Jack Columbus Rittichier was born on August 17, 1933, at Akron, Ohio, and received his B.F.A. degree from Kent State University in March 1957. He received his U.S. Air Force pilot wings in December 1958 and then served as a B-47 jet bomber pilot with Strategic Air Command. In September 1963 he accepted a commission in the U.S. Coast Guard.
He subsequently served with the Coast Guard at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and Selfridge AFB. He later volunteered for exchange duty with the U.S. Air Force 37th Aerospace Rescue Recovery Squadron in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Of the 8,000 Coast Guardsmen who served in Vietnam between 1965 and 1975, 12 were helicopter and fixed-wing pilots who flew with the Air Force out of Tuy Hoa and Da Nang, Vietnam, as well as from Thailand and the Philippines.
On June 9, 1968, 37 miles west of Hue, a Marine Corps fighter pilot lay on the ground with a broken arm and leg. The marine pilot also had the further misfortune of having parachuted into a North Vietnamese Army bivouacking area. The enemy used the injured pilot as bait to lure the Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopters within killing range. Air strikes pounded the site around the downed pilot. The first helicopter made three attempts to reach the Marine pilot before breaking off to refuel. LT Rittichier dove his aircraft in for the pickup. Heavy enemy fire forced him off. He swung around to let the gunships clear the area and followed them in for another pickup attempt. As he hovered over the pilot, bullets punched his aircraft and it began to burn. He tried to pull away, but the Jolly Green Giant would not rise. The helicopter settled to the ground and exploded. Within 30 seconds a ball of fire consumed his aircraft.
LT. Rittichier's awards include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, Air Medal with third oak leaf cluster, and the Coast Guard Unit Commendation.
His widow, the former Carol Ann Laux, remarried several years after his death to another Coast Guard Aviator, John Wypick, who retired as a commander in 1980. They currently live in Fountain Valley, California.
Source : the "Above and Beyond" Section of the Spring 1991 edition of Foundation