Melvin Killian was born on January 31, 1922, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He enlisted in the Iowa National Guard on February 14, 1940, and went on active duty to attend Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, on August 5, 1942. Killian graduated OCS with a commission as a 2d Lt in the Infantry Branch of the U.S. Army on February 5, 1943, and transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces on October 21, 1943, to attend pilot training. Lt Killian was awarded his pilot wings at Ellington Field, Texas, on September 8, 1944, and then served at George Field, Illinois, until transferring to the China-Burma-India Theater in March 1945. Killian returned to the U.S. in August 1945, and served with the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron of the 439th Troop Carrier Group until April 1946, when he transferred to the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing at Bergstrom Field, Texas. His next assignment was with the 46th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 317th Troop Carrier Group at Tachikawa AB, Japan, from August 1946 to August 1948, followed by service with Headquarters Command at Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C., from September 1948 to October 1952. After completing additional training, Capt Killian served with the 68th Fighter Intercepter Squadron (FIS) in South Korea from March 1953 to September 1954. He then transferred to the 15th FIS at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, where he served from September 1954 to June 1958, followed by service on the staff of Headquarters Central Air Defense Force and then on the staff of the 33rd Air Division at Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri, from June 1958 to December 1960. Maj Killian next served as Operations Officer and then Commander of the 509th FIS at Clark AB in the Philippines from December 1960 to December 1963, followed by service as Commander of the 334th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, from December 1963 until he was shot down over North Vietnam while on temporary duty at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, on September 30, 1965. Col Killian was listed as missing in action until May 14, 1973, when his status was changed to killed in action. His remains were returned to the U.S. on March 20, 1985, and he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
Colonel Melvin J. Killian distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force over North Vietnam on 30 September 1965. On that date, Colonel Killian led a flight of F-105 aircraft on a mission against a highly significant military target. Colonel Killian proceeded on an unerring course to the target area. Arriving ahead of the main flight, he began an aerial survey of the area in order to give final navigational assistance to the incoming flight. Although subjected to intesive hostile ground fire, Colonel Killian flew his aircraft over the gun emplacements while giving encouragement and directions as each pilot braved the withering ground fire. His overwhelming desire for successful mission completion, and his concern for the safety of each pilot forced him to disregard his own personal safety while continuously flying within range of the ground fire. His outstanding dedication to duty, superior initiative, and mission performance resulted in the destruction of numerous hostile ground positions of vital significance to the Viet Cong. Colonel Killian's actions and courage are in keeping with the highest traditions of the American fighting man under attack by an opposing armed force. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness, in the dedication of his service to his country, Colonel Killian has reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.