Luther Edmond Ritchey, Jr

Lance Corporal
United States Marine Corps
27 January 1943 - 08 October 1963
Mansfield, Ohio
Panel 01E Line 031



USMC Combat Aircrew

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Luther Edmond Ritchey, Jr

19 June 2002

I have adopted Ritchie as my POW/MIA.

On October 8, 1963, Ritchey was aboard a Marine UH34D helicopter
conducting a search mission for a downed friendly aircraft.
Ritchey's aircraft crashed 43 miles west of Da Nang, South Vietnam
in mountainous jungle terrain,
in what was then hostile territory.

A Veteran's Tribute

American Veterans
Hold your heads up high
Wherever you happen to be
Let us honor you
And show our gratitude for your sacrifices
for your country.

Those of you who were there to
fight for our new beginning as a country
we depended on you.

The ones that fought against brothers
to keep our new country as one
we cried with you.

Our men and women that served in our military
to protect our way of life overseas
and helped other nations find a better way
we supported you.

Our veterans that returned home
sometimes broken, bruised and battered
with a heavy heart and questions
that were left unanswered
our hearts broke for you.

The men and the women that never got
to come back home to the arms of
their loving families
we whisper your names in our prayers.

Our fellow countrymen that are missing still
somewhere 'over there'
we will never forget you.

Loved .. revered and honored, ALL
We raise the Glory Banner high
It gently waves proudly in the breeze
Wrapping you in the strength and wisdom and
the loving embrace of its colors
A lasting tribute to you
Our honored Veterans.

Kathy Stanley

11 Nov 2003

Today is Veteran's Day and I've chosen today as the day to post my memorial.

Luther E. Ritchey Jr. was my uncle, his brother is my father. He died before I was even born.

I grew up wondering about the painting of the Marine with the heliocopter in the background and the folded flag in Grandma's dresser.

I used to imagine what it would've been like to have known him. Would he have carried me on his shoulders? Would he have taken me out for ice cream? Would I have been his favorite niece?

I visited the Wall and took my children to see his name. They stood on each other to reach it and make an etching for me and I struggled to explain about Vietnam and how it affected our family. That the name belonged to their great uncle and it was important to remember the story.

I leave these words today, as a small gesture from a niece who loved a man she never knew, and will never forget.

Karen (Ritchey) Smith
Shelby, Ohio

03 Feb 2004

Notice to all who read this message/tribute:

Luther E. Ritchey Jr.'s remains have been found and positively identified. His mother Dorothy (Dot) Ritchey (Heslep) received official notification on Jan. 26, 2004.

A memorial service is tentively planned for Memorial Weekend 2004.

Thank you to all who have visited, wore a bracelet with his name or simply remembered him.

Karen (Ritchey) Smith

14 May 2004

A Memorial Service is to be held Saturday, May 22nd, in Mansfield, Ohio beginning at 1 p.m.

If you'd any further information please contact me.

God Bless you and keep you safe!

From his niece,
Karen (Ritchey) Smith

27 May 2005

Happy Memorial Day to those who serve and have served. You are remembered...

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me over the past year with words of sympathy, respect and honor regarding my uncle. Thank you for the bracelets that have been returned to our family, along with the notes about what it has meant to the wearer to have worn it.

As more time goes by with our men and women still away from home... I am saddened, and I grieve... as more and more men and women are killed, and more families join mine in the sorrow, and missing, and tears, and anguish... my heart weeps, my heart breaks...

I pray for a swift end to this "conflict"... this WAR... may you all come home safe and sound.

Karen (Ritchey-Smith) Quinn
(I've remarried, my new last name is Quinn)

09 May 2007

Junior is my grandmother's nephew. Aunt Dot always had his picture hanging on the wall. When I was little I would ask her to tell me stories about him. She would smile and say a few things. My dad remembered growing up with him and wrestling with him. He was my dad's hero. I never saw my dad cry until the day a flag was flown in front of the court in downtown Mansfield. The service for him was one of the hardest things I ever experienced. Not too long after he had been found I wrote a poem that is my most favorite poem I have ever written. I really wish I would've got to meet Junior. I have nver heard a bad thing about him and I am honored to say that I am related to such a great man.

