Robert Leslie Runkle

Lieutenant Colonel
Army of the United States
20 March 1926 - 04 April 1968
Fort Scott, Kansas
Panel 48E Line 010

Combat Infantry

Purple Heart, National Defense (2 awards), Korean Service, Vietnam Service, RoK Service, RVN Campaign medals
Robert L Runkle

The database page for Robert Leslie Runkle

10 Aug 2003

I took this image on a color slide at LZ Stud 3 April, 1968 the day before LTC Robert Leslie Runkle, Commander, 1st Bn of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, died as a result of enemy action in the initial stage of Operation Pegasus.

From a fellow soldier,
Bennie Koon

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Operation Pegasus was directed at lifting the siege of the Marine combat base at Khe Sanh in western Quang Tri Province. The 1st Cavalry Division was tasked with conducting the operation, and CG 1st Cav received operational control of the 1st Marines, the 26th Marines, and the ARVN 3rd Airborne Task Force as well as holding command over his own divisional forces. The operational plan involved thrusts along Highway 9 from Ca Lu, east of Khe Sanh, and air assaults by three battalions of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cav Division, on the high ground north and south of Hwy 9.

The command helo for a 1/5 Cav troop insertion on 4 April came from the HQ&HQ Company, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Six men were aboard the UH-1H (tail number 66-16952) when it was shot down:

  • WO1 Ronald Gene Phears, pilot, HHC, 2nd Bde
  • WO1 Joe Michael Moran, copilot, HHC, 2nd Bde
  • SP5 Terry Lee Baxter, crew chief, HHC, 2nd Bde
  • PFC Charlie Bernard Thomas, gunner, HHC, 2nd Bde
  • LTC Robert Leslie Runkle, Commanding Officer, 1/5th Cav
  • CPT David Arthur Peters, Forward Observer, C Btry, 1st Bn, 77th Arty
The VHPA database record for 66-16952 says there were no survivors of the crash - but it seems there was one. Captain Michael R. Nawrosky, CO of B/1/5 Cav, was wounded and evacuated on 04 Apr 1968 (he died from his wounds on 06 July 1968). An unverified report says
"[Captain Joe] Lyttle was C Company commander (1/5 Cav) the summer and fall of 67. Then he served on LTC Runkle's Bn staff until the day Runkle was killed. Lyttle was selected by Runkle to replace a wounded Co CO and he was on the flight that was shot down with Runkle. Lyttle survived the crash, but was partly under the helicopter. The NVA executed all others, including Runkle, but thought Lyttle was dead. He was later rescued but was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Lyttle worked many years at Warm Springs, GA as a supervisor in rehab with other paralyzed persons, but left there last fall to retire to Virginia knowing that he was terminal with cancer."
While neither The Virtual Wall nor the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Association can positively confirm Captain Lyttle's presence aboard the command helo, there is no reason to think that he was not. Captain Lyttle was injured in a helo incident in April 1968; he was medically retired due to paralysis; he did serve at Warm Springns for many years; and he did pass away in 2004.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a fellow soldier,
Bennie Koon

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 11 Aug 2003
Last updated 04/14/2008