In Memoriam

John Ryder

John Leslie Ryder

On 2 June, 1976 Captain John F. Ryder, Class of 1968, was declared KIA after having been listed as MIA since 9 June, 1970. Captain Ryder was the pilot of an O-1F aircraft which was reported missing while on a visual reconnaissance mission in South Vietnam. He is survived by his wife, Carol, and by his Parents, Mr. and Mrs. John F. Ryder. As a cadet, Captain Ryder was a member of the Year Book Staff, the Psychology Club, and the Chairman of the Public Relations Committee. Captain Ryder majored in Psychology and was a member of the 6th Cadet Squadron. Following graduation, Captain Ryder attended pilot training at Vance AFB. He was assigned to the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron at Cam Rahn Bay AB, SVN at the time of the crash.

On 9 June 1970, Air Force 1st Lt. John L. Ryder, pilot; and Special Forces Operations Officer Capt. Barry W. Hilbrich, observer; comprised the crew of an O1F (aircraft #57-2890), call sign "Mike 81." They departed Pleiku Airfield to conduct a visual reconnaissance mission to locate and identify an enemy ammo cache. The area of operation was south of Ben Het with a final destination of Dak Seang Special Forces Camp.

At 1255 hours, as Mike 81 flew low over the rugged mountains of the central highlands, 1st Lt. Ryder made his first standard radio check with Herb 50, the tactical air control center at Pleiku. At that time he reported they had not seen any enemy activity in the area and they had not yet located the ammo cache. Further, he did not report having any difficulty with their aircraft.

Mike 81 was scheduled to make another radio check at 1327 hours, but failed to do so. Herb 50 attempted to reach the Bird Dog, and when the ground controller was unsuccessful in establishing contact, he called all the airfields in the region where the aircrew might have diverted to in an emergency. After learning no one knew the whereabouts of Mike 81, the aircraft was declared missing.

The last known location of Mike 81 was approximately 1 mile northwest of a primary road, 4 miles southwest of Dak Seang, 10 miles west-southwest of Dak To and 50 miles north-northwest of Pleiku, Kontum Province, South Vietnam. It was also 7 miles southeast of the tri-border area where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia meet. In this area the rugged mountains and surrounding valley are covered with heavy undergrowth. Weather conditions included 5,000-foot high scattered clouds and variable broken clouds. There was visibility of 15 miles and winds were from the west-southwest at 10 knots.

No visual search and rescue (SAR) operation was conducted on 9 June due to severe thunderstorms in the area. SAR operations were initiated at first light the next morning, but were hampered by poor weather conditions. An electronic search was also initiated at the same time. These efforts continued under deteriorating weather conditions until 19 June when they were terminated.

During these operations 46 sorties were flown with a total of 143 flying hours logged over an area extending from Pleiku north to the I Corps boundary and west of the Cambodian border. At no time did any of the personnel involved hear any emergency beepers or see any trace of the missing aircraft and its crew. At the time the formal search was terminated, John Ryder and Barry Hilbrich were listed Missing in Action.

Click here to see the entry on the Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

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