John J. Pitchford, Jr.


 

Preferred Name: Jack

Nickname/Call Sign:

Date of Birth: May 29, 1927 (Dec. 2, 2009)

Highest Military Grade Held: Lt. Colonel

Hometown: Natchez, MS

Biography

The Story…in his words…

“I enlisted in the Army Air Corps 23 August 1944 and served as an airplane and engine mechanic until discharged in December 1946. I attended Louisiana State University from 1949 to 1952. I graduated with a BS degree in Forestry and received an ROTC commission. I entered Pilot training at Bartow AFB, Florida in August 1952 and received my wings in September 1953 at James Connally AFB, Waco, Texas. I attended the Air Force Gunnery School at Williams AFB and Luke AFB, Arizona from September 1953 to January 1954. The next two years were spent in Japan as a member of the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, Misawa, Japan.

I returned to Luke AFB in March 1956 and while there I instructed a course in Instruments and Gunnery until November 1962. I was assigned to Osan, Korea from January 1963 to February 1964.1 then returned to Cannon AFB, New Mexico and was assigned to the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing. I attended the Fighter Weapons School from June to September 1965. Upon returning to Cannon, I volunteered for the Wild Weasel program and proceeded to Eglin AFB for a three week training program before going to Korat AB, Thailand.

I was shot down on 20 December 1965 while on my third mission*. I suffered a dislocated right shoulder on ejection as well as gunshot wounds in my upper right arm during capture.

My future plans depend on what corrective surgery can do for me. I am married and have four children. My wife, who has been a source of strength for me, and I, with the two youngest children live in Laguna Niguel, California. My native home is Natchez, Mississippi where my mother still resides.

The one thing I would like to convey to the American people is that no matter what happens in one’s lifetime, one must never lose faith in the United States of America. Ours is a great country indeed. We must continue to rededicate ourselves to the principles that have made it great. I, as a POW, was sustained by my faith in God, country and by the hardships (much worse than my own) that were endured by many of my fellow POWs.”

SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors).

*Also on the flight was Captain Robert D. Trier of Memphis, TN , 1575 Navigator and Electronic Warfare Officer, who was killed in a shoot-out attempting to avoid capture.

The History….

John J. Pitchford, Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces on August 23, 1944, and served as an airplane and engine mechanic until receiving an honorable discharge on December 22, 1946.

Pitchford served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army Reserve while in college, from November 8, 1949, to February 13, 1951, and he was commissioned a 2nd Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at Louisiana State University on May 26, 1952.

Lt Pitchford went on active duty beginning August 11, 1952, and then completed flight training, receiving his pilot wings at James Connally AFB, Texas, in September 1953. After completing F-84 Thunderjet Combat Crew Training, he was assigned to the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron at Misawa AB, Japan, from March 1954 to March 1956, followed by service as a gunnery instructor pilot at Luke AFB, Arizona, from March 1956 to January 1963.

Capt Pitchford served as air operations officer with Detachment 2 of the 39th Air Division at Osan and Kunsan AB, South Korea, from January 1963 to March 1964, and then served as air operations officer for the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, from March 1964 to September 1965. His next assignment was as an F-100 Super Sabre pilot with the 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cannon AFB from September to November 1965, followed by service as a “Wild Weasel” (see description below) pilot flying the F-100F with the 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from November 1965 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on December 20, 1965. He was the first Wild Weasel pilot shot down during the Vietnam War. After spending 2,612 days in captivity, Col Pitchford was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He retired from the Air Force at Kelly AFB, Texas, on July 19, 1977. John Pitchford died on December 2, 2009, and was buried at the Natchez City Cemetery in Natchez, Mississippi. – from Veteran Tributes website (Https://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=875)

POW/Shot Down

The Day Pitchford’s Plane Went Down –

The Weasels flew two missions a day with negative results until 20 December, when their worse fears were realized: the NVA SAM crews had learned to turn off their radar at crucial times of a mass Alpha Force strike. The target this day was Kep Airfield, a MiG base about 30 miles northwest of Hanoi. John Pitchford and Bob Trier led a strike package of 12 F-105s, with Bob Schwartz and Jack Donovan trailing them with eight additional Thuds. …

…About 40 miles east of Hanoi, Pitchford and Trier, operating as Apple 01, began receiving both Fan Song and Firecan AAA signals. According to Pitchford, before they could react, they “felt a heavy thump and the fire warning lights started going crazy!” They had been hit by radarguided AAA.

