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Note:  Photos and documentation provided by Captain Rich's Son Christopher S. Rich who spent many years in the effort to have his fathers body recovered and returned to U.S.

 

Richard Rich

Captain
VF-96, USS ENTERPRISE
United States Navy
27 October 1925 - 11 November 1976
Stamford, CT

 
USS ENTERPRISE

F4 USN

VF-96
Richard Rich

Naval Aviator

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

 

 

THE MISSION

On 19 May 1967, Commander Richard Rich, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander William R. Stark, radar intercept officer, launched in as the lead aircraft in a division of four F-4B
Phantoms from USS ENTERPRISE on a mission over North Vietnam. The F-4s were providing combat air patrol support for A-6 INTRUDER aircraft that were striking three targets in the vicinity of Hanoi. Rich's call sign was SHOWTIME 01; his wingman was SHOWTIME 02.

During the mission the US aircraft were subjected to intense anti-aircraft and surface-to-air missile (SAM) fire. Shortly after 11 AM one of the A-6 aircraft (crewed by LCDR Eugene B. McDaniel and LT James K. Patterson, Attack Squadron 35) was hit by a SAM and the crew ejected. Immediately thereafter, SHOWTIME 01 was damaged by two near-hits by SAMs. SHOWTIME 02 lost sight of his lead during violent evasive maneuvering. Visual contact was completely lost and repeated radio calls to CDR Rich produced no results.

Search and rescue efforts were begun immediately. Voice contact was made with the two downed A-6 crewmen; both reported that they were injured. No contact was made with the SHOWTIME 01 crew, nor were parachutes sighted anywhere near the F-4B wreckage. The extreme threat in the SAR area made it impossible to bring in a helicopter and the four downed crewmen, two known to be alive, could not be rescued. They were classed as missing in action.

The US subsequently learned that LCDR McDaniel and LCDR Stark had been captured, but no information was available regarding CDR Rich or LT Patterson.

In February 1973, 591 Americans, including LCDR McDaniel and LCDR Stark, were released by the Vietnamese. During his debrief, LCDR Stark stated that he lost intercom communications with CDR Rich after the second SAM detonation and that he ejected when the F-4B was at about 1200 feet in a 10-degree nose down attitude and a speed of 450 knots. He was rendered unconscious during the ejection and was captured before regaining consciousness. He had no knowledge of what became of Commander Rich, nor did any of the other returned POWs. Similarly, there was no news of Lieutenant Patterson.

On 11 November 1976, the Secretary of the Navy approved a Presumptive Finding of Death for now-Captain Richard Rich and his status was changed from MIA to killed in action, body not recovered.

Between August 1997 and March 2000, several investigations of the crash site were conducted. The wreckage was confirmed to be an F-4B, and the search crews recovered fragmented human remains as well as items of personal flight gear. The remains were turned over to US representatives on 25 April 2000, and on 10 October 2000 the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii, announced the positive identification of Captain Rich. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 7 November 2000, over 33 years after his last mission.

As of this date (06 May 2002), three of the four Naval aviators downed on 19 May 1967 have come home - but Lieutenant James K. Patterson has not.

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Copyright 2001-07 by Ellsworth L. Owens, Jr.  This site last updated on 05/29/07.  Permission required to re-publish any content of this site.   
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