Richard Gerald Voss – 2010 Inductee

8th Fighter Squadron Bulletin Board

Dr. Richard Gerald Voss died September 18, 2004, after a brave battle with cancer. He was 75 years old. Richard (“Rich” to his friends) was born March 7, 1929, in Osborne, Kansas, to Hilda Mae Selichnow and Lewis Voss. Hilda divorced Luke on November 3, 1932, and raised Richard as a single mother until she remarried Glenn Towne on October 30, 1942. Rich considered Glenn to be his father and grew up on the Towne homestead.

Rich completed grade and high school in Osborne, graduating from Osborne High School in 1947.  From his first year to his graduation, Rich was a leader. His activities were many and varied. He was especially outstanding in basketball and football, and was the quarterback for the Bulldogs his senior year.

Rich was musically talented. As a young man, he performed with the school band, boys quartet, the mixed chorus and as a tenor soloist for the Methodist church in Osborne. He was also a talented vocal soloist, chosen for leading roles in school operettas, and later in Fort Collins, he played Baron Von Trapp in the Sound of Music. He continued to play the guitar and sing for his family and friends throughout life. Rich was true lover of wine, women and song.

In 1947, Rich enrolled at Colorado College in Colorado Springs as a pre-med student. After two years, he transferred to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS, attending one year. On November 16, 1950, Rich enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and began training at Connally Air Force Base in Texas. He graduated a pilot June 22, 1951, then began advanced training at Williams AFB in Phoenix. Second Lieutenant Voss received his commission and wings as a Jet Fighter Pilot on December 15, 1951, then he received orders to report to the Korean Conflict.

Lt. Voss was sent to K-2 (Taegu, Korea) Air Force Base for combat on April 1, 1952, with the 49th Wing of the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron. The 49ers flew daily combat missions in F-84 Thunderjets against North Korean and Chinese Communist troops.  Flying as wing man on his 26th mission, in a close support mission over Chorwon, Korea, Lt. Voss showed other team members a target by attacking first and destroyed an automatic weapons position. He received a direct hit in the fuselage on his 2nd run. Observers reported seeing Lt. Voss’s aircraft burst into flames and explode into a hill with no sign of a bail out, parachute, or anything on the ground. Lt. Voss was listed as killed in action July 14, 1952.

On April 26, 1953, Voss’s parents were posthumously presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. An obituary appeared in the Osborne newspaper, and a memorial window was dedicated in the Osborne United Methodist Church. Fourteen months later on September 5,1953, the parents of Lt. Voss received notice that he was a freed POW. They finally learned what had happened on July 14, 1952.

After being hit Lt. Voss’s plane started to snap roll. All the warning lights went on in the cockpit, he lifted a lever at his side. The canopy blew away, as did his helmet he then squeezed the lever, exploding a cannon charge under the seat. He broke his leg as his seat shot up out of the cockpit 40-50 feet.  Lt. Voss hurriedly unstrapped himself from the seat, kicked it away and pulled his rip cord. His  parachute went through the burning F-84, and caught fire.  Lt. Voss suffered burns to his hands, face, knees, a broken leg and ankle. He was captured on July 17, 1952.

Lt. Voss was interrogated daily and the Chinese threatened to take him to Red China for trial as a war criminal. The Chinese extracted germ warfare confessions when Communist doctors let maggots crawl over his wounds and into his right ear. Lt. Voss was held for fourteen months, seven of which were in solitary confinement. His diet was meager, consisting of cabbage, rice and the occasional fish head. Ironically, Dr. Voss was, for the remainder of his life, a great lover of Chinese Food.

On October 1, 1953, the city of Osborne honored the return of POW Lt. Voss with a  parade on “Richard Voss Day”, that included four bands from Osborne and surrounding  communities. Lt. Voss married Nancy Virginia Wolfer of Fort Collins on June 20, 1954. Upon his return to service, he served as a gunnery instructor at Luke Air Force Base. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on July 1, 1955.

In 1953 the city of Osborne wished to honor the return of Richard Voss. He agreed to the event only if all of the area’s Korean Conflict veterans were honored as well. This photo, together with the following pictures of Voss, were taken in that parade.

