Jack Columbus Rittichier

United States Coast Guard
17 August 1933 - 09 June 1968
Barberton, OH
Panel 58W Line 014

LCDR Lonnie Mixon, USCG, [L] and LT Jack Rittichier, USCG
(Photo courtesy of Stacey Jones)


Silver Star

Naval Aviator

DFC (3 Awards), Purple Heart, Air Medal (Multiple Awards), National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Jack Columbus Rittichier

28 Aug 2001

It is well known that US Coast Guard patrol boats and high endurance cutters operated offshore during the Vietnam War. The fact that 12 USCG pilots flew with the US Air Force during 1967-68 is less well known. These officers were on exchange duty and flew both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

Jack Rittichier On 9 June 1968 a section of Marine A-4 Skyhawks were targeted against a NVA base area southwest of Hue. One of the Marines, 1st Lt Walter R. Schmidt (A-4E BuNo 151080), was hit while on a delivery run and ejected, landing in the middle of the NVA encampment area. He established contact via emergency radio, advising that he had a broken leg and that NVA troops were approaching. An Air Force HH-3E, Jolly Green 22, made three attempts to pick Schmidt up before being forced from the area due to low fuel. Following suppressive air strikes a second HH-3E (hull number 67-14710, piloted by USCG LT Jack C. Rittichier) made another attempt. As Jolly Green 23 approached Schmidt's position it was hit by enemy fire and burst into flame. Other aircrew watched as the HH-3E crashed and exploded in a small clearing; no-one escaped from the burning wreckage.

Two things became apparent during further attempts to pick up 1st Lt Schmidt -

  • the NVA troops were too well dug in to be forced away by air strikes, and
  • they had established a very effective "flak trap" around the downed Marine, effectively using him as bait for the SAR helicopters.
Schmidt had gone down at about 1020 local time; voice contact with him was lost at about 1415 local and was not regained. During the final pick-up attempt at about 1700 local, the HH-3's flight engineer spotted 1st Lt Schmidt lying prone on the ground, unmoving and partially covered by his parachute.

At this point the Danang SAR coordination center, acting on recommendations from the on-scene commander, halted further SAR efforts and directed the SAR forces to return to base. According to one report, ground forces inserted on 10 June failed to locate any sign of 1st Lt Schmidt.

Five men were lost, four dead and one missing in action:

  • From the 37th ARRS (HH-3E 67-14710):
  • From VMA-121 (A-4E BuNo 151080):
    • 1st Lt Walter R. Schmidt, USMC (MIA)
The crewmen of Jolly Green 23 were immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. 1st Lt Schmidt was never reported as being in enemy hands, and it was concluded that he probably had been killed while resisting capture. The Secretary of the Navy approved a Presumptive Finding of Death for Schmidt on 24 Oct 1973.

Lieutenant Rittichier was the only Coast Guard pilot who died in Vietnam.

Thomas Pilsch's site contains considerable documentation regarding the SAR effort, including scanned copies of the after-action report and SAR coordinator logs. The "Check Six" site has a well-written narrative description of the events and a compilation of the aircraft and units involved in the SAR effort. Finally, the Jolly Green site contains a report that the wreckage of Jolly Green 23 has been located and crew gear recovered.

From one who remembers,
Stacey N Jones

16 Aug 2002

LCDR Lonnie Mixon, USCG, and LT Jack Ritticher, USCG, reported to Commander, Ninth Coast Guard District, Cleveland, Ohio, just prior to leaving for South Vietnam. Having returned from SE Asia in late 1966 I gave both of them the usual advice, i. e. don't drink the water if you don't open it, don't eat the salads, if outside of a U.S. Mess eat only C-rations or fried rice. I advised them to allot all but $100.00 per month to their wives, which they did, as I recall. Mrs. Ritticher was very apprehensive about Jack's going to Vietnam. She was a beautiful lady from Mansfield, Ohio, and they were very much in love.

The Chief of Operations, Captain McLaughlin, USCG, and I attended the ceremony for LT Ritticher in the Akron, Portage Lakes area although no body was recovered. Both LCDR Mixon and LT Ritticher were true Coast Guardsmen which is of course self evident. We salute both of you.

Semper Paratus,
Herbert Baker,
CWO4, USCG (Ret)

13 Nov 2003

LT Rittichier's body has been recovered, identified, and returned to US soil and his family. OCT 2003.

From an active-duty Coast Guardsman and USMC Vietnam Vet,
HSC D.G. Swanger, USCG

09 Dec 2003

I have worn a POW/MIA bracelet to honor Lieutenant Jack Rittichier since high school. I just found out this American Hero has returned home. God Bless his family. Thanks for honoring these Americans.


20 April 2003

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The wreckage of Jolly Green 23 was located in 2002 and excavated in early 2003. Human remains were recovered from the wreckage and repatriated:
"Two flag-draped caskets ceremoniously carried off a C-130 transport contained remains that could be those of an F-4 Phantom crewman shot down in March of 1972, and a Coast Guard and three Air Force crew members of an HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" helicopter that was lost in June of 1968."
From The Honolulu Advertiser,
Saturday, February 15, 2003
If the remains from the F-4 do turn out to be those of a crewman it will be one of the following four F-4 aircrewmen lost in Laos in March 1972:
  • F-4E 69-7552, 4th TFS (Da Nang), 6 March 1972, 1LT Carter A. Howell and 1LT Stephen A. Rusch
  • F-4D 66-8792, 8th TFS (Ubon), 23 Mar 1972, Maj James E. Whitt and Capt James T. Jackson
The Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Honolulu will do the forensic testing to identify the remains.

Follow-Up, 10/23/2003

The remains of the Jolly Green crew were repatriated on 14 Feb 2003 and identification announced on 11 and 12 Sep 2003. Marine 1st Lt Walter Schmidt still is missing.

On 06 October 2003 Lieutenant Jack Rittichier was buried with honors in the Arlington National Cemetery.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
one who remembers,
Stacey N Jones
28 Aug 2001

Top of Page

Virtual Wall icon

Back to
To alpha index R
OH State Index . Panel 58W
USCG Index


With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 01/18/2004