke and other POWs was in the late 1990s. Have always hoped that Col. Wilke can come home someday.
    related: Capt. Doug Ferguson was finally recovered and identified and returned to his family a few days ago (early May, 2014).

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