Name: Joseph W. Kittinger Jr.
Rank/Branch: O5/United States Air Force, pilot
Unit: 432 TFW
Date of Birth: 27 July 1928
Home City of Record: Orlando FL
Date of Loss: 11 May 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213000 North  105300 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Missions: 485
Other Personnel in Incident: William Reich, returnee

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews.


SOURCE: WE CAME HOME  copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
spelling errors).
UPDATE - 03/97 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO

Colonel - United States Air Force 
Captured: May 11, 1972
Released: March 28, 1973
Others in incident: none

A short, stocky man with reddish hair and freckles was a relative newcomer
to Hanoi. He was older than most of the POWs  and was known as the "Red
Baron" to some and as "Grandpa" to the younger pilots. He buoyed the
spirits, boosted morale and was one of the best officers in the camp. He had
confidence and courage, his outlook was positive. He knew that captivity was
not forever and on his 307th day as a POW he was released.

Joe Kittinger had confidence, enthusiasm and a desire for accomplishment.
"Self-mastery is the key to the portals of the universe" and with these
words he attempts and succeeds where many would be daunted.

As a boy he wanted to fly. His plane ride in a "little old Ford two motor
job" only enhanced that desire. Flying was his dream and since that time the
accomplishment list has awed many.

In 1949 Joe enlisted in the Air Force from the time at that $1.50  ride he
was enamored by aviation. He spent his youth around planes - flying  was to
be his life.

During his years as a test pilot, Joe volunteered to test a parachute that
was to be used by astronauts. With calm courage he dramatically fell several
miles, thus evoking the comment from aerospace doctor Paul Stamp, "Joe is
the bravest man alive."

At age 28 in 1957 in the early dawn Joe boarded a small gondola under a high
balloon. He was to test man's endurance in space. Upward he went more than
eighteen miles; it was the highest man had ever gone and he became known as
"the first man in space".

A brush with death came while  flying an F-100. The plane went out of
control, crashed and burned. Joe had bailed out at 1000 feet and not even a

Later in 1960 he rode another balloon to the height of 102,000 feet. Wearing
a bulky  pressure suit he climbed out of the balloon. He descended for four
minutes 38 seconds, finally reached the speed of 614 MPH, even through there
was a drag chute which was used  to slow his descent When asked about his
fall, he said, "I  didn't have time to worry " This gave Colonel Kittinger
the record for the highest jump and longest free  fall. Later  he was  given
the credit for testing the parachute which would be used by astronauts in
the event that an ejection was necessary.

Joe served three tours in Vietnam. He volunteered for his third tour saying
he wanted to go  "because I want the war to end so my own sons won't have
to go. By May 11, 1972, Joe had flown more than 485 missions as the pilot of
an F-4 with the 432 TFW. Seven days before he was to return home, a missile
struck the right side of his aircraft, the wings fell off, and the rear of
his plane began to break up. His parachute was not observed and his family
feared he was missing in action. However, several months later his wife and
his two sons were notified he was a prisoner of war.

Times were sometimes difficult, but Joe Kittinger, a Christian, turned to
God in prayer.

Joseph Kittinger Jr. retired from the United States Air Force in 1978 with a
Silver Star and the rank of Colonel. He and his wife Sherry reside in
Florida. They have 2 sons and 4 grandchildren.

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