DONALD L. RISSI, LTCOL, USAF
Donald Rissi '55
Date of birth: March 20, 1931
Date of death: December 18, 1972
From the 1955 Lucky Bag:
From the Vietnam Virtual Wall:
The "Christmas bombing" of North Vietnam began on the night of 18/19 Dec 1972 with a total of 129 B-52 bombers directed against a number of high-value targets in and around Hanoi. The operation consisted of three waves of heavy bombers spaced several hours apart. B-52G tail number 58-0201 (340th Bomb Sqd, 72nd Strat Wing) was in the first wave and was targeted against the Yen Vien railway yard 2 miles north of Hanoi but was struck by two SA-2 surface-to-air missiles before bomb release. Three of the crewmen were able to escape the burning aircraft, but three were not:
- LtCol Donald L. Rissi, Collinsville, IL
- Capt Robert J. Thomas, Miami, FL
- SMSgt Walter L. Ferguson, Detroit, MI
Their remains were repatriated on 23 August 1978. The other three crewman were captured and released with the other American POWs in early 1973. They were Major Richard E. Johnson, Captain Robert G. Certain, and Captain Richard T. Simpson.
From the September 1973 issue of Shipmate:
LCol. Donald Louis Rissi, USAF, was reported killed in action in North Vietnam as of 18 December 1972.
Born in St. Louis, Ill., he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1955. He was sent to pilot training at Mission AFB, Texas, and then to Reese AFB, Texas. In 1961 he attended Squadron Officers' School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. He served as aircraft commander in several squadrons and later attended the Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB. He was sent to Misawa AFB, Japan and was an F-4 pilot until 1970.
In 1971 he was sent to Puchat AFB, South Vietnam, where he flew 88 combat missions. Later that year he was sent to Ton San Nhut to the Command Post. In 1972 he was sent as a temporary replacement on a crew in Guam. He was due home on 17 December but was delayed, and on 18 December was the aircraft commander of the first B-52 shot down over Hanoi. He was listed as Missing in Action until the last POWs were repatriated. At that time, during debriefing, it was learned that LCol. Rissi had been killed while ejecting from his plane.
Surviving is his widow, Joan, 1643A Sycamore Dr., Blytheville AFB, AR 72315; his daughter. Donna; and four sons, Patrick, Mark, Stephen and Thomas. He is also survived by his parents, Frank L. Rissi and Delia Rissi.
Thomas Moore '55 was also in 1st Company.