RITTICHIER, JACK C. Remains Identifed 11 Aug 03. Burial Arlington, 06 Oct 2003
Name: Jack C. Rittichier Branch/Rank: US Coast Guard/O3 Unit: CG 37 ARRS Date of Birth: 17 August 1933 Home City of Record: BARBERTON OH Date of Loss: 09 June 1968 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 162144 North 1070534 East Status (in 1973): Killed In Action/Body Not Recovered Category: 3 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: HU3E #6714710 Missions: Refno: 1206
Other Personnel in Incident: Elmer Holden, James Locker, Richard Yeend, all KIA/BNR
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 and CACCF = Combined Action Combat Casualty File. Updated 2008.
R/R CONTACT LOST OVER WATER - SAR NEG
Border Laos, Thuan Thien 22 miles NW of A Shau
ATTEMPT RESCUE DOWNED PILOT, GROUND FIRE, EXPLD/BURN
======================= U.S. Coast Guard Historical Reference: Jack Rittichier
Lieutenant Jack Rittichier was one of the first three Coast Guard exchange pilots to fly combat search and rescue missions with the Air Force's 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict. Within three weeks of his arrival in Vietnam he demonstrated his courage above and beyond the call of duty. Flying through heavy enemy fire to save four Army fliers, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. A couple of weeks later, under the faint light of illumination flares, he pulled nine men from the side of a mountain, five of whom were badly wounded.
On 9 June 1968, 37 miles west of Hue, a downed Marine Corps fighter pilot lay on the ground with a broken arm and leg. To his further misfortune he had parachuted into a North Vietnamese Army bivouac area. The enemy used him for bait to lure rescue helicopters within killing range. Air strikes pounded the site around the survivor. The first helicopter made three attempts to reach the Marine before breaking off to refuel. Lieutenant Rittichier dived his aircraft in for the pickup. Heavy fire, however, drove him away. He swung around to let the gunships sweep the terrain and then, followed them back into the area. As he hovered over the pilot, bullets punched his aircraft and set it afire. He tried to pull away, but his aircraft would not respond. The helicopter settled to the ground and exploded. Within 30 seconds a ball of fire consumed the aircraft. Lieutenant Rittichier lost his life in nobly trying to save that of another. While the Air Force carries Rittichier on its rolls as "Missing in Action," the Coast Guard lists him as "Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered."
Air Force Looks for Missing Copter The Associated Press
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AP) -- The Air Force is hoping flight simulations can help solve the disappearance 30 years ago of a rescue helicopter in Vietnam.
The project may lead to similar efforts to find other aircraft that vanished during the Vietnam War, former flight engineer Bob Baldwin said Wednesday as the nation marked Veterans Day.
Baldwin is part of a team of veterans teaming up with the Air Force to find an HH-3E Jolly Green Giant and its four-man crew. The helicopter named Jolly Green 23 vanished June 9, 1968, while searching for a downed attack pilot, who also remains unaccounted for.
Baldwin was part of the wartime effort to find the helicopter. Thirty years later, he's helping with a new search despite being thousands of miles away from the scene.
Black and white aerial photos taken in the late 1960s were converted into digital photos and matched with current maps to recreate the wartime landscape near the Vietnam-Laos border. Baldwin then used a computer joy stick to fly through the scene displayed on a console.
``I just closed my eyes and when I opened them up, it was like stepping back 30 years,'' Baldwin said. ``The only thing missing is that the tracers aren't coming at you'' from antiaircraft guns.
The simulations at the Hurlburt base in the Florida Panhandle allowed Baldwin and another former pilot to pick out three spots where the helicopter may have crashed.
A military team in Vietnam searched for four days before the monsoon season forced them to stop. They plan to resume when the rains end next year, said Maj. Mike Vaughn, who helps supervise computer mapping and flight simulator work at Hurlburt.
The team found no sign of Jolly Green 23, but did find wreckage of a Marine helicopter that had been forced down. All but one of the crew members had escaped.
Interesting background on USCG Lt Rittichier. Source is Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Assoc and 37th AARS documents.