Pitchford fired his rockets in the site’s general direction and started a hard turn for the coast. Still 40 miles from the water and making good speed—about 450 knots—Apple 01 had a chance of making it to the relative safety of the sea. But the escorting Thuds quickly reported that their plane was on fire, with pieces falling from the aircraft. Before they could reach “feet wet,” the bird pitched over into an uncontrollable dive.

Trier blew the canopy, but didn’t eject. As Pitchford struggled with his ejection seat trigger his, arm was sucked out of the aircraft and wrenched from its socket. Then he heard his backseater eject. Somehow he managed to eject himself—at very high speed. The chute opened, he took about three swings…then hit the ground hard. He was instantly surrounded by a dozen or so militia and decided to throw his pistol away. One of the militia took this action the wrong way and shot him three times in his good arm! (Later, Pitchford was told by an NVA that Trier had “fought back” and was killed.) – as told by Jack Doub in the Spring 2008 Issue of Intake…

WILD WEASELS

The Wild Weasel concept was originally proposed in 1965 as a method of countering the increasing North Vietnamese SAM threat, using volunteer crews. The mission of the Wild Weasels was to eliminate communist surface-to-air missile sites in North Vietnam.

“Project Wild Weasel was thence launched with the goal of fielding an aircraft that would only fly anti-SAM missions. American defense contractors were secretly tapped by Brigadier General Kenneth Dempster, the head of Project Wild Weasel, to repurpose and upgrade off-the-shelf gear that would be fitted into a select number of F-100F Super Sabres. Applied Technology Inc. was instrumental in coming up with the AN/APR-25 RHAW (Radar Homing and Warning) system, which would determine the type of radar, the direction from which it emanated and even a launch warning in the event that the ground emplacement fired off a SAM or two. With the aircraft ready, Dempster needed aircrew who’d be crazy and brave enough to fly the mission they were about to be saddled with. Each Wild Weasel jet would be flown with two crewmembers, a pilot and an electronic warfare officer (EWO). The EWO, also known as the “guy in the back” (or GIB for short), was tasked with monitoring the complex radar systems, actively seeking out possible SAM sites. Both pilots and EWOs selected to fly Wild Weasels were trained at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in late 1965. At first, it seemed like a cakewalk to the aircrews who participated. All that was required of them was to find the SAM sites, radio in the coordinates and get the hell out of Dodge, right? Wrong!

There was a reason why Dempster needed crazy pilots. Wild Weasels would actually have to fly ahead of strike forces into North Vietnamese airspace by themselves in small groups, rooting out SAM emplacements on the jungle floors shaded and hidden by the thick foliage atop. They would have to allow themselves to be tracked by the SAM’s search radars and then fired upon. This was realistically the only way they could truly pinpoint the actual location of the missile sites. Former B-52 EWO Capt. Jack Donovan summed up the fears of all GIBs well, upon his selection:

“You want me to fly in the back of a little tiny fighter aircraft with a crazy fighter pilot who thinks he’s invincible, home in on a SAM site in North Vietnam, and shoot it before it shoots me, you gotta be shittin’ me!”

Even with all their worst nightmares making an appearance, pilots and their GIBs committed themselves to 100-mission tours of duty, flying over to air force bases Thailand later that year. “You Gotta Be Shittin’ Me!” (shortened to YGBSM) was adopted as the unofficial motto of all Wild Weasels from then on, a stark reminder of the incredibly dangerous missions they would be flying.””  –  from Tactical Air Command article YGBSM Posted on January 30, 2015 by Ian D’Costa in In History

Units Assigned

7/1945-12/1946 Active Duty U.S. Army Reserve
11/1949-2/1951, he re-entered tArmy Reserve as a basic rifleman
6/1952-3/1953 Primary flight training, Bartow Air Force Base, FL
3/1953-3/1954 Basic pilot training, James Connally Air Force Base, TX
3/1954-3/1956 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, Misawa AB, Japan (F-84)
3/1956-1/1963 Luke AFB, AZ
1/1963 – 3/1964 Detachment 2, 39th Air Division at Osan and Kunsan AB, South Korea
3/1964 – 9/1965 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Cannon AFB, NM (F-100)
11/1965 until capture 12/20 1965 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing, Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand (F-100 Wild Weasel)
2/12/1973 Released after 2,612 days in captivity
7/1977 Retired, Kelly AFB, TX

