Dick Francis was born in 1943 in Long Beach, California. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor's degree, he entered the U.S. Air Force through Officer Training School on February 21, 1966, and was commissioned a 2d Lt at Lackland AFB, Texas, on May 17, 1966. Lt Francis next attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Moody AFB, Georgia, from June to October 1966, and then attended Weapons Controller Training from November 1966 to February 1967. His next assignment was as a weapons controller with the 4624th Support Squadron at Hancock Field, New York, from February to December 1967, followed by service as a weapons controller with the 621st Tactical Control Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai AFB and at Khao Khieo, Thailand, from December 1967 to December 1968. Lt Francis served as an air control and warning officer with the 475th Tactical Fighter Wing at Misawa AB, Japan, from December 1968 to September 1970, and then attended Undergraduate Navigator Training at Mather AFB, California, from September 1970 to June 1971. After completing F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training, Capt Francis served as an F-4 weapons systems operator with the 523rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Clark AB in the Philippines and deployed to Udorn Royal Thai AFB from March 1972 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on June 27, 1972. After spending 275 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on March 28, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Sheppard AFB, Texas, and then returned to flying status as an F-4 WSO with the 334th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, from June 1973 to June 1974. Capt Francis next attended Undergraduate Pilot Training, earning his pilot wings at Sheppard AFB in June 1975, followed by service as a C-141 Starlifter pilot with the 86th Military Airlift Squadron at Travis AFB, California. His final assignment was as an E-3 Sentry Mission Crew Commander with the 964th AWACS at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, where he served until his retirement from the Air Force on March 1, 1986.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Captain Richard L. Francis distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force deep within hostile territory as an F-4E Weapon Systems Officer on 27 June 1972. On that date, Captain Francis led a flight of four F-4 Phantoms on an extremely hazardous and important strike support mission over Hanoi, North Vietnam. This mission required that Captain Francis lead his flight on a precise and non-maneuvering course over Hanoi, despite all hostile defenses that might be encountered. With complete disregard for personal safety, Captain Francis led his flight through intense barrages of antiaircraft fire and lethal fields of aerial balloon mines, until his aircraft was suddenly struck down by a surface-to-air missile. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Captain Francis has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.