Retired Dec. 1, 1965. Died March 23, 1991.
Maj. Gen. Osmond Jay Ritland, deputy to the commander, Air Force Systems Command, for Manned Space Flight, is a command pilot with more than 9,400 flying hours to his credit.
In his 27 years of military service, he has amassed the equivalent of more than one full year at aircraft controls.
For the past seven years, he has been devoting his abilities primarily to the development and system acquisition of Air Force ballistic missile weapon systems and related military space programs.
General Ritland was born in Berthoud, Colo., in 1909. He attended San Diego State College for three years before beginning his Air Force career as a flying cadet at Randolph Field, Texas, in 1932. After completing the Air Corps Advanced Flying School, Kelly Field, Texas, in 1933 and serving at March Field, Calif., as a fighter pilot and "flying Army Air Mail," he went on inactive status in 1935 to become a pilot for United Airlines.
After five years with the airline, General Ritland accepted a regular commission, and in 1939, was assigned to Hamilton Field, Calif. Later that year, he was transferred to Wright Field, Ohio, for a five-year tour as an Air Force experimental test pilot.
General Ritland was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his test flying at Wright Field. In this assignment, he was closely associated with and responsible for development of programs to carry out engineering, flight performance and functional testing of the majority of American aircraft used during and immediately after World War II.
As a Wright Field test pilot, he flew more than 200 different aircraft, including experimental versions of the P-38, the P-39 and the P-40; the P-47 and P-51; the B-17, B-19, B-26, and B-29, the B-32, C-46, and C-54. He was also one of the first Air Corps pilots to fly prototype jet aircraft such as the XP-59 and XP-80.
Under General Ritland's hand, enemy combat types--including German and Japanese fighters--also were evaluated at Wright Field.
Transferred to the China-Burma-India theater in December 1944, General Ritland served as the commander of the Assam Air Depot, India, until 1946. For his services in establishing and maintaining a supply system for support of operations against the enemy and for increasing the tonnage of supplies carried over the "hump," he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal.
Upon his return to the United States, he was again assigned to Wright Field after attending the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. During this second tour, he worked in development and acquisition of Air Force experimental aircraft and in research and development required for continuous evaluation and improvement of all U.S. Air Force aircraft. While chief of the Aircraft Laboratory, he was instrumental in the development of the ejection seat and the pilot escape program.
General Ritland was assigned to the Special Weapons Command at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., in February 1950. There, he organized and commanded the 4925th Test Group (Atomic), which was responsible for development testing of all equipment needed in attaining an Air Force nuclear weapons capability.
In these operations, the first of their kind undertaken by the U.S. Air Force, the general commanded an organization made up of some 50 aircraft, including many specialized types.
His test group also assisted the Atomic Energy Commission and the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project in nuclear weapons effects tests, and developed an operational technique for airborne sampling of these effects.
In support of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, General Ritland also organized, directed and exercised operational control of all aircraft participating in the AEC Nevada Proving Ground atomic testing and received the Legion of Merit for his outstanding achievements.
Following the Kirtland assignment, General Ritland attended and graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He then served two years at U.S. Air Force headquarters as special assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Development where he was responsible for developing and managing programs of a highly classified nature. His performance in this sensitive job earned him a second Legion of Merit award.
He was assigned to the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division as vice commander in April 1956 and promoted to brigadier general in October of that year. On April 25, 1959, he was appointed AFBMD commander and promoted to major general in July 1959. He held this position for nearly two years until a major reorganization of the Air Research and Development Command and the Air Materiel Command was effected April 1, 1961. At that time, General Ritland assumed command of the newly created Space Systems Division of the Air Force Systems Command, a position he held until May 15, 1962, when he was appointed deputy to the commander, Air Force Systems Command, for Manned Space Flight. General Ritland was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in August 1962 in recognition of his outstanding achievements in furthering the aerospace capabilities of the United States in ballistic missile and space programs while commander of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division and commander, Space Systems Division.
The Office of the Deputy to the Commander, AFSC, for Manned Space Flight is the focal point within AFSC for all U.S. Air Force actions pertaining to the national manned space effort. Functioning in a staff capacity, General Ritland is responsible for planning, programming and coordinating the allocation of AFSC resources necessary to support specific National Aeronautics and Space Administration projects and programs for manned flight arising under basic agreements between NASA and the Department of Defense. Working with the director of manned space flight for NASA, General Ritland is responsible for maintaining with NASA contacts and management arrangements necessary to carry out such projects and programs, and for coordinating with NASA on all support provided to Air Force programs by that agency.
In May 1963, General Ritland was the recipient of the General H.H. Arnold Trophy awarded by the Arnold Air Society for outstanding contribution to military aviation and aerospace progress.