Col James Lucas Riffe (Retired)

james riffe (retired)

July 9, 1921 ~ July 4, 2024

Born in: Panther, West Virginia
Resided in: Gainesville, Virginia

A retired U.S. Army colonel and Purple Heart veteran of World Way II passed away on July 4, 2024. He was preceded in death by a son, John Kendrick Riffe, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Survivors include his loving wife, Beatrice, of 70 years, a son, Thomas Riffe, and daughters Maura Riffe and Lydia Klene and her husband, Stephan. Colonel Riffe was the loving grandfather of five grand-children and three great-grandchildren.

He was born at Panther, West Virginia, on July 9, 1921, the son of the late John Franklin Riffe and Caroline Cline Riffe.

His military service of over 30 years began as a private in the U.S. Army in August, 1942, and culminated as a Colonel in September, 1972. He served in the Pacific Theater of Operations during WWII as an infantry platoon leader, infantry company commander, and as the intelligence officer and the plans, operations, and training officer of an infantry battalion. Following WWII he received a commission in the Regular Army.

During the Cold Way with the Soviet Union and building of the infamous Berlin Wall in 1961-1963. He was the Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, Operations and Training, U.S. Army, Berlin; responsible for developing plans for the defense of the U.S. Sector of Berlin, and in conjunction with the British and French forces in that divided city, developing plans for the defense of West Berlin. After 28 months in this key staff assignment, he was selected to command a reinforced infantry battalion in Berlin. For his outstanding performance of service during this Cold Way period he was awarded what would be the first of four military Legions of Merit.

In 1947 he requested assignment to the Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia for the purpose of becoming a paratrooper. Upon completing the six- week course he was awarded the Army’s paratrooper and airborne glider badges. These qualifications subsequently led to his command of an airborne battle group, an airborne brigade, and Chief of Staff of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Liberty, North Carolina.

Major staff assignments were with the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Headquarters Department of the Army, and the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he was appointed as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Military Committee.

Colonel Riffe was a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Army War College, the University of Maryland, and George Washington University where he earned Master’s Degree in International Affairs and Administration.

In June, 1970, he was inducted into the Infantry Officers Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Military honors include four awards of the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals for Valor, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Master Parachute Badge, the Airborne Glider Badge, and the Army General Staff and Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badges.

During WWII he served in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Following the surrender of Japan his Infantry Battalion was flown from Okinawa to Japan to participate in the demilitarization of that nation. From 1947 to 1951 he served with various constabulary and infantry units during the occupation of Austria. In 1956 he was assigned as one of the first U.S. military advisors to the South Vietnamese Army. His final overseas assignment was with the U.S. Occupation Forces in West Berlin during the height (1961-1964) of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the building of the infamous Berlin Wall.

Colonel Riffe was also and outstanding athlete and in June, 1963, he was named an outstanding Sports Great of McDowell County and the state of West Virginia, and was honored at ceremonies held in Welch, the county seat, and at Charleston, the state capital.

He began his civilian career as the Training Officer of the Federal National Mortgage Association. After three years with that agency, he resigned to accept a position with the Government Employees Insurance Company as Director of the Military Department.
Colonel Riffe will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on a date that will be announced later.


Visitation: July 20, 2024 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Money and King Funeral Home
171 W. Maple Ave.
Vienna, VA 22180



Room: Old Post Chapel

Arlington National Cemetery at a later date
1 Memorial Drive
Arlington , VA 22211


View current weather.

Memories Timeline


  1. Dear Bea and Family,
    I’m so sad and sorry to know that Jim has passed away. I pray God will comfort you as you grieve his loss and may the Happy memories you shared with Jim keep him alive in your hearts always.

  2. Dear Bea,
    We are so sorry for your loss. We enjoyed the times Mike would get us together for meals and 82nd events. He was a great man.
    We know you have many happy memories of your years together, May they sustain you in the days ahead.
    You and yours remain in our thoughts and prayers.
    Harry Miller and Linda Smith

  3. Jim,
    I’ll miss you my best friend. Our trips to Ft Bragg will live with me forever and bring a smile to my face when I think of you. You are one of the finest men I have ever met. Airborne All The Way, Sir!!

  4. Jim was not only a member of the Greatest Generation, he epitomized it. My life is richer for having known him and his faithful wife Bea. He met many challenges in his long life, and he leaves the rest of us a golden example to follow. Thank you, Jim, for being my friend. – Ruth

  5. Colonel Riffe was a good man and a great Patriot! We all felt love and admiration for Jim, who could charm any room with his intelligence and wit. He led an incredible life and is a legend in the Paratrooper family. He has surely earned his eternal reward and is standing beside Saint Michael the Archangel. Airborne, All The Way!

  6. Jim,
    Thank you for helping me to become successful in life and Thank You for your friendship. I will miss you and will remember you always. Goodbye, my Friend, Jim. May God hold you in his arms and bring you peace.
    May God hold you in his arms and give you peace.

  7. The little time I had with you was one of enjoyment,since you shared your military experiences with, how you called us ,young troopers,one I would never forget . I missed knowing you earlier,it would have been epic.

  8. To my wonderful, loving Grandy! Your constant support and care over all my years has been a true blessing. Thank you for always encouraging my education and being an inspiring role model. I am so lucky to call you my grandfather.


  9. Jim was a long-time neighbor and friend. I enjoyed his amazing stories and looked forward to our evening chats about gardening as he sat in the shade of his crape myrtle tree in his driveway. He represented the best of the best from the Greatest Generation and he will be truly missed.

Sign the Guestbook, Light a Candle

Accessibility Tools