Awards & Decorations

 Distinguished Service Medal
 Silver Star Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Legion of Merit
 Bronze Star (with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Air Force Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Purple Heart Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
 POW Medal

Flight Info

F-84
F-100
F-100F “Wild Weasel”

Military Education

1952 ROTC program at Louisiana State University
1953 Flight Training – James Connelly AFB
1965 U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School

Civilian Education

1944 St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, Natchez, MS
1952 BS/Forestry, Lousiana State University, LA

Click on Images!

Col. John Joseph “Jack” Pitchford, 82, died Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009, at his residence in Natchez, MI and was buried at Natchez City Cemetery.

Col. Pitchford was born in Natchez on May 29, 1927, the son of John Joseph Pitchford and Inez Theresa Hunter Pitchford. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, Natchez, in 1944. Majoring in forestry, he graduated from LSU with a bachelor’s degree in May 1952 and received his U.S. Air Force commission through the school’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program in August of the same year. Col. Pitchford entered the U.S. Army Reserve in August 1944 and was assigned duties as an armament and engineering mechanic. He was called to active duty in July 1945, near the conclusion of World War II, and remained in this status until being discharged in December 1946.

In November 1949, he re-entered the Army Reserve as a basic rifleman and remained in the reserves until February of 1951. On entering the Air Force in June 1952, Colonel Pitchford was selected for pilot training. He received his primary flight training at Bartow Air Force Base in Florida. In March 1953, the colonel was sent to James Connally Air Force Base in Texas to receive basic pilot training. After receiving his wings in September 1953, the colonel was sent to Arizona for three months to attend F-84 combat crew training at Williams and Luke Air Force bases. In January 1954, Col. Pitchford received his first operational assignment as an F-84 fighter pilot and bomb commander with the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan. The colonel remained in Japan until March 1956, when he returned to Luke Air Force Base as a combat gunnery instructor with the 3600th Combat Crew Training Squadron. He remained in this position until December 1962, when he moved to Kunsan Air Base, Korea, as an air operations officer with Detachment 2 of the 39th Air Division. Returning to the United States in February 1964, Col. Pitchford became the plans and logistics officer of the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

In June 1965, the colonel was selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School. Upon graduation, he volunteered to participate in the Air Force’s Wild Weasel Program. Developed to nullify the threat that North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles posed to U.S. fighter-bombers, the Wild Weasel Program employed F-100 fighters in near ground-level, below enemy radar penetrations targeted directly against the heavily defended SAM sites. After receiving specialized Wild Weasel training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, Col. Pitchford was sent to Korat RTAFB, Thailand, in November 1965 as an F-100 Wild Weasel pilot/operations analyst.

On Dec. 20 of that year, Colonel Pitchford’s aircraft was hit by ground fire on a Wild Weasel mission near Hanoi, North Vietnam. Captured and taken prisoner shortly after bailing out of his crippled plane, he remained a prisoner-of-war for more than seven years, until repatriated on Feb. 12, 1973. On returning to U.S. military control, the colonel became a patient at March Air Force Base hospital in California, where he remained until July 1974. He retired from active duty in 1976. Col. Pitchford attended the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in August 1974, graduating in June of the following year. The colonel became commander of the Air Force Communications Security Center in July 1975. Col.

Pitchford’s military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC), the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with V (Valor) Device with one OLC, the Air Force Commendation Medal with one OLC, the Purple Heart Medal with one OLC, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and POW Medal. He was promoted to the temporary grade of colonel on April 15, 1974. He was a member of St. Mary Basilica, a lifetime member of Knights of Columbus, and a member of the Krewe of Killarney, serving as “St. Patrick” in 2005. In 1973, he was honored by LSU, being named Alumni of the Year. Col. Pitchford was also a member of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association and the Society of the Wild Weasels.

