Karl Richter was born on October 4, 1942, in Goodrich, Michigan. He was commissioned through the U.S. Air Force Academy on June 3, 1964, and completed Undergraduate Pilot Training on August 3, 1965. Lt Richter completed combat crew training in the F-105 Thunderchief in April 1966, and immediately deployed to Southeast Asia. He served with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from April 1966 until he was killed in action on July 28, 1967, while flying his 2nd consecutive combat tour in Southeast Asia. On September 21, 1966, Lt Richter was credited with the destruction of one MIG-17 in aerial combat. He flew 198 official combat missions during the war and was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Karl Wendell Richter (78872), First Lieutenant, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, SEVENTH Air Force, as the leader of a flight of F-105s on a mission over North Vietnam on 20 April 1967. The target, a very important railroad facility, was defended by several hundred antiaircraft artillery emplacement and SA-2 missiles. Lieutenant Richter's mission was to destroy or limit fire from these defenses immediately before a strike on this facility by fighter bombers. Arriving over the approach to the target, he found clouds obscuring navigational references and increasing the danger from unobserved SAM launches. Despite weather conditions, Lieutenant Richter, with great professional skill and undaunted determination, led his flight through a barrage of missiles to the target. Braving the heavy concentrated fire of the antiaircraft artillery, he positioned his flight and attacked the defenses, causing heavy damage. As a result of his efforts, the fighter bombers of the main strike force encountered only limited defensive fire and destroyed this vital railroad facility. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, First Lieutenant Richter reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.