Friday, April 12, 2024

Avenue of Heroes: Ronald D. Witthoft

Prepared by: David Schnell (friend)

CDR Ronald Dean ‘Reg’ Witthoft was born in Modesto, California, in 1933 to Arthur and Helen Witthoft. After graduating from Modesto Junior College in 1953, he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet program at Pensacola, Florida. He was commissioned an Ensign and pinned on his wings of gold in March 1955. Reg’s first fleet tour was with Fighter Squadron 112, flying fighter aircrafts off the USS Essex and USS Ticonderoga aircraft carriers during two WESTPAC deployments.

In 1959, he joined Fighter Squadron 121 Replacement Air Group, ‘RAG,’ as an instructor and Landing Signal Officer and participated in the introduction of the new McDonnell Douglas F4B. The RAG represents the last phase of the naval training pipeline for pilots.

In 1963, Reg returned to sea aboard USS Constellation with Fighter Squadron 143 as Maintenance then Operations Officer. During deployment, he surpassed 300 traps – aircraft carrier landings. Returning to shore duty in 1965, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Transferring in 1967 to VX-4, THE EVALUTORS, he served as Admin Officer and Assistant Project Officer. This operational test and evaluation assignment had him working on the AIM Sparrow Program flying F-4 and F-8 aircrafts.

In 1968, Reg received orders as XO to Fighter Squadron 213, the ‘Black Lions’ at NAS Miramar. Joining the squadron mid-deployment aboard USS Kitty Hawk in 1969, he flew many missions in the Gulf of Tonkin. During his command deployment in 1970, VF-213 became the first fleet squadron to fly the Phantom more than 1,000 hours in a single month. Reg relinquished command in 1971 and – until his retirement in 1982 – served on COMNAVAIRPAC staff; on the 7th Fleet staff aboard USS Oklahoma City homeported in Yokosuka, Japan; and on the staffs of COMNAVFORJAPAN and COMNAVAIRPAC. Orders to the Naval War College were nixed by CINCWIFE and in 1982, he retired with 27 years of service, five deployments, almost 4,000 flight hours, and – as he frequently touted – total number of landings equaling total number of take-offs!

In retirement Reg and Bonnie enjoyed buying and renovating houses, and working for a developer where he advanced to Project Superintendent.

The Avenue of Heroes military service recognition program is sponsored by the City of Coronado. Introduced in 2014, the program has honored 246 hometown heroes to date. On November 4, 2023, another 16 will be honored. City staff and volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, the Coronado Historical Association and Third and Fourth Streets Neighborhood Association oversee its operation.
In 2011, the program was inspired spontaneously with the movement of two Navy SEALs to their final resting place. News spread quickly and the local Rotary Club passed out American flags. People lined Fourth Street to honor the fallen service members. As the procession approached the Coronado Bridge, a lone Navy SEAL stood at attention, saluting as he waited for the passage of his comrades. That moment made clear that Third and Fourth streets were already an Avenue of Heroes.
That spontaneous beginning launched the program in May 2015 with 18 banners. The Avenue of Heroes is a reminder that Coronado has a rich history and legacy of service to the country.

Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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