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Manuel Rivera Jr.

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Captain Manuel Rivera Jr., USMC
Manuel Rivera.jpg
Captain Manuel Rivera Jr.
The first Marine Corps pilot and first serviceman of Puerto Rican descent to die in Operation Desert Storm.
Born(1959-09-24)September 24, 1959
Bronx, New York
DiedJanuary 22, 1991(1991-01-22) (aged 31)
Persian Gulf
Place of burial
Calverton National Cemetery
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service1981-1991
RankUS-O3 insignia.svg
Battles/warsOperation Desert Shield
AwardsPurple Heart

USMC Captain Manuel Rivera Jr. (September 24, 1959 – January 22, 1991) (Call Sign "Buick") was the first Marine Corps pilot and first serviceman of Puerto Rican descent to have died during Operation Desert Storm of the Persian Gulf War. Five days after the 42-day U.S. led air offensive was launched, Captain Rivera fatally crashed his AV-8B Harrier attack aircraft into the coast of Oman while completing a training mission.

Early years[edit]

In the 1950s, Rivera's parents moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States in search of opportunities. They settled down in the borough of the South Bronx in New York City, where Rivera was born and rented a low income apartment in a public housing project. At a young age Rivera became interested in obtaining a good education and in becoming a pilot. He was a good student and as a young man joined the Boy Scouts, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout.[1] After finishing his primary education, he enrolled and attended Aviation High School pursuing his ambition of becoming a pilot. After graduating from high school, Rivera attended Dowling College in Long Island and earned his bachelor's degree.[1]

Marine Corps Service[edit]

He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1981, following in the footsteps of his Vietnam War-vet and career-Marine father, Manuel Rivera Sr. He was sent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina where he underwent basic training. From there he was sent to the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. He graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant and continued his training at the Naval Aviation Flight Training School where he earned his pilot "wings."[1][2]

Operation Desert Storm[edit]

TAV-8B Harrier - Type of aircraft flown by Capt. Rivera

Rivera was eventually promoted to the rank of Captain, and serving as personnel officer, intelligence officer and logistics officer flew in many support missions. He had ongoing plans to apply for admission to NASA as an astronaut candidate. As a USMC pilot, he was assigned to VMA-331, with service in that squadron including deployment to MCAS Iwakuni in June 1989, and upon outbreak of Operation Desert Shield, service aboard the USS Nassau.[1][2]

On January 22, 1991, Capt. Manuel Rivera died while conducting a training mission over the Persian Gulf when his AV-8B Harrier smashed into the Omani coastline while approaching the deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4) for a landing. The real cause of the crash was not settled. Investigators believed condensation on the AV-8B's canopy could have interfered with the pilot's vision, or maybe that he just became disorientated by the horizon[1][2]

Capt. Manuel Rivera is buried in Section 14, Site 966 of the Calverton National Cemetery, a United States National Cemetery in the Town of Riverhead in Suffolk County on eastern Long Island in New York.


On January 30, 1991, the United States House of Representatives paid tribute to Capt. Manuel Rivera and on May 9, 1991, the Hon. James H. Scheuer of the House of Representatives also paid tribute to the fallen Marine. P.S. 279 (Public School 279) was renamed P.S. 279 Capt. Manuel Rivera Jr. honoring his memory. Also, a street, park and public housing project were named after him in the South Bronx.[3] In March 1995, the United States Marines donated a McDonnell-Douglas TA-4F, a Marine Corps fighter jet, to Aviation High School in memory of Rivera Jr.. The students at the school will use the jet to learn inspection and maintenance procedures.[4] His name was engraved in "El Monumento de la Recordación" (Monument of Remembrance), dedicated to Puerto Rico's fallen military members and situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and unveiled by Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock and PR National Guard Adjutant General Col. David Carrión Baralt on Memorial Day, 2007.

Awards, Decorations and Affiliations[edit]

File:El Monumento de la Recordacion.jpg
El Monumento de la Recordación

Among Rivera's military decorations are the following:

  • Purple Heart ribbon.svg  Purple Heart
  • National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg  National Defense Service Medal
  • Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait) ribbon.svg  Kuwait Liberation Medal


  • Naval Aviator Badge.jpg  Aviator Wings
  • Recognized and honoured member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 3.

See also[edit]

Other articles of the topics Puerto Rico AND Biography : Lizbeth Robles, Luis F. Castro, Ramón Núñez-Juárez, Efe Rosario, César Luis González, Domingo Arroyo Jr., Edwin Perez (singer)

Other articles of the topic Puerto Rico : Primary statistical area, Hila Levy, Domingo Arroyo Jr., UPR Law School Building, Evelio Otero Jr., Ramón Núñez-Juárez, Puerto Rico Highway 538

Other articles of the topic Biography : W. Matt Lowe, J.E. "Pat" Patterson, Donna Mee, Hugh Spencer Daniel, Fedmyster, Rajeev Jha, Andrew Kenneth Waterman
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  • List of Puerto Ricans
  • List of Puerto Rican military personnel
  • Hispanics in the United States Marine Corps


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Style"; New York Times; by: Nadine Brozan; August 11, 1992
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 LA Times Staff Writers (December 17, 2002). "More Than A Few Good Men". Los Angeles Times.
  4. "Marine Has Landed At Aviation School"; New York Daily News; by: Sharline Chiang; March 22, 1995

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