From a distant cousin,
Jenny Myers

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On 08 October 1963 a Vietnamese Air Force T-28B crewed by a VNAF pilot (name unknown) and Captain Dean A. Wadsworth, USAF (1st Air Commando Sqdn), went down while flying a combat support mission approximately 50 miles southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam. As they completed a bombing run over the target, the T-28 broke apart in midair, crashed and exploded.

HMM-361, also operating from Danang Air Base, initiated search and rescue operations with two UH-34D helicopters operating in conjunction with an Army L-19 light observation aircraft. At 1930 (7:30PM) the L-19 pilot reported that he had lost radio and visual contact with the two UH-34s. Deteriorating weather and approaching nightfall precluded further SAR efforts for the missing H-34s or the T-28 until first light on 9 October.

At that time, HMM-361 launched two UH-34s (carrying ARVN troops), accompanied by an Army O-1, to locate the downed aircraft. The UH-34s sighted the wreckage of one UH-34 and approached to off-load their troops. The first UH-34 to approach the landing zone was hit by enemy fire, wounding the copilot and killing a ARVN trooper. As a result, the SAR effort rapidly became a search-and-clear operation with additional UH-34 troop-carriers placing two ARVN companies in the area. During the troop lifts, the second downed UH-34 was located about 500 meters distant from the first.

Over the next two days, some 200 air missions were flown in support of the ground operations, three additional aircraft were lost, and four others damaged. Fifteen South Vietnamese soldiers were killed and seven were wounded - and the bodies of ten of the twelve sailors and Marines were recovered from the downed UH-34s:

  • Aboard UH-34D BuNo 148781
    • WO1 Charles F Whitehead Jr., pilot
    • 1stLt Arthur G Richardson, copilot
    • Cpl Ronald F Skoviak, crew chief
    • L/Cpl Donald F Davidson, SAR crew
    • Cpl Charles P Tuthill, Combat Photographer, MABS-16
    • HN Claude Rice, (USN), SAR Corpsman

  • Aboard UH-34D BuNo 148759
    • Capt William T Harris, pilot
    • 1stLt Daniel K Lessig, copilot
    • Sgt Larry D Jameson, crew chief
    • LT Bruce C Farrell, (USN), Flight Surgeon
    • L/Cpl Luther E Ritchey Jr., SAR crew (not recovered)
    • HM3 Manuel Reyes Denton, (USN), SAR Corpsman (not recovered)
Although L/Cpl Ritchey and HM3 Denton were not recovered, the Marine Investigating Board concluded that "Due to the condition of the wreckage, conclusive evidence existed beyond a reasonable doubt that both were dead and that they had died in the same accident at the same time as the other crew members." Accordingly, the two men were classed as killed in action/body not recovered.

A similar Air Force Board concluded that Captain Wadsworth could not have survived the T-28 crash and he too was classed as killed in action/body not recovered. In 1994-95, the T-28 crash site was located and Wadsworth's dog tags were recovered together with human remains. On 2 March 1999, the Army's Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) announced that Captain Wadsworth's remains had been positively identified.

The USMC Vietnam Helicopter Association site contains an unverified report that "two brittle teeth, and a military dog tag with the name: Ritchey, Luther E. Jr." were turned over by a Vietnamese to a visiting American, and that the CILHI later found that the teeth "were almost certainly the remains of Ritchey."

On 26 Jan 2004 PM-SEA announced the positive identification of Lance Corporal Ritchey's remains.

Read the
USMC Vietnam Helicopter Association report

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his niece,
Karen Ritchey Smith Quinn
Shelby, Ohio

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 20 Jun 2002
Last updated 10/23/2007