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Coast Guard MIA's Remains Returned

September 30, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The only member of the U.S. Coast Guard missing in action from the Vietnam War -- a pilot lost in a 1968 crash -- has had his remains positively identified and returned to his family.

The remains of Lt. Jack C. Rittichier of Barberton, Ohio, were among those of four U.S. servicemen recovered from the crash site near Ban Kaboui, Laos, and identified, the Pentagon announced Monday. The three others were Air Force Capt. Richard C. Yeend Jr., of Mobile, Ala.; Air Force Staff Sgt. Elmer L. Holden of Oklahoma City; and Air Force Sgt. James D. Locker of Sidney, Ohio.

Rittichier was flying with the Air Force on a pilot-exchange program. Larry Greer, spokesman for the Pentagon office in charge of POW and MIA issues, said Rittichier was the only Coast Guardsman in the Vietnam War listed as missing in action.

About 1,800 U.S. servicemen are still unaccounted for.

Rittichier and Yeend were pilot and copilot, respectively, of an HH-3E helicopter that had departed from Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam on June 9, 1968, on a search and rescue mission for a downed U.S. pilot. At the rescue site, Rittichier reported his aircraft had been struck by enemy fire. The Pentagon said that the chopper exploded and that there were no survivors. Holden and Locker were crew members.

In May 2002, a joint team operating in Laos received information about a crash near Ban Kaboui, about nine miles from the reported wartime loss location. A team uncovered wreckage that suggested a correlation to the HH-3E helicopter. This year, the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory recovered and identified the remains from the site.

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