(source: Https://obits.theadvocate.com/obituaries/theadvocate/obituary.aspx?n=john-joseph-pitchford-jack&pid=136896754)

Biography

Biography

The Story…in his words…

“I enlisted in the Army Air Corps 23 August 1944 and served as an airplane and engine mechanic until discharged in December 1946. I attended Louisiana State University from 1949 to 1952. I graduated with a BS degree in Forestry and received an ROTC commission. I entered Pilot training at Bartow AFB, Florida in August 1952 and received my wings in September 1953 at James Connally AFB, Waco, Texas. I attended the Air Force Gunnery School at Williams AFB and Luke AFB, Arizona from September 1953 to January 1954. The next two years were spent in Japan as a member of the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, Misawa, Japan.

I returned to Luke AFB in March 1956 and while there I instructed a course in Instruments and Gunnery until November 1962. I was assigned to Osan, Korea from January 1963 to February 1964.1 then returned to Cannon AFB, New Mexico and was assigned to the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing. I attended the Fighter Weapons School from June to September 1965. Upon returning to Cannon, I volunteered for the Wild Weasel program and proceeded to Eglin AFB for a three week training program before going to Korat AB, Thailand.

I was shot down on 20 December 1965 while on my third mission*. I suffered a dislocated right shoulder on ejection as well as gunshot wounds in my upper right arm during capture.

My future plans depend on what corrective surgery can do for me. I am married and have four children. My wife, who has been a source of strength for me, and I, with the two youngest children live in Laguna Niguel, California. My native home is Natchez, Mississippi where my mother still resides.

The one thing I would like to convey to the American people is that no matter what happens in one’s lifetime, one must never lose faith in the United States of America. Ours is a great country indeed. We must continue to rededicate ourselves to the principles that have made it great. I, as a POW, was sustained by my faith in God, country and by the hardships (much worse than my own) that were endured by many of my fellow POWs.”

SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors).

*Also on the flight was Captain Robert D. Trier of Memphis, TN , 1575 Navigator and Electronic Warfare Officer, who was killed in a shoot-out attempting to avoid capture.

The History….

John J. Pitchford, Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces on August 23, 1944, and served as an airplane and engine mechanic until receiving an honorable discharge on December 22, 1946.

Pitchford served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army Reserve while in college, from November 8, 1949, to February 13, 1951, and he was commissioned a 2nd Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at Louisiana State University on May 26, 1952.

Lt Pitchford went on active duty beginning August 11, 1952, and then completed flight training, receiving his pilot wings at James Connally AFB, Texas, in September 1953. After completing F-84 Thunderjet Combat Crew Training, he was assigned to the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron at Misawa AB, Japan, from March 1954 to March 1956, followed by service as a gunnery instructor pilot at Luke AFB, Arizona, from March 1956 to January 1963.

Capt Pitchford served as air operations officer with Detachment 2 of the 39th Air Division at Osan and Kunsan AB, South Korea, from January 1963 to March 1964, and then served as air operations officer for the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, from March 1964 to September 1965. His next assignment was as an F-100 Super Sabre pilot with the 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cannon AFB from September to November 1965, followed by service as a “Wild Weasel” (see description below) pilot flying the F-100F with the 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from November 1965 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on December 20, 1965. He was the first Wild Weasel pilot shot down during the Vietnam War. After spending 2,612 days in captivity, Col Pitchford was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He retired from the Air Force at Kelly AFB, Texas, on July 19, 1977. John Pitchford died on December 2, 2009, and was buried at the Natchez City Cemetery in Natchez, Mississippi. – from Veteran Tributes website (Https://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=875)

POW/Shot Down

POW/Shot Down

The Day Pitchford’s Plane Went Down –

The Weasels flew two missions a day with negative results until 20 December, when their worse fears were realized: the NVA SAM crews had learned to turn off their radar at crucial times of a mass Alpha Force strike. The target this day was Kep Airfield, a MiG base about 30 miles northwest of Hanoi. John Pitchford and Bob Trier led a strike package of 12 F-105s, with Bob Schwartz and Jack Donovan trailing them with eight additional Thuds. …

…About 40 miles east of Hanoi, Pitchford and Trier, operating as Apple 01, began receiving both Fan Song and Firecan AAA signals. According to Pitchford, before they could react, they “felt a heavy thump and the fire warning lights started going crazy!” They had been hit by radarguided AAA.