BACKGROUND: LT Jack C. Rittichier was commissioned as an officer in the US Air Force in August 1957. He was discharged from the Air Force as a Captain (O-3) to accept a commission as a Lieutenant (Junior Grade) in the Coast Guard Reserve on 16 September 1963 and was assigned to Coast Guard Air Base Elizabeth City, NC. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and integrated into the Regular Coast Guard on 28 March 1966.
While flying search and rescue missions from Air Station Detroit, LT Rittichier was awarded the Air Medal for his role as the Copilot of a helicopter that flew 150 miles from Detroit, in blinding snow and ice conditions, to rescue eight seaman from the grounded West German motor vessel NORDMEER just minutes before it broke up. While at Detroit, he volunteered for exchange duty with the Air Force's 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam.
On 21 April 1968, less than two weeks after arriving in Vietnam, LT Rittichier was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for rescuing, in the face of hostile ground fire, four crewmembers of a U.S. Army Helicopter gunship that had been shot down.
On 12 May 1968, LT Rittichier, serving as the Rescue Commander of an HH-3E, twice entered an extremely hostile area to rescue four survivors of a downed helicopter and its five seriously wounded personnel. The survivors were located in an extremely small landing zone, surrounded by trees on the side of a steep mountain slope. LT Rittichier made the second approach and departed by flare light because the sight was obscured by smoke clouds. For this, he was awarded a second Distinguished Flying Cross.
Less than a month later, on 9 June 1968, 37 miles west of Hue, a marine Corps fighter pilot (1LT Walter R Schmidt) lay on the ground in a North Vietnamese army bivouacking area with a broken arm and leg. The enemy used him as bait to lure the rescue helicopters within killing range. Air strikes pounded the area around the marine pilot. The first helicopter made three attempts to reach him but was seriously damaged in the process and had to break off. LT Rittichier dove his HH-3 with three Air Force crewmen aboard in for the pickup. Heavy enemy fire forced him off. He swung around to let the gunships clean the area again and followed them in for another pickup attempt. As he hovered over the injured pilot, bullets punched the aircraft and it began to burn. He pulled away, but the helicopter would not rise. It fell to the ground and exploded. Within thirty seconds a ball of fire consumed the aircraft.
LT Rittichier's remains were never recovered and he is still officially listed as "Missing in Action" (MIA). He is the only Coast Guard MIA from the Vietnam War and was also the first Coast Guard casualty in Vietnam caused by enemy action. LT Jack Rittichier gave his life for the proudest Coast Guard mission of all -- Saving Lives.
For his courage and heroism he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart. He exemplified the highest traditions of the Coast Guard and also the valor shown by other Coast Guardsmen in Vietnam. The Administration/ESU building at ISC Portsmouth was named in honor of LT Rittichier on November 10, 1998.
ISC Portsmouth welcomes all who wish to take a moment to recognize Roger D. Gibson, Commander, USCG, Executive Officer, ISC Portsmouth, (757) 483-8590
Coast Guard pilot's body recovered from Laos Molly Kavanaugh; Plain Dealer Reporter
In the months following the June 9, 1968, helicopter crash in the jungles of Laos, Carol Rittichier held onto hope her husband was still alive.
The two met at Kent State University and within two months became engaged. After 11 years of marriage, they told people they were still on their honeymoon.
Lt. Jack Rittichier, a pilot with the Coast Guard, had arrived in Vietnam just two months before the crash. "I just want to save lives as much as I can," the 34-year-old Barberton native wrote his wife.
And that is what he was trying to do that summer morning. As he swung the "Jolly Green Giant" helicopter near the downed attack pilot, enemy fire came at him until finally his HH-3E chopper tumbled to the ground and exploded.
Rittichier's body and those of his three crew members were never found.
His wife, now remarried and living in California, said she had assumed that people had quit looking for him and that he would never be found.
Yesterday she was overjoyed to find out she was wrong. "I can't believe he was not forgotten," the 65-year-old woman said.
On Friday remains recovered from the crash site will be brought to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu. Positive identification cannot be made for several months, but forensic testing is expected to confirm the remains belong to Rittichier and the three Air Force men, said Petty Officer Lauren Smith, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.
