• elizabeth
  • Union
  • April 01, 1945
  • October 24, 1968
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • WO
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Richard S. Riley, Jr. was born at Wright-Patterson Air Field Army Hospital on April 1, 1945.  His home of record is Elizabeth, NJ.  He had two brothers, Greg and Kevin, and one sister, Marilyn.  Richard graduated from St. Genevieve Grammar School, and in 1963 from Thomas Jefferson High School.  While in high school, he participated in wrestling, football and worked in the Attendance Office.  He attended college at St. Francis College, Loretta, PA and Union County College, Cranford, NJ.    

Riley left college to enlist in the US Army, Warrant Officer's Candidate Program in March 1967.  He successfully completed the program and graduated from the Warrant Officer Rotary Wing Aviator Course on March 12, 1968.  He received his Commission and Wings on the same day.

Riley arrived in the Republic of Vietnam April 12, 1968.  He was assigned to an Assault Helicopter Unit located northwest of Hue.  He was "Black Widow 26".  His immediate area was called Landing Zone Sally.  He landed troops in the combat zone, evacuated the wounded, supplied units in the field with ammo and rations and inserted LRPS (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols).  He liked the last one the best.  The work was dangerous and these patrols needed to be rescued, sometimes within hours.

In July 1968, Riley's gunship was shot down.  With only one of his crew slightly wounded, they were able to set up machine guns on either side of the crippled ship and ward off the enemy until they were rescued.

In September 1968, Riley was given a Rest and Recreation (R & R) period of five days.  He chose to visit Singapore.  While there he called home and talked to his parents, brothers, and sister.  He was well and happy.

Riley was killed in action on October 24, 1968. He was twenty-three years old.

The following are excerpts from a letter from Richard's Commanding Officer:

"Richard was flying a UH-1H helicopter on a combat support mission lifting rations and ammo into an infantry platoon in a very heavy jungle area near Phu Loc, Republic of Vietnam.  The aircraft crashed and burned on the evening of 24 October 1968 at 1815 hours.  Enemy activity prevented recovery of his body from the wreckage until the morning of 25 October 1968.  Richard was killed on impact and I am certain that he did not suffer.

On the evening of 26 October 1968 at 1800 hours a memorial service was held for Richard at Landing Zone Sally, Republic of Vietnam.  It was conducted by Captain Frans Kastul, Catholic Chaplain from the 160th Aviation Group, 101st Airborne Division.  The service was attended by members of our company, the 101st Aviation Battalion and the 160th Aviation Group headquarters, to pay our last respects to a courageous young officer who gave his life for his country."

"Richard was with the company for six months.  He was always cheerful and willing to do more than his share.  He was devoted to his work and his unit.  He managed a small club for the enlisted men so they would have a place to gather in the evening.  His keen interest in his unit and his devotion to duty were an inspiration to us all.  Your grief is shared by everyone here, for we have not only lost an outstanding officer, but also a friend."

Riley was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Air Medal posthumously. His Bronze Star citation reads:

By direction of the President the Bronze Star Medal is presented posthumously to Warrant Officer Richard S. Riley Jr. for distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 10 April 1968 to 24 October 1968.  Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results.  He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he was faced as a result of the ever changing situations inherent in a counterinsurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems.  The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the communist threat to its freedom.  His initiative, zeal, sound judgment and devotion to duty have been in the highest tradition of the United States Army and reflect great credit on him and on the military service.

His Air Medal citation reads:

By direction of the President the Air Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) is presented posthumously to Warrant Officer Richard S. Riley Jr. for distinguishing himself by meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight in support of combat ground forces of the Republic of Vietnam during the period 20 April 1968 to 1 May 1968.  During this time he actively participated in more than twenty-five aerial missions over hostile territory in support of counterinsurgency operations.  During all of these missions he displayed the highest order of air discipline and acted in accordance with the best traditions of the service.  By his determination to accomplish his mission in spite of the hazards inherent in repeated aerial flights over hostile territory and by his outstanding degree of professionalism and devotion to duty, he has brought credit upon himself, his organization, and the military service.   

In 1969 a memorial award to be given annually to a Thomas Jefferson High School senior was established by Richard Riley's family.  The Richard S. Riley, Jr. Memorial Award is given to the student who best exemplifies the ideals and foundations of our American way of life: patriotism, freedom - enthusiasm and fearlessness for love of country.

Sources: Brendan Riley (nephew) and NJVVMF.


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