Attempts to Locate the Crash Site
Air Force Looks for Missing Copter
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.
In early 1973, during Operation Homecoming, the communists released 591 American Prisoners of War. In conjunction with Operation Homecoming, the North Vietnamese released a list of American Prisoners of War who they state died in captivity. Walter Schmidt was not included in this list of Americans who died while under the control of the communists.
In April 1991 the U.S. government released a list of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who were known to be alive in enemy hands and for whom there is no evidence that he or she died in captivity. This list, commonly referred to today as the USG's "Last Known Alive" list, includes 1st Lt. Walter Schmidt.
Rittichier's widow, the former Carol Ann Laux, remarried several years after his death to another Coast Guard Aviator, who retired as a commander in 1980. They currently live in California
In the Vietnam war, 8,000 Coast Guardsman served in combat or direct support roles. Of those, seven were killed and 60 were wounded. LT Jack C. Rittichier is the only Coast Guardsmen whose body has not been recovered.
On October 12, 1991, a villager turned in to the "Office PA15 - Public Security", Dong Ngi Province, Vietnam, a dog tag and remains reportedly belonging to Lt. Rittichier. The information on the dog tag correlates with the correct data for Jack Rittichier. That information was provided to U.S. personnel, however, the dog tag and remains were not turned over by the Vietnamese. There was no information provided by the villager as to the fate of the other crewmen.
In his honor, the Integrated Support Command in Portsmouth, VA, commissioned its Administration and Electronic Systems Support Unit building the Rittichier Building, during a formal ceremony held November 10, 1998. A hangar at Coast Guard Air Station Detroit is also dedicated in his honor.
|If you visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., go to Panel Number 58W and look at line 14. There you'll find the name of LT Jack C. Rittichier. Nearby you'll find the names of those who died with him that day SSG Elmer Larry Holden, line 9; SGT James Douglas Locker, line 10 and CPT Richard C. Yeend, Jr., line 17.|
Tom Pilsch's Web site provided much of the background information on the crash of Jolly Green 23 and is an excellent site to learn about the latest in the search efforts to find the crash site of Jolly Green 23.