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
Refno: 1206
Other Personnel in Incident: Elmer Holden, James Locker, Richard Yeend,
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.
Border Laos, Thuan Thien 22 miles NW of A Shau
U.S. Coast Guard Historical Reference: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
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
Interesting background on USCG Lt Rittichier.  Source is Vietnam Helicopter
Pilots Assoc and 37th AARS documents.
Bruce Swander.
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
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
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
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" <snj@faraway-soclose.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 snj@faraway-soclose.org 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
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
``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,
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