Muncy’s American Legion bears name of WWI aviator
MUNCY – The fate of Muncy native Roland Ritter would be that his name would forever be affixed to the town’s American Legion Post 268.
In 1894, the future WWI aviator was born in Muncy to William A. and Abigail ‘Abby’ Scull Ritter, the latter a native of New Jersey. The Ritter’s were a long established family in town.
After graduating from Muncy High School in 1911, Ritter went on to graduate from Drexel Institute in 1916 at Philadelphia. His studies in mechanical drawing made him a natural for map plotting.
Armed with his knowledge of plotting maps, Ritter decided to become an aviator and trained for a short time at Columbia University. It was then he went on to continue honing his expertise with British Royal Air Force in England and Scotland.
Eventually, the flier became a member of the U.S. Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps of the British Expeditionary Forces. France was the hot spot for the war before and during the time America’s entrance in April 1917.
In March 1918, Ritter was commissioned a Lieutenant. Risky and exhilarating were words given to piloting airplanes. His letters sent home were filled with melancholy and anxiety to see his family at home in Muncy.
In the event he should not return, the son gave instructions as to his wishes. He wrote that, “I have become pretty much a fatalist and seem to feel something is going to happen.” The pilot forecasted such a demise as “a most wonderful way to go, fighting for one’s county.” The son concluded by writing, “God keep you well and make you happy, your son.”
About five months later, while flying over enemy lines, Ritter’s plane was downed on August 23, 1918. First listed as missing, it would be eight years later when the flier’s family received government notification. Ritter had been interred in a British cemetery as one of their unknown airmen. Through further research, the determination was that the body was Ritter and was therefore re-interred in the Somme American Cemetery at Bony, Department of Aisne, France.
In 1931 and now a widow, Mrs. Ritter sailed to France to visit her son’s grave. Traveling with her were other ‘Gold Star’ mothers from Muncy.
The sacrifice of one of Muncy’s sons was evidenced when in 1919, fellow veterans establishing their American Legion Post, chose to affix the name Roland Ritter.
Currently there is a memorial monument placed in his honor in the family plot at the Muncy Cemetery. Each year the elementary students place flags on this and other veterans’ graves for Memorial Day.