Main

Ken Fleenor

Ken Fleenor, a retired brigadier general, was an F4 Fighter Pilot and Vietnam Prisoner of War, held captive for five years after successfully completing 87 flying missions. General Fleenor passed away in December, 2010.

General Kenneth Fleenor
WKU Homecoming Visit to BG October 15, 2005

Fleenor shares memories with Ray Buckberry, David Lee, and Larry Bailey

General Kenneth Fleenor was flying Migcap over North Vietnam and while chasing a Mig fighter in the weeds (low altitude) his WSO (Weapons Systems Operator) Jim Bayor could not get a lock on with a sparrow missile and they were hit by a surface to air missile. The hit was in the engines and immediately one engine failed. While still under power, General Fleenor said he climbed with remaining power until the second engine quit, and when the turbo powered hydraulics failed due to loss of hydraulic fluid, flight controls became useless. The airplane pitched up as the elevator control surface went to the full up position after the loss of hydraulics. At 26,000 feet the airplane went inverted and Fleenor and his back seater punched out.

Fleenor still in his seat after bailing out, the seat stayed attached during free fall to help stabilize the fall, and breathing oxygen from the small oxygen bottle stored in the parachute pack, a small chute deployed to pull the seat section away and at 13,000 feet the main chute deployed.

Fleenor landed around noon local time in a tree over hanging a cliff. He swung over to a large tree limb and unbelted his parachute harness and climbed down the tree. Within an hour, a swarm of local Vietnamese came up the hill he had landed on and captures General Fleenor.

His captors protected Fleenor from the crowds, as they were not militia but locals that collected a bounty for bringing in downed fighter pilots. They were not interested in his protection as such, but more interested in protecting their bounty.

Fleenor said his WSO landed nearby and ended up being captured and taken to the same place where he was held near Hanoi. Fleenor would not discuss any other details of his captivity.

General Fleenor came home some five and half years later in what was known as the Hanoi Taxi, a C-141 Starlifter. The Hanoi Taxi is scheduled to be retired next year in a recreation flight ceremony at Wright Patterson AFB where the airplane will become an exhibit at the Air Force Museum.

Fleenor said that the Hanoi Taxi flew for years from Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas where General Fleenor retired as Base Commander.