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Maj. Edward J. Sichterman, USAF, Retired

1943 -


2015 Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame Edward SichtermanMaj. Edward J. Sichterman was born in Grand Haven, Michigan, on October10th, 1943. He graduated from Coopersville High School and earned a BS degree in Psychology from Michigan State University in 1965. As a member of MSU s ROTC program, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant upon graduation and left shortly after to begin pilot training on both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

After completing flight training, 2nd Lt. Sichterman deployed to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, where he joined the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS), a unit dedicated to performing search and rescue operations for downed aviators in Vietnam. Flying the Sikorsky HH-3 helicopter (affectionately called the "Jolly Green Giant" because of its large size), 2nd Lt. Sichterman began participating in rescue missions shortly after his arrival. On February 22nd, 1967, less than a month after arriving in-country, he earned his first Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for "extraordinary achievement in aerial flight" during a daring nighttime rescue in foul weather where he and his pilot were able to overcome mechanical failure and hazardous conditions to effect the rescue of two downed aviators. In September of 1967, the 37th ARRS received the updated Sikorsky HH-53 helicopters, nicknamed the "Super Jolly Green Giant" due to its increased armament, armor, and operating range. Soon after, his detachment moved to Nakohm Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base to join the 40th ARRS.


Later that year, on November 11th, 1967, Sichterman, now a first lieutenant, was awarded a second DFC for heroism after his fighter escort was shot down and he performed a lengthy and dangerous extraction of the pilot while under heavy direct fire from the enemy. After completing his first tour in February of 1968, Sichterman left Southeast Asia and joined a unit involved in aerial mapping and charting. He returned for a second combat tour flying search and rescue missions with the 40th ARRS in 1969, and in the month of December earned a Silver Star for heroism and a third DFC on two separate rescue missions in enemy territory. Promoted to Captain, he returned for a third tour of duty in 1970 and earned two more DFCs, one for heroism and the other for achievement. On one mission, Sichterman was the pilot of the helicopter which rescued fellow Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinee Lt. Karl Richter from Holly, Michigan, who had been injured bailing out in North Vietnam.


After leaving Southeast Asia following his last tour, Capt. Sichterman transitioned to fixed wing aircraft and piloted C-130s, a large, prop-driven, multi-use tactical transport aircraft, in a variety of roles. He was promoted to the rank of Major, and his flight duties included weather reconnaissance, airborne refueling, and Search and Rescue Coordination. His aircraft also served as part of the transport detail for President Ronald Reagan, and on occasion carried the presidential limousine and other vehicles for the first family. He earned a Master's Degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California in 1980, and after retiring from the Air Force in December, 1985, began work with the United States Postal Service as an Electrical Technician. In addition to the five Distinguished Flying Crosses and Silver Star, Major Sichterman earned two Air Force Commendation Medals for meritorious service as a Flight Commander in the 54th Weather Reconnaisance Squadron in Guam, and as Search and Rescue Coordinator in the Western Pacific Rescue Coordination Center in Japan.


During his 20-year USAF career, Major Sichterman flew HH-3 and HH-53 combat rescue helicopters, WC-30 weather reconnaissance airplanes, and C-130 tactical transport airplanes for a total of over 4,000 pilot hours. For his service to his country and exemplary heroism and dedication to both duty and his fellow man, Major Edward John Sichterman embodies the virtue and qualities extolled by the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program