SPRINGFIELD, Ohio --
DAYTON, Ohio— On September 4, 1948, an Airman, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Squadron, was flying a routine navigational training mission above Dayton, Ohio when disaster struck. At 10:52 am, Lt. Richard Dale Christman’s F-51’s left wing broke off of the aircraft at several thousand feet in the air. Twenty five seconds later, the F-51 crashed and 27-year-old Christman died in the crash. Christman was buried at Dayton Memorial Park Cemetery.
Seventy two years later, on the anniversary of his death, thanks to the efforts of Tech. Sgt. Richard Herron, the base historian and an Airman assigned to the 162nd Operations Group, Christman received a proper headstone that honors his military service and the sacrifice he made for his country.
“I was doing some research and found out that Lt. Christman did not have a brass military marker that most veterans have,” said Herron. “All he had was a marble marker that said Richard D. Christman 1921-1948. When I saw that, I knew we needed to do something about that.”
Christman was born in Dayton, Ohio and attend the University of Dayton. On February 28, 1943, Christman joined the U.S. Army Air Corps to aide in the war efforts during War World Two. He was assigned to the 318th Fighter Squadron as a fighter pilot. Christman flew missions in the Mediterranean and earned the Air Medal with 4 oak leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He left the Army Air Corps in October of 1945 but rejoined the Ohio Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Squadron and became the assistant flight leader. Today, this squadron is now known as the 162nd Attack Squadron and is a part of the 178th Wing in Springfield, Ohio.
As the base historian, Herron began researching the pilots who had passed away while serving in the unit. Through his research, he discovered that Christman, a young lieutenant formerly assigned to the unit in 1947 to 1948, was buried with a simple grave marker that only stated his name, birth year and death year. This gravestone did not showcase Christman’s military service and the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country. Herron was determined to provide this fallen service member with a proper headstone.
“I think it important that we honor this young lieutenant because at some point, that could be us,” said Herron. “Were looking out for our Airmen even after death, that’s what historians do.”
Through the help of the Wing, Chief’s group, local VFWs and anonymous donations, enough money was raised to give Christman a proper military grave maker.
“We were able to raise the funds to get this lieutenant a proper marker for his grave,” said Herron. “This is our way of saying once a Saber, always a Saber.”
The new grave marker includes Christman’s rank, military organizations, exact dates of his birth and death, and it reflects his World War Two veteran status. At the unveiling, the current Wing commander and Operations Group commander left their commander’s coins as a token of their appreciation.
“Lt. Christman’s dedication to his duty, his professionalism, his attitude, and his sacrifice for our nation; it’s befitting that he be recognized for that.”