The crew were Capt. Richard C. Yeend, 29, of Mobile, Ala.; Sgt. James D. Locker, 21, of Sidney, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Elmer L. Holden, 24, of Oklahoma City, Okla.
"They are almost 100 percent sure this is indeed the site," said Smith, who visited the remote area last month to photograph the excavation for the Coast Guard.
The crash site, a six-hour drive plus a 90-minute helicopter ride from Vientiane, the capital of Lao People's Democratic Republic, was discovered in November.
In addition to remains and helicopter pieces, search and recovery teams have found some personal effects. They include a pocketknife, part of a watch, a boot sole and a bar ensign which probably belonged to either Capt. Yeend or Lt. Rittichier.
The 23-year-old Smith said people working at the site, some of them locals, know this mission was important. "These are remains that have been waiting for a long time to come home," Smith said.
Rittichier's widow, now Carol Wypick, said his death was hard to accept. "When it happened, I just wanted to die," she said. "I couldn't believe someone so cool, so wonderful, was taken."
The oldest of three boys, Rittichier had many talents, she said. He majored in art, loved to write, was captain of the football team and was a great dancer.
The two did not plan to have children because their lives felt so complete together, she said. After graduating from Kent, Rittichier joined the Air Force but eventually decided that being a bomber pilot was not for him.
He wanted to be a helicopter traffic reporter, but those jobs were scarce. So he joined the Coast Guard to fly search and rescue missions. The couple moved near the Coast Guard station at Selfridge Air Force Base in Mount Clemens, Mich., where a hangar now bears his name.
When he got the chance to go to Vietnam for a year as an exchange pilot, Rittichier signed up, then told his wife. He wanted to write a book about the war and figured he'd better see action firsthand.
His letters and the tapes he sent home spoke of uncertainty over the war and concern for the Vietnamese. He was the first Coast Guard combat casualty and the only Coast Guard member missing in action from the Vietnam War.
"His mother and I used to say, he's not dead, he's running around in the jungle," Wypick said.
Rittichier's parents are now deceased. But over time, as the years But over time, as the years multiplied, all of them knew in their heart he was gone, Wypick said. And so they prayed for this day, the day his remains would be found.
================= Honolulu Advertiser Posted on: Friday, February 14, 2003 MIA bracelet wearer's vigil soon may be over
By William Cole Advertiser Military Writer
Though worn down, the inscription on the metal bracelet honors Coast Guard Lt. Jack C. Rittichier, missing since a 1968 crash in Laos. The wearer is Frank Dekle, a Vietnam veteran who is undergoing rehabilitation here at the VA Center for Aging after sufferinga stroke.
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
Nearly 35 years ago, Coast Guard Lt. Jack C. Rittichier's HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" helicopter crashed on a rescue mission in the jungles of Laos.
His family and the Coast Guard haven't forgotten him. And neither have strangers from O'ahu to Florida who have kept Rittichier's name alive through the MIA bracelets they've worn for years.
The long vigil could soon be over with recent news of the recovery of remains believed to be those of the Ohio native, the first Coast Guard combat casualty of the Vietnam War and the service's only member still listed as missing in action.
The "Jolly Green's" crew will be repatriated to U.S. soil, along with remains from an F-4 Phantom crash site, during an 8:45 a.m. ceremony today at Hickam Air Force Base.
From there, the remains will be taken to the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawai'i, where specialists will attempt to make positive IDs - a process that could take a year or longer.
For about 13 years, Frank Dekle of Kailua has worn one of the MIA bracelets - remembrances that were most popular during the Vietnam War but are still worn by the thousands.
The number of Americans unaccounted for from the war stands at 1,889. For those who still wear the MIA bands, the sense of connection is still strong more than 30 years later.
Dekle, a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer who saw duty in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, couldn't believe it when he read a recent Advertiser story noting Rittichier's name - the same name on the bracelet he has worn for more than a decade.
"Lt. Jack C. Rittichier, USCG, 09 June 1968, SVN," the worn-down inscription on the bracelet reads.
"I was talking to people about him ... and all of a sudden, there he is (in the newspaper)," said Dekle, who's in rehabilitation at the Veterans Affairs' Center for Aging after suffering a stroke about two years ago.