(The above photos courtesy of the Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society)

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After separation from the Air Force, Rich re-enrolled in Colorado College and graduated in 1956 with Bachelor of Fine Arts, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Doctor of Medicine from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 4, 1960 and completed an internship at Colorado General Hospital on June 23, 1961. Dr. Voss then pursued and completed a four-year graduate residency program in Obstetrics and Gynecology at San Francisco General Hospital. He became Chief resident his 4th year. On November 10, 1967, he received a specialized degree in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Voss joined Dr. Richard R. Hansen in the practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Fort Collins in July of 1965, until the untimely death of Dr. Hansen in an airplane crash in 1982.

Dr. Voss then entered solo practice and performed gynecological surgery, treated cancers of the pelvis, infertility in young couples and performed therapeutic terminations of pregnancy. He also taught medicine at Colorado General in Denver and at Poudre Valley Memorial Hospital during his career. He was named outstanding clinical teacher in the Family Practice Program in 1980. Dr. Voss delivered over 3,200 babies. His wife, Nancy, ran his office for the last 15 years of his practice. Dr. Voss retired in 1997.

Dr. Voss’s love of flying continued throughout life. For ten years he owned and flew from the Waverly West Soaring Ranch north of Fort Collins. He achieved diamond awards from the National Soaring Society for altitude and time aloft in gliders.

Dr. Voss, throughout his life, never lost his love of airplanes, cars, or football. He spent many happy hours constructing model airplanes, claiming that it helped polish his surgical skills. In 2003 he donated upwards of 16 model airplanes to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which will be cherished by the History Department. Rich loved to tell and hear a good joke.

Dr. Voss was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, the Fort Collins Country Club, FROG (Former Residents of Ob/Gyn), the Caterpillar Club (for having successfully bailed out of an airplane in combat) and the Society of the Sons of The American Revolution.

Dr. Voss is survived by two sons, Mark of Burford, Wyoming and Brian of the Woodlands, Texas and four grandchildren, Colter, Bridge, Hayley and Tax. His wife Nancy and his mother Hilda predeceased him.  Internment was in the Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins and the Osborne Cemetery in Osborne, Kansas.

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“To the 49ers,

I am also including a letter that my father asked me to send to Chet Bogle and some others after his death. Chet had sent a great letter with a picture of the plane that Dad was flying when he was shot down. Unfortunately, it was Chet’s airplane Dad was flying.

I found the photo in the Korean Air War book and blew it up and put it in a frame. This photo and Chet’s great letter were at the foot of Dad’s bed when he passed away.

We will have the military honors that are available in Fort Collins at the service next Saturday. The service is at Our Saviours Lutheran Church in the Fort at 1:00 p.m. on October 2nd.

My father spoke fondly and often of the reunion of the 49ers he attended several years ago in San Antonio. His friends from that time were never far from his thoughts.

I learned of them and the stories of that time throughout my life.  Many of their names are as familiar to me as if they were relatives though I have never met them, they live in my head too.”

August 27,2004

Dear 49ers,

I recently got a lovely card/letter from Chet Bogle showing a picture of the airplane Anne’s Bad Penny. This was the airplane I was flying when I was shot  down in Korea. Chet I do apologize for crashing that Dawg. It was flying perfectly up to the moment the North Koreans got involved and I had to leave it in a bit of a hurry. 

At the present I am a widower since May 3, 2001. I live alone in the same old house in Fort Collins. Recently I was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. It cannot be treated. It’s in all lobes and though a transplant is possible the cancer cells are probably in the rest of the body so this might not work.                

My sons, Brian and Mark are in their 40’s and each have two young children. Mark lives in Wyoming and is an attorney. Brian lives in the Woodlands (Houston) Texas and is a First Officer with Continental Airlines.

I delivered about 3000 babies in my medical practice over the years and old friends are coming to see me regularly. Life has been full and rewarding. I am not experiencing any significant pain and I am content. 

I have not yet adopted Edgar Allen Poe’s vigor for death, however, it is coming, as it comes for all of us.                   

God bless you gentlemen and may your lives be of A-1 quality. It was an honor and a privilege to serve with you.      

With affection and good memories,

Richard Voss

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