Throwback Thursday – Ken Fleenor, Brigadier General and Vietnam Prisoner-of-War

Bowling Green’s Aviation Heritage Park is growing. Dedicated to telling stories of southern Kentucky aviators and their aircraft, this week we posthumously visit the United States Air Force Vietnam War-era story of Bowling Green native and WKU alumni, Brig. General Kenneth Fleenor.

Born in October 1939 in Bowling Green, Fleenor spent his childhood growing up in southern Kentucky. As a child born of the Great Depression, some of his earliest memories were likely of World War II era living. In 1952, he graduated Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor’s degree in agriculture and was commissioned into the United States Air Force through the ROTC program. 

Fleenor graduated the Squadron Officer School of Air University six years later in 1958, and continued his education in the military with a graduate degree from Armed Forces Staff College in 1967. Much of his years in military service were spent on bases in Texas and Florida.

But Aviation Heritage Park highlights the story of his Vietnam War experience, where he was captured as a prisoner of war for five years. While chasing a Mig fighter over North Vietnam, his plane was hit by a missile, causing engines to fail and a crash. Within an hour of hitting the ground, he was taken prisoner by local Vietnamese bounty hunters, who were more interested in what downed fighter pilots were worth than his safety. He was released and flew back to the states in the Hanoi Taxi, a C-141 Starlifter—which is retired and part of the Air Force Museum.

WKU named Ken Fleenor to its Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1997. He finished his days in Texas, retired as Air Training Command Deputy Commander for Operations in San Antonio. More about Ken Fleenor can be found on the Aviation Heritage Park website and at the upcoming Aviation Heritage Park Museum.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Hart County Tourism.