William D. Ritchie was born in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas. After graduation from Pine Bluff High School in 1936, he attended Arkansas A and M College in Monticello, Arkansas.
On April 28, 1941, he enlisted in the U S Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet and on December 12, 1941, entered the U.S. Army Air Corps. During World War II he served with the 386th Fighter Squadron, 365th Fighter Group. He received two World War II Victory Credits. As a member of the Hell Hawks, Major Ritchie flew 109 missions between August, 1943 and September 1945.
Decorations and awards received in World War II were: World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal with 1 bronze service star, America Defense Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award with I silver oak leaf cluster, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 silver service star, Air Medal with 24 oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation.
Colonel David C. Schilling and Lt. Col. William D, Ritchie were directed by Letter Orders, Headquarters USAF to conduct a non-stop flight from Manston, England to New York by use of mid-air refueling to test the feasibility of the Probe-drogue system. The flight occurred on the 22nd of September 1950. Both pilots were flying F-84's.