Pitchford fired his rockets in the site’s general direction and started a hard turn for the coast. Still 40 miles from the water and making good speed—about 450 knots—Apple 01 had a chance of making it to the relative safety of the sea. But the escorting Thuds quickly reported that their plane was on fire, with pieces falling from the aircraft. Before they could reach “feet wet,” the bird pitched over into an uncontrollable dive.

Trier blew the canopy, but didn’t eject. As Pitchford struggled with his ejection seat trigger his, arm was sucked out of the aircraft and wrenched from its socket. Then he heard his backseater eject. Somehow he managed to eject himself—at very high speed. The chute opened, he took about three swings…then hit the ground hard. He was instantly surrounded by a dozen or so militia and decided to throw his pistol away. One of the militia took this action the wrong way and shot him three times in his good arm! (Later, Pitchford was told by an NVA that Trier had “fought back” and was killed.) – as told by Jack Doub in the Spring 2008 Issue of Intake…

WILD WEASELS

The Wild Weasel concept was originally proposed in 1965 as a method of countering the increasing North Vietnamese SAM threat, using volunteer crews. The mission of the Wild Weasels was to eliminate communist surface-to-air missile sites in North Vietnam.

“Project Wild Weasel was thence launched with the goal of fielding an aircraft that would only fly anti-SAM missions. American defense contractors were secretly tapped by Brigadier General Kenneth Dempster, the head of Project Wild Weasel, to repurpose and upgrade off-the-shelf gear that would be fitted into a select number of F-100F Super Sabres. Applied Technology Inc. was instrumental in coming up with the AN/APR-25 RHAW (Radar Homing and Warning) system, which would determine the type of radar, the direction from which it emanated and even a launch warning in the event that the ground emplacement fired off a SAM or two. With the aircraft ready, Dempster needed aircrew who’d be crazy and brave enough to fly the mission they were about to be saddled with. Each Wild Weasel jet would be flown with two crewmembers, a pilot and an electronic warfare officer (EWO). The EWO, also known as the “guy in the back” (or GIB for short), was tasked with monitoring the complex radar systems, actively seeking out possible SAM sites. Both pilots and EWOs selected to fly Wild Weasels were trained at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in late 1965. At first, it seemed like a cakewalk to the aircrews who participated. All that was required of them was to find the SAM sites, radio in the coordinates and get the hell out of Dodge, right? Wrong!

There was a reason why Dempster needed crazy pilots. Wild Weasels would actually have to fly ahead of strike forces into North Vietnamese airspace by themselves in small groups, rooting out SAM emplacements on the jungle floors shaded and hidden by the thick foliage atop. They would have to allow themselves to be tracked by the SAM’s search radars and then fired upon. This was realistically the only way they could truly pinpoint the actual location of the missile sites. Former B-52 EWO Capt. Jack Donovan summed up the fears of all GIBs well, upon his selection:

“You want me to fly in the back of a little tiny fighter aircraft with a crazy fighter pilot who thinks he’s invincible, home in on a SAM site in North Vietnam, and shoot it before it shoots me, you gotta be shittin’ me!”

Even with all their worst nightmares making an appearance, pilots and their GIBs committed themselves to 100-mission tours of duty, flying over to air force bases Thailand later that year. “You Gotta Be Shittin’ Me!” (shortened to YGBSM) was adopted as the unofficial motto of all Wild Weasels from then on, a stark reminder of the incredibly dangerous missions they would be flying.””  –  from Tactical Air Command article YGBSM Posted on January 30, 2015 by Ian D’Costa in In History

Units - Education - Awards - Flight Info

Units Assigned

7/1945-12/1946 Active Duty U.S. Army Reserve
11/1949-2/1951, he re-entered tArmy Reserve as a basic rifleman
6/1952-3/1953 Primary flight training, Bartow Air Force Base, FL
3/1953-3/1954 Basic pilot training, James Connally Air Force Base, TX
3/1954-3/1956 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, Misawa AB, Japan (F-84)
3/1956-1/1963 Luke AFB, AZ
1/1963 – 3/1964 Detachment 2, 39th Air Division at Osan and Kunsan AB, South Korea
3/1964 – 9/1965 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Cannon AFB, NM (F-100)
11/1965 until capture 12/20 1965 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing, Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand (F-100 Wild Weasel)
2/12/1973 Released after 2,612 days in captivity
7/1977 Retired, Kelly AFB, TX