Rittichier, who served as an exchange pilot with the U.S. Air Force's 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron in Danang, was shot down in 1968 with three Air Force crew members while trying to rescue a downed Marine pilot on the Ho Chi Minh Trail just inside Laos.
"He never came back. We just never knew about him," said Dekle, 64, who removes the bracelet only when required at the VA center near Tripler Army Medical Center.
Dekle's son, Frank Jr., remembers his dad buying the bracelet at an O'ahu military surplus store around 1990.
"It was kind of like a teammate, somebody who was in the Coast Guard," Frank Jr. said. "I guess he wanted to remember (Rittichier) that way."
Janet O'Reilly Herron of Utah, who has worn a MIA bracelet with Rittichier's name on it for the last seven months, bought her bracelet through Task Force Omega Inc., an Arizona-based POW/MIA organization.
Herron, who has two brothers who served in the Coast Guard, asked for an MIA band from the service.
"I called and asked if there were any Coast Guard men left behind, and she said, 'Funny you asked. We have one,' " Herron said.
About 8,000 Coast Guard members served in the Vietnam War. Rittichier was the first combat casualty and the last MIA. Six other "Coasties" were killed in the war.
Patty Hopper, chairwoman of Task Force Omega, said the MIA bracelets, which she sells for $10, remain very popular. The idea began with Voices in Vital America, a Los Angeles-based student organization that sold POW and MIA bracelets for $2.50 in 1970. VIVA distributed nearly 5 million of the bracelets.
A number of veterans organizations still make the bracelets and because Rittichier was the only remaining Coast Guard MIA, the band with his name was particularly in demand, Hopper said.
"There are a lot of people who request his name - particularly people who serve in the Coast Guard," said Hopper, who added there may be thousands out there with Rittichier's name.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Richard Jackson, an MH-60 helicopter gunship pilot out of Jacksonville, Fla., said he wore a Rittichier bracelet in Operation Desert Storm and on missions from the North Pole to Antarctica.
Now, those with the bracelets have to figure out what to do with them. Dekle said he may give his back to Rittichier's family.
"Someone told me to take this one off and get a new one and have his (missing date, 1968), and this year after (for the return)," Dekle said. "That would be something."
Dekle will be at today's repatriation, thanks to a lift offered by the VA, along with former prisoners of war in town for the 30th anniversary of the first release of POWs in 1973.
The Navy's casualty assistance office said that if individuals want the bracelets returned to Rittichier's family, it will mail them. The address is: Department of the Navy, Navy Personnel Command (Pers-62 P), Casualty Assistance and Retired Activities Division, 5720 Integrity Drive, Millington, TN 38055-6210.
From: "Stacey" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2003 20:09:22 -0000 Subject: [prisoners-of-war] a hero is soon to be laid to rest
On 06 October, 2003, at 1300 hours, the remains of United States Coast Guard Lt. Jack Columbus Rittichier will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Jack was the first Coast Guardsman killed in action in Vietnam, and the only one who remained unaccounted for after the war's end. The crash site of the Jolly Green 23 was discovered on 09 November 02, and the remains of the four crew members were repatriated on 14 Feb 03; positive ID was confirmed to Rittichier's brother (Dave) on 11 August 03.
Maggie and Dave Rittichier are allowing the funeral to be an open one, and would very much like to see a large crowd present. If you are able to make it, please attend the funeral. Jack will be buried at Coast Guard Hill, in an area normally reserved for the top officials; a Commandant gave up his spot for Jack. Information about and photos of Jack can be found at the URL below. If you would like to e-mail Dave and Maggie, contact me at email@example.com and I will send you their address.
Vietnam vet finally may rest in peace
Posted on Wed, Aug. 27, 2003
U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jack Rittichier took the long way home from the Vietnam War. Unlike most of his comrades from that war, the Barberton native is coming home to a hero's welcome. Unfortunately, he's not alive to witness it. Yet, his family is at peace that the journey is finally over.
