Richard Nagel was born on September 21, 1932, in New York. He enlisted in the Army National Guard on January 28, 1948, and received an honorable discharge on February 7, 1950, enlisting in the U.S. Air Force the next day, February 8, 1950. Sgt Nagel served as a Radar Tech until March 1957, when he was accepted into Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force on September 20, 1957, and then attended Ground Electronic Officer training at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, from October 1957 to January 1958. His first officer assignment was as a Ground Electronic Officer at Stewart AFB, New York, from January 1958 to January 1959, followed by pilot training. Lt Nagel was awarded his pilot wings at Greenville AFB, Mississippi, in January 1960, and then completed Interceptor Pilot Training in August 1960, followed by Pilot Instructor Training in June 1961. Capt Nagel next served as a flight instructor with the 3525th and 3526th Student Squadrons at Williams AFB, Arizona, from June 1961 to February 1966. After completing C-123 Provider Combat Crew Training, he deployed to Southeast Asia where he served as a C-123 pilot with the 19th Air Commando Squadron at Tan Son Nhut AB, South Vietnam, from May 1966 to April 1967. Capt Nagel then returned to the 3526th Student Squadron at Williams AFB, where he served from April 1967 to January 1969, followed by Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, from January to July 1969. His next assignment was on the staff of 3rd Air Force at Ruislip Air Station and then RAF Mildenhall, England, from July 1969 to June 1973. He then attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1973 to August 1974, followed by T-38 Pilot Instructor Training from September to November 1974. Maj Nagel next served on the staff of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, from November 1974 to September 1976, and then as a Political Military Planner in the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon from September 1976 to May 1979. Col Nagel served as Deputy Commander for Operations of the 71st Flying Training Wing from June 1979 to June 1980, followed by service as Base Commander of Vance AFB from June 1980 to June 1981. He then served a tour on the staff of Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from July 1981 to April 1985. Col Nagel's final assignment was as a deputy director at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., from April 1985 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1987.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
Captain Richard A. Nagel, Jr. distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as a C-123 pilot at Dau Tiong, Republic of Vietnam, on 26 November 1966. On that date, Captain Nagel's aircraft was struck by intense, accurately directed hostile fire which caused an uncontrollable fire in the cargo compartment, rendered the flap system inoperative, and partially disabled the landing gear mechanism. Although blinded by smoke and on the verge of collapse from the intense heat and flames, Captain Nagel remained undaunted. As the fire engulfed the cargo compartment, passengers began to crowd the cockpit of the aircraft hampering his ability to maneuver the aircraft. Demonstrating superb airmanship and a profound regard for his fellow man, Captain Nagel continued to fly the crippled aircraft and executed a crash landing. Through his extraordinary heroism, devotion to duty, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Captain Nagel reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.