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  • Writer's pictureLinda Simpson

Writer Profile - Richard Rife

Updated: Jul 10


I Wanted To Honor His Service


When he began volunteering for SBTS, Richard Rife turned what could have been one of the worst years of his life into a hobby that has brought him a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose.


In 2023, Richard suffered a back injury that left him in terrible pain and unable to stand for any period of time. He explored possible treatments, eventually settling on surgery. The surgeon, however, had a five-month backlog. The only activities Richard could do for any period of time was sitting down. He decided to put the time he needed to spend waiting for surgery to good use and committed to telling the stories of all 440 of the WW2 fallen from the state of Nevada. 


Richard has finished this monumental task and now the stories he has written are available for all to read.  “It was a lot, but I thought that since I can’t walk for a year, it would give me

something to do and I felt it was something I could do to contribute.”


Although his accomplishment is a heroic feat in its own right, Richard pointed out that he

learned the process of researching and writing as he went. During his convalescence, Richard

spent about eight hours a day researching and writing. Today, he spends about four. “I’m still

kind of addicted to it,” he said. He encourages volunteers to start small and do what they can, learning as they go. He acknowledged that there is a learning curve in the process of

researching and writing the stories of WW2 fallen, but said that the effort is worth it. “These

people gave their lives at a young age so that we can live in peace. They deserve a page telling their story.” 


Another motivator for Richard was his own father’s service in WW2 in the army in the

Philippines. Originally from the small town of Eureka, Utah, Richard’s father enlisted in 1941 and served until the end of the war. His father’s service to his country made an impression on

Richard. “I wanted to honor his service.”


One of Richard’s favorite stories of the Nevadans he has researched was that of Eldred

Frederic Whipple, a pilot from Tecoma, Nevada. Jack flew B-17s in the 366th Bomb

Squadron of the 305th Bomb Group out of the Royal Air Force station in Chelveston, UK. On 22 March 1944, the 305th Bomb Group was headed to Berlin on a mission. Less than an hour from Berlin, Jack’s number one engine was damaged by antiaircraft fire, creating drag that made the aircraft difficult to control. Jack was forced to turn his aircraft back and return to England. 


On the way back to England, Jack’s plane was once again hit by antiaircraft fire. Several crew members died from the impact of the second blast. Jack instructed the five remaining crew members to bail out. Jack continued piloting the plane until all five had bailed out. In this way, Whipple saved the lives of his crew members, but the extra time at the controls cost him his own life. You can read more about this story at Fold3.com:


Researching and writing about nearly 500 soldiers has given Richard some valuable research tips, tricks, and insights. One of his favorite tools to use in filling in the gaps of the soldiers’ lives is newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com). “In Nevada, local newspapers were everywhere. You can read about when they were promoted, how they died, and funeral information.” Newspaper articles also often contain biographical information that give context and color to the stories of the WW2 fallen before the war.


Another valuable resource Richard recommends using is the “Request Military Service Records” option found on the National Archives website: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records.  Use the “Start Request Online” button to submit your request on a particular soldier. Richard often uses this service when he thinks he may be missing information on a soldier, or he wants to confirm certain information on rank or medals awarded.


Other resources Richard recommends are the American Air Museum in the UK

(https://www.americanairmuseum.com), the American Battle Monuments Commission

(https://www.abmc.gov), and Honor States (https://www.honorstates.org).


Now that the WW2 fallen from the state of Nevada have their stories completed, Richard is

turning his attention to other nearby states, including Idaho and Wyoming. His goal is to

complete one half to one story a day. “There is something sacred about doing this because

often people didn’t keep a journal or write their own history at that time. They deserve a story if we can weave one together for them.


Written by Elizabeth Smith who has a degree in International Relations and a minor in Communications from Brigham Young University. She lives in Alpine, Utah with her husband, four kids and their Chihuahua, Ginger.

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