Jennifer Rittichier Holmer - Lt. Rittichier's niece - shared the bittersweet news: "It has been 35 years since my uncle was killed in Vietnam.'' "His body was never recovered,'' the Suffield Township woman said. It wasn't for the lack of trying. "Several attempts were made,'' she noted. ``Only recently were investigators able to go back.''
With the notification that Lt. Rittichier's remains (his date of loss was June 9, 1968) had finally been located, came a welcome gesture: burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Lt. Rittichier's remains were matched in part by using the DNA of brother Dave Rittichier. Lt. Rittichier was one of three Barberton brothers, Jack, Dave and Henry. Their parents, Carl and Ruby Rittichier, died in an automobile accident in 1978.
Dave Rittichier, who now resides in Erwin, Tenn., said he was always confident a government search mission ``would one day result in finding my brother's remains. It was like finding a needle in a haystack. But they finally found him.'' "As children we lived at Portage Lakes, and we would swim all summer long and push inner tubes,'' said Dave Rittichier, 68.
Lt. Rittichier was intensely involved in athletics in his youth. He played football at Coventry High School and Kent State University, where he was team captain. He also was involved in Air Force ROTC. He was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force in August 1957 and was discharged as a captain in 1963 to accept a commission as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the Coast Guard.
The young pilot earned accolades for his search and rescue missions, most notably for his role as a co-pilot of a helicopter that flew 150 miles from Detroit during a horrible ice storm to pluck eight seamen from the grounded West German motor vessel NORDEER just before it broke up on Lake Erie.
Two weeks after arriving in Vietnam, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for rescuing four Army helicopter crew members in hostile fire. That was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Lt. Rittichier's heroics.
His last would be June 9, 1968. The Barberton native and pilot was shot down with three other soldiers while attempting to rescue a downed Marine on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The family in all of its sadness has tried to keep Lt. Rittichier's memory alive.
``My brother Henry -- who is nine years younger and lives in Houston, Texas -- has four children,'' Dave Rittichier said. ``He named one after Jack and one after me.'' Lt. Rittichier had been married 11 years when he died. The couple had no children.
Further testimony to Lt. Rittichier's indelible impact -- he was the Coast Guard's first combat casualty and its last MIA -- is a Web site created by Stacey Jones in his memory: www.faraway-soclose.org
The 26-year-old Texarkana, Ark., woman first got involved with the POW/MIA cause in 1998 when she was surfing the Internet and found a Web page paying tribute to an MIA soldier someone had adopted.
Jones -- whose only other connection to the military is her grandfather, who served in the Army in World War II -- has adopted seven Vietnam MIAs, one from every military branch and a female civilian surgeon.
Lt. Rittichier was among Jones' MIA adoptees. ``I cried, and I laughed when I heard the news that his remains had been found,'' said Jones, who will attend his burial.
Jennifer Holmer said as many family members as possible will attend the Oct. 6 burial.
Dave Rittichier is uncertain if his brother's widow, Carol Rittichier Wypick of Fountain Valley, Calif., will be able to attend the Arlington National Cemetery ceremony service. She in the middle of a huge battle of her own, cancer.
That's why the family is requesting in lieu of flowers that donations in Lt. Rittichier's name be made to the American Cancer Society.
What better way for him to rest in peace?
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2006 14:19:06 -0400
June 9, 2006 marks the 38th anniversary of LT Jack C. Rittichier's helicopter being shot down while flying a rescue mission in Vietnam. LT Rittichier was a Coast Guard pilot who volunteered for the exchange program with the US Air Force during the Vietnam war. The helicopter he was piloting was shot down while trying to rescue an injured Marine Corp fighter pilot on the ground. LT Rittichier was listed as the only Coast Guard MIA, with the classification of KIA, from the Vietnam War. In 2002, after receiving information about his possible crash site, a Joint-Task Force-Full Accounting team initiated a recovery mission. Remains found at the site were positively identified as those of LT Rittichier and his crew. On October 6, 2003, Lt Rittichier was brought "home" on a Coast Guard C-130 and buried with full honors in the "Coast Guard Hill" section of Arlington National Cemetery.
AMT2 Thomas C. Durkin Engineering Admin PO/ Airman Program PO Air Station Elizabeth City