Manfred A. Rietsch flew more than 700 jetfighter combat missions during his 24-year career in the United States Marine Corps. Born in East Germany, Rietsch immigrated to the United States in December 1956. He graduated from the University of Minnesota and, in March 1966, entered Marine Officer Candidates School. After earning his wings at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, Texas, Rietsch was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina, for duty in McDonnell F-4 Phantom IIs. In 1968, after only 10 months flying fighters, he reported to Chu Lai AB, Republic of Vietnam. During his extended tour in Southeast Asia, Rietsch flew 653 combat missions. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and 53 Air Medals.
Back in the States, Rietsch served a tour with Marine Fighter Attack-53 I at MCAS El Toro, California, again flying F-4s. In January 1973, he attended the Marine Amphibious Warfare School, Quantico, Virginia. Next, he went to the Navy Fighter Weapons School at NAS Miramar, California, where he became the school's first Marine fighter-tactics instructor. During his "Top Gun" assignment, Rietsch served as Administrative Officer, Training Officer, and Operations Officer and earned a Master of Science degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California. In early 1977, Rietsch was assigned to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, serving first as an operations officer, and then as an executive officer.
His tour included two six-month deployments to the western Pacific. Next, he spent three years in Kolsas, Norway, as the Air Operations Officer on the Staff of NATO's Commander, Allied Forces Northern Europe. In 1984, Rietsch returned to MCAS El Toro to command a McDonnell Douglas F/A- 1 8 Hornet unit, which he led to Egypt in 1985. After graduation from Air War College in June 1987, Rietsch served as the Military Assistant and Marine Corps Aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Washington, DC In February 1990, he returned to MCAS El Toro to command Marine Aircraft Group I 1. Six months later he led the group to Sheik Isa AB, Bahrain, for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. During Desert Shield, Rietsch flew II 8 combat air patrols and, during Desert Storm, he flew 66 combat missions. This is believed to be the most combat sorties flown by any pilot during the conflict.
In July 1991, Rietsch brought MAG- I II back to California, and on I April 1992, he retired from the Marine Corps. He concluded his career after logging nearly 7000 flight hours in tactical jet aircraft. He earned six more Air Medals and the Order of Bahrain, 2nd Class, for his service during the Gulf conflict.
Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11) was the first Marine aviation combat element to arrive in the Gulf. It was the Marine Corps' largest-ever air group with 13 tactical squadrons, operating McDonnell Douglas F/A-18s, Grumman A-6s and EA-6Bs, and Lockheed KC-130s. Its first task was aerial defense of the Marines on Bahrain and US Navy ships. During the ground war, MAG-11 suppressed Iraqi artillery and attacked Iraqi armored and mechanized vehicles. Without loss of aircrew or aircraft, MAG-11 accomplished 7,500 combat missions and dropped 18 million pounds of ordnance.