Awards & Decorations

 Distinguished Service Medal
 Silver Star Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Legion of Merit
 Bronze Star (with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Air Force Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Purple Heart Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
 POW Medal

Flight Info

F-84
F-100
F-100F “Wild Weasel”

Military Education

1952 ROTC program at Louisiana State University
1953 Flight Training – James Connelly AFB
1965 U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School

Civilian Education

1944 St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, Natchez, MS
1952 BS/Forestry, Lousiana State University, LA

Images

Click on Images!

Headed West

Col. John Joseph “Jack” Pitchford, 82, died Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009, at his residence in Natchez, MI and was buried at Natchez City Cemetery.

Col. Pitchford was born in Natchez on May 29, 1927, the son of John Joseph Pitchford and Inez Theresa Hunter Pitchford. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, Natchez, in 1944. Majoring in forestry, he graduated from LSU with a bachelor’s degree in May 1952 and received his U.S. Air Force commission through the school’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program in August of the same year. Col. Pitchford entered the U.S. Army Reserve in August 1944 and was assigned duties as an armament and engineering mechanic. He was called to active duty in July 1945, near the conclusion of World War II, and remained in this status until being discharged in December 1946.

In November 1949, he re-entered the Army Reserve as a basic rifleman and remained in the reserves until February of 1951. On entering the Air Force in June 1952, Colonel Pitchford was selected for pilot training. He received his primary flight training at Bartow Air Force Base in Florida. In March 1953, the colonel was sent to James Connally Air Force Base in Texas to receive basic pilot training. After receiving his wings in September 1953, the colonel was sent to Arizona for three months to attend F-84 combat crew training at Williams and Luke Air Force bases. In January 1954, Col. Pitchford received his first operational assignment as an F-84 fighter pilot and bomb commander with the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan. The colonel remained in Japan until March 1956, when he returned to Luke Air Force Base as a combat gunnery instructor with the 3600th Combat Crew Training Squadron. He remained in this position until December 1962, when he moved to Kunsan Air Base, Korea, as an air operations officer with Detachment 2 of the 39th Air Division. Returning to the United States in February 1964, Col. Pitchford became the plans and logistics officer of the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

In June 1965, the colonel was selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School. Upon graduation, he volunteered to participate in the Air Force’s Wild Weasel Program. Developed to nullify the threat that North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles posed to U.S. fighter-bombers, the Wild Weasel Program employed F-100 fighters in near ground-level, below enemy radar penetrations targeted directly against the heavily defended SAM sites. After receiving specialized Wild Weasel training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, Col. Pitchford was sent to Korat RTAFB, Thailand, in November 1965 as an F-100 Wild Weasel pilot/operations analyst.

On Dec. 20 of that year, Colonel Pitchford’s aircraft was hit by ground fire on a Wild Weasel mission near Hanoi, North Vietnam. Captured and taken prisoner shortly after bailing out of his crippled plane, he remained a prisoner-of-war for more than seven years, until repatriated on Feb. 12, 1973. On returning to U.S. military control, the colonel became a patient at March Air Force Base hospital in California, where he remained until July 1974. He retired from active duty in 1976. Col. Pitchford attended the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in August 1974, graduating in June of the following year. The colonel became commander of the Air Force Communications Security Center in July 1975. Col.

Pitchford’s military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC), the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with V (Valor) Device with one OLC, the Air Force Commendation Medal with one OLC, the Purple Heart Medal with one OLC, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and POW Medal. He was promoted to the temporary grade of colonel on April 15, 1974. He was a member of St. Mary Basilica, a lifetime member of Knights of Columbus, and a member of the Krewe of Killarney, serving as “St. Patrick” in 2005. In 1973, he was honored by LSU, being named Alumni of the Year. Col. Pitchford was also a member of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association and the Society of the Wild Weasels.

(source: Https://obits.theadvocate.com/obituaries/theadvocate/obituary.aspx?n=john-joseph-pitchford-jack&pid=136896754)