Richard D. Reitler, a retired Air Force colonel who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, died Sunday in Buffalo General Hospital. He was 83.
Born in Ford City, Pa., Col. Reitler joined the Army Air Forces in 1942, while a freshman at Penn State University. Commissioned at age 19, he was sent to Europe in 1944 and was stationed in France when Paris was liberated.
An airplane he was piloting was shot down during a mission over Holland later that year, but he was able to make his way to England with the assistance of members of the Dutch underground.
Mr. Reitler flew 65 missions in a B-26 Marauder bomber during the war.
After the war, he enrolled at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he earned a bachelor's degree.
In 1951, he was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and played briefly. He also taught in a high school in Bellevue, Pa., before returning to active military duty in 1953.
During the Korean War, he flew 25 missions out of Yakota Air Base in Japan.
Col. Reitler was an instructor in radar, navigation and malfunction training at Ellington Field and at Harlingen Air Force Base, both in Texas. In 1961, as a captain, he became squad commander of cadet training in Waco, Texas.
In 1966, as a lieutenant colonel, he received specialized training in the Philippines. He served in Vietnam as wing navigator/intelligence officer and flew 144 missions.
Returning to the United States, he piloted C-121 aircraft out of Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts for airborne early-warning radar sites and then was headquarters commander/assistant wing commander at England Air Force Base in Louisiana.
When he retired as a colonel in 1971, he had logged 10,000 hours in flight.
"It is fitting that he passed away on Veterans Day because he served our country so long, so courageously and so honorably," said his wife, the former Rosemary Tirone, whom he married in Orchard Park in 1973. They moved to Chautauqua County in 1990.
In addition to his wife, survivors include three daughters, Barbara E. Bittinger, Kathleen D. and Janet M.; and a sister, Rovena Chaveaux.
Services will be private. A celebration of his life will be scheduled next May.