Retired Col. Richard L. "Larry" Mehr, 74, an Air Force fighter pilot in Vietnam and later a management consultant in the Washington area, died June 5 of multiple system atrophy at his home in Rockford, Ill. He was an Arlington County resident for many years.
Many of Col. Mehr's fellow pilots knew him for a complex and daring rescue operation he directed in summer 1967 in Southeast Asia. Based at Udorn Air Base in Thailand, he got word July 2 that a pilot had bailed out of his damaged F-105 Thunderchief near the Laotian border. Four A-1 Sandys (rescue escort planes) under then-Maj. Mehr's command, accompanied by two rescue helicopters, took off late in the afternoon and reached the site where the pilot had gone down, a ridge line between two heavily populated valleys. Maj. Mehr and his team located the pilot that evening, but it was not until the next day, under intense groundfire, that they were able to make the rescue. The major himself, with his plane running on fumes after it was hit in one of its gas tanks, barely made it back to Udorn.
For his performance directing a dangerous mission with no losses, he was awarded the Air Force Cross. He also received the Silver Star.
Col. Mehr was born in Louisville and graduated from the University of Louisville in 1952. A member of the Air Force ROTC in college, he was commissioned a first lieutenant after completing jet pilot training at Webb Air Force Base in Texas in 1955. In addition to his service in Vietnam, he was stationed in Washington, where he completed a master of science degree and a doctorate in business and finance, both from George Washington University. He also graduated from the U.S. Naval War College.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1972, he stayed in the Washington area and took a position as assistant director of Navy Special Services. Later, he formed his own company, Mehr Associates, providing management consulting and information management services to governmental agencies in Arlington and the District.
In 1987, he retired and moved to the small river town of Oregon, Ill., where he enjoyed reading and writing and, on the first Saturday in May, watching the Kentucky Derby. In later years, he moved to Rockford and was a member of Mount Olive Lutheran Church there.
His marriage to Gladys Mehr ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 25 years, Carolyn Mehr of Rockford; two children from his first marriage, Lara Currie of Lake George, N.Y., and Konrad Erik Mehr of Seattle; and one grandson.