Loren Torkelson was born on May 22, 1941, in Minot, North Dakota. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on March 3, 1961, and transferred to the U.S. Air Force Reserve on September 27, 1962. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Air Force through the Air Force ROTC Program at the University of North Dakota on August 10, 1963, and went on active duty beginning November 23, 1963. Lt Torkelson next completed Undergraduate Pilot Training, earning his pilot wings at Laughlin AFB, Texas, in October 1964, followed by F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training and Pilot Systems Operator Training from November 1964 to April 1965. His first assignment was as an F-4 pilot with the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, from April 1965 to April 1966, and then deployed with the 389th to Phan Rang AB and then DaNang AB, South Vietnam, from April 1966 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on April 29, 1967. After spending 2,137 days in captivity, Capt Torkelson was released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Travis AFB, California, and then completed pilot requalification training in December 1973, and F-4 Combat Crew Training in May 1974. Maj Torkelson then served as an F-4 pilot and instructor pilot with the 311th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron of the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona, from May 1974 to August 1976, followed by an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to attend the University of North Dakota School of Law from August 1976 to May 1979. LtCol Torkelson completed the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course in September 1979, and then served as an Air Force JAG Officer and Assistant Staff Judge Advocate for the Air Force Tactical Fighter Weapons Center and with the 554th Combat Support Group at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from September 1979 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1984. Loren Torkelson died on September 15, 1995, and was buried at the Concordia Cemetery in Crosby, North Dakota.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
First Lieutenant Loren H. Torkelson distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F4C Aircraft Commander over North Vietnam on 29 April 1967. On that date, while under intense and accurate fire from unfriendly forces, Lieutenant Torkelson demonstrated cool courage, undaunted determination, and superior skill in pressing home devastating air attacks against hostile positions. Persevering in the face of danger, he relentlessly and effectively aided in neutralizing the hostile forces. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Lieutenant Torkelson has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.