Original Vietnam War Navy Captain Ronald E. “Mugs” McKeown 1st Top Gun Commander Grouping

Item Description

Original Items: One-of-a-kind. Captain Ronald E. “Mugs” McKeown, was a highly decorated Naval fighter pilot who was the first commanding officer of the elite Top Gun academy.

Captain McKeown, whose boxing prowess earned him the nickname “Mugs,” was chosen to command the newly commissioned Navy Fighter Weapons School, popularly known as Top Gun, in 1972. The training school began informally just two years earlier in a converted trailer at the former Naval Air Station Miramar to teach Vietnam War pilots air-to-air combat tactics necessary to defeat MIG attacks. He was one of the program’s first instructors.

Taking command of the program allowed him to teach jet pilots the tactics he had been honing for years.

He took part in the first air strikes against North Vietnam in 1964, flying F-8U Crusader and F-4B Phantom aircraft. While on deployment, he was chosen for test pilot and astronaut training and went on to serve as chief test pilot and tactics manager of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four. There, he was in charge of engineering changes to the radar-homing Sparrow missile, developed tactical maneuvers for the F-4 Phantom, and gained invaluable cockpit knowledge flying Soviet-built MIG fighter planes.

The experience would serve him well. While leading a patrol north of Hanoi in 1972, he and his wingmen were attacked by six enemy aircraft. A lengthy battle saw Mr. McKeown and his radar interception officer Lt. John Ensch use a defensive tactic that tumbled their jet end-over-end. During the fight, they shot down two MIG-17s.

The men were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions, though Mr. McKeown would not accept the medal until Ensch, who was shot down and captured during another mission, was released from being a prisoner of war and the two could be honored together.

Ronald E. McKeown was born June 17, 1939, in Pipe Stone, Minn., the only child to Roy and Ella McKeown, and grew up in west Texas.

Captain McKeown was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who was accepted to three Ivy League schools. At the Naval Academy he excelled in football as a running back alongside Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino in the 1961 Orange Bowl, and in boxing as the undefeated light-heavyweight Champion of the Brigade of Midshipman for three years. He was a 1960 Olympic boxing team hopeful.

He commanded Top Gun for three years before being assigned to other leadership stations, including F-14 Tomcat Project Officer at Naval Air Systems Command, chief of staff for operations with Commander Carrier Group Eight, the battle group that developed electronic warfare tactics and procedures used in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and other conflicts in the Middle East, and chief of staff and executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Material. In addition to the Navy Cross, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross.

Following his Navy career, in which he flew 440 combat missions over Southeast Asia and logged nearly 1,000 carrier landings, Captain McKeown worked in the defense industry for McDonnell Douglas and served as San Diego Mayor Susan Golding’s military affairs adviser.

Captain McKeown passed away on November 21st, 2015.

This is a collection of Captain McKeown's military possessions in including all six of his original commissions beginning at Ensign in 1961 and ending at Captain in 1981, as well as flight suits, multiple photo albums, U.S. Naval Academy Diploma, commemorative plaques, commemorative coffee mugs, visor cap, trunk, and so much more!
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