RONALD R. OBENLAND, CAPT, USAF
Roland Obenland '59
Date of birth: October 10, 1935
Date of death: May 18, 1968
From the 1959 Lucky Bag:
In F-100 Super Sabre Units of the Vietnam War, Roland was shot down on May 18, 1968, by automatic weapons fire only 6 miles from his home base while providing close air support.
From Find A Grave:
Roland was born on Oct. 10, 1935 in Nevis, Minnesota, graduating from Akeley High School in 1953.
He joined the Air Force in 1960, where he served 8 years, reaching the rank of Captain. His major command was the 7th AF. The Air Wing he was in was the 3rd TFW, 531st TFS Squadron.
Roland started a tour of duty in Vietnam on Aug. 29, 1967. On May 18, 1968 he was shot down in Hua Nghia Providence in South Vietnam. He didn't survive. Roland's body was recovered and he was brought home to lie at rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.
As an interesting side note, Roland's name was submitted to NASA in 1997 for their STARDUST mission to space. This is what NASA says about the program: "Placing names onto the STARDUST spacecraft was a public outreach effort. It allowed people to be personally involved with the STARDUST Mission and helps to promote public interest, awareness and support of the space program. It also provided a way to honor individuals by enabling them to be associated with mankind's most advance technological endeavor and to be part of the quest of the human species to reach for the stars." Roland's name will remain in space forever. What a way to honor a pilot!
For more informaiton on the STARDUST mission, go to http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/overview
The location of Roland's name on the Vietnam Memorial is Panel 62E, Row 21.
From the September-October 1968 issue of SHIPMATE:
Capt. Roland R. Obenland, USAF, died 18 May when the F-100 he was piloting was struck by hostile ground fire and crashed during a combat mission in support of ground forces near Saigon, South Vietnam. Services were held in the First Baptist Church, Park Rapids, Minn., with interment in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Capt. Obenland was bom in Akeley, Minn., and attended the University of Minnesota for two years before entering the Naval Academy. He was graduated in 1959 with honors. After completing flight training he served as an instructor pilot before assignment to the Air Force Institute of Technology where he received a Master's degree in astronautical engineering in 1965. He was assigned to the Air Force Space Systems Division where he remained until volunteering for duty in Vietnam last August. He had been serving with the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron at Bien Hoa. He held the Air Medal, the Southeast Asia Emergency Mission Ribbon, the Vietnamese Service and the Royal Vietnamese Commendation Medals.
Surviving are his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Obenland of Rt. 2, Nevis, Minn.; a brother Bruce, and a sister, Mrs. James Roper of Beltsville, Md.
I knew Ron Obenland at Bien Hoa Air Base for a few months preceding his death. He was a fighter pilot assigned the additional duty of awards and decorations officer for the wing; I had the same additional duty in my unit and would work with him on some issues.
Ron did not fit the image of a stereotypical fighter jock. He was short and trim, quiet and polite. He wore a crumpled baseball cap, smoked a pipe and looked like he would have been more at home behind the walls of academia lecturing on the more abstruse points of Rene Descartes' Discourse on Method than putting up with the pressure of several G's on the body after pulling up sharply from a bombing run. But he did the latter and could probably have done the former.
A tech sergeant working in the wing awards and decs office told me that Ron's plane was shot out of the sky, that he had been coming in on a target when the VC opened up with a new weapon that had several gatling-type guns mounted around a radar dish that tracked Ron's plane and aimed the guns. I don't know if such a weapon really existed or if it was another of the many b…s… stories that were part and parcel of life in Vietnam. His loss was tragic no matter the circumstances.
As we sit down to dinner on this last Thanksgiving Day of the millennium, let us not forget those who gave their lives for us. Remembering them will get harder, for a third of all Americans alive today were born after the fall of Saigon and for them that war is not a memory (and, thankfully, not a nightmare either). But remember the fallen we must.
In Ron Obenland America lost a good person with enormous potential. May he rest in peace forever more. BOB ROGOZINSKI, RSROGOZINSKI@USA.NET, 11/25/99
From Air Force Materiel Command Science Engineering and Technical Management Awards publication, last certified current on April 27, 2016:
3.3.4 Captain Roland R. Obenland Engineering Memorial Award. Named after Captain Roland R. Obenland who was killed in action in Vietnam on 18 May 1968 during a close- air support mission in an F-100. Prior to his assignment in Vietnam, Captain Obenland was a project officer on the development of the Precision Recovery Including Maneuvering Entry (PRIME) re-entry vehicle.
188.8.131.52. Recognizes a company grade engineering officer with less than 7 years of total active commissioned service. The award focuses on exemplary dedication and contribution to the AF through advancements in technology development or significant improvement through re-engineering projects. This award includes a monetary gift funded by the Obenland family.
John Lawler '59 was also in 23rd Company.
Memorial Hall Error
Roland is listed with his classmates as "Ronald" — this is incorrect. His name is correct on the killed in action panel.