Donald Rissi was born on March 20, 1931, in Collinsville, Illinois. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on September 20, 1950, and entered the U.S. Naval Academy on July 2, 1951. Rissi graduated from the Naval Academy with a commission as a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force on June 3, 1955, and then completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Reese AFB, Texas, in August 1956. He then completed B-47 Stratojet Combat Crew Training before being assigned to the 360th Bomb Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, from November 1956 to May 1964. During this time, he deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, from April to July 1958. Capt Rissi next completed B-58 Hustler Combat Crew Training and served with the 364th Bomb Squadron at Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana, from September 1964 to August 1966, followed by Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1966 to June 1967. He then completed F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training before being assigned to the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 475th Tactical Fighter Wing at Misawa AB, Japan, from March 1968 to February 1971. Col Rissi deployed to Southeast Asia in February 1971, and served with the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phu Cat AB in the Republic of Vietnam until September 1971, when he became a Mission Launch Control Officer with 7th Air Force at Tan Son Nhut AB. He returned to the U.S. in March 1972 and completed B-52 Stratofortress Combat Crew Training before being assigned to the 340th Bomb Squadron at Blytheville AFB, Arkansas, in June 1972. Col Rissi deployed with the squadron to Andersen AFB, Guam in October 1972, and was killed in action the first day of Operation Linebacker II on December 18, 1972. His remains were returned to the U.S. on August 23, 1978.
His Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Citation reads:
Lieutenant Colonel Donald L. Rissi distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight as a B-52G Aircraft Commander near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 18 December 1972. On that date, while engaged in one of the largest conventional bombing raids ever amassed in the recent history of aerial warfare, Colonel Rissi received significant battle damage to his aircraft as the result of extremely heavy hostile fire. Colonel Rissi and his crew were in quest of massed supplies, communications equipment, and transportation lines in order to eliminate the aggressorâ€™s capacity to initiate an offensive. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Rissi reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.