Skip to comments.Air Force Pilot Missing in Action From Vietnam War is Identified
Posted on 10/13/2006 7:10:31 PM PDT by SandRat
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will soon be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
He is 1st Lt. James L. Hull, U.S. Air Force, of Lubbock, Texas. He will be buried Nov. 13 at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
On Feb. 19, 1971, Hull and a fellow crew member were flying a mission near the Laos/Vietnam border when their O-2A Skymaster crashed. Both men died, but Hulls body was buried in the wreckage and could not be recovered because of hostile enemy action.
Between 1993 and 1997, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) led three investigations with U.S. and Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams, and one trilateral investigation with a Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team. During the first investigation, the team interviewed a Vietnamese citizen who produced human remains and an identification tag for Hull that he claimed to have recovered from a crash site located just inside Laos. The joint team was not allowed to cross the border and the investigation was suspended. The Vietnamese turned over the bone fragment to U.S. officials, but the ID tags whereabouts are still unknown.
Additional investigations yielded some information concerning a crash site located just inside the Laotian border. The S.R.V. allowed a Vietnamese national to walk to the purported crash site and collect a fragment of the wreckage. Based on the location, type of aircraft and retrieved wreckage, analysts determined it was Hulls crash site.
In May 2006, a joint U.S. and L.P.D.R. team excavated the site where they recovered additional evidence and human remains.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA from a known maternal relative in the identification of the remains.
For additional information on the Defense Departments mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.
A brother missing in Vietnam finally comes home.
Welcome home, Lt. May you rest in peace.
A bump, a Thank You and a R.I.P. to 1st Lt. James L. Hull.
God Bless this brave man and his family, and may they finally have some much-deserved peace of mind.
Lost but not forgotten...
May his loved ones now find peace of mind.
1st Lt. James L. Hull, another of America's finest.
Welcome home and God Bless him and his family.
I think I read an article on the excavation of the crash site in the Smithonian magazine sometime in the past few months.
Sleep my sons, your duty done, for freedoms light has come,
Sleep in the silent depths of the sea, or in your bed of hallowed sod
Until at dawn you hear at last the loud, clear reveille of God.
-from the Eternal Flame Memorial, Corregidor
Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well,
God is nigh.
Welcome Home, Sir.
That must have been an experience.
Rest in peace.
From : http://www.taskforceomegainc.org/j365.html
The pilot was lost during part of a larger mission.
MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (though it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction that were called, depending on the location and time frame, "Shining Brass," Salem House, Daniel Boone or "Prairie Fire" missions.
On 8 February 1971, South Vietnamese President Thieu announced Lam Son 719, a large-scale offensive against enemy communications and supply lines in that part of Laos adjacent to the two northern provinces of South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The mission was to interdict the flow of supplies from North Vietnam. The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) would provide and command ground forces, while US forces would provide airlift and supporting fire.
Phase I, renamed Operation Dewey Canyon II, involved an armored attack by the US from Vandegrift Base Camp toward Khe Sanh, while the ARVN moved into position for the attack across the Laotian border. Phase II began with an ARVN helicopter assault and armored brigade thrust along Route 9 into Laos. ARVN ground troops were transported by American helicopters, as the US Air Force provided cover strikes around the landing zones.
Ten days later, on 18 February, the first reconnaissance team (RT) of six was inserted into the infamous A Shau Valley in support of Lam Son 719 to tie down NVA forces and gather intelligence for when the ARVN returned along Highway 922 coming out of Laos. The A Shau Valley had never been hotter. Captured documents revealed the North Vietnamese had moved eleven counter-recon companies there to reinforce LZ watchers, trackers, dogs, rear security units and infantry battalions. Additionally, they had 2 anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries defending the valley with one located at each end of it.
The A Shau diversion was initially assigned to the 2000-man strong 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. However, the specter of heavy US losses forced the planners to reconsider using the airborne brigade. In the end they made the decision to give the mission to MACV-SOG instead.
Early in the afternoon of 18 February Capt. Ronald Doc Watson, team leader (also known as the ONE ZERO); Sgt. Allen Baby Jesus Lloyd, assistant team leader (ONE ONE); Raymond L. Robby Robinson, radio operator (ONE TWO); and 5 Bru Montagnard strikers comprised one of the MACV-SOG Command & Control North (CCN) teams being inserted into the extreme southwestern corner of the A Shau Valley to conduct a road interdiction mission. The teams name was RT Intruder.
SFC Samuel Sammie Hernandez and SFC Charles Wesley were also assigned to the team as strap hangers to support the mission and evaluate the team. They would determine if the American team members of RT Intruder would receive approval for specialized HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) training and subsequent missions using that method of insertion. Both SFC Hernandez and SFC Wesley were HALO qualified and needed team members who were trusted for these difficult missions.
The location of the road interdiction mission was on the extreme west side of the infamous A Shau Valley, a region of northwestern South Vietnam that was probably the most NVA infested area south of Hanoi. This valley was not a place for amateurs, and a road interdiction mission was doubly hazardous. Because this road interdiction mission required the team to go in a little larger than usual, the addition of SFC Hernandez and SFC Wesley was welcome.
RT Intruder was inserted by helicopter into a small clearing along a steep ridge on the valleys west wall just inside Laos. Threading their way through the jungle, the team disappeared into the forest. Traveling east RT Intruder soon crossed the Lao/Vietnamese border and arrived at the westernmost ridge of the A Shau Valley. This ridge was heavily canopied. Hidden from view underneath the overhanging boughs and safe from aerial observation was a fully developed road big enough for a large truck to travel along it without difficulty.
Capt. Watson, with the concurrence of SFC Hernandez, directed the team to pull back to wait and listen. Less than 2 minutes later one of the strikers on their left flank signaled people coming, then a 6-man NVA porter party came into view. The team killed two NVA instantly and the others fled abandoning their loads. The team quickly gathered up the enemys cargo and radioed the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC), call sign Covey, for an extraction. Shortly a flight of four Huey helicopters arrived equipped with STABO rigs to accomplish the extraction.
The captured documents, which included an NVA couriers pouch, had been stored in the teams duffle bags that would be suspended below them during the recovery operation. Each helicopter had 4 120-foot long STABO ropes anchored to the aircrafts floor. The first helicopter extracted Charles Wesley, Robby Robinson and two of the Bru.
However, because the first Huey struggled to gain altitude in the thin mountain air with the added weight of the four men and their gear bags, the decision was made for the second helicopter to pick up only three. Capt. Watson sent the three remaining Bru team members out on that helicopter.
When the last helicopter hovered overhead, Capt. Watson, Sgt. Lloyd, and SFC Hernandez snapped themselves into the STABO rigs. In addition to his own gear bag that would be suspended below him, Sammie Hernandez had a second bag belonging to SFC Wesley to bring out with him. Throughout the extraction operation progress, the Americans heard the NVA moving through the jungle and closer to their position.
CWO2 George P. Berg, aircraft commander; WO Gerald E. Woods, pilot; SPC Walter Demsey, crewchief; and SPC Gary L. Johnson door gunner; comprised the crew of the extraction helicopter (serial #68-15255), call sign Commancheros, that recovered the last three members of RT Intruder. After snapping into the harnesses, Capt. Watson, Sgt. Lloyd, and SFC Hernandez signaled they were ready. As the helicopter lifted up and away, it came under enemy gunfire that was immediately answered by Walter Demseys and Gary Johnsons door guns.
Hanging from the STABO rig below the Huey, Sammie Hernandez heard gunfire erupt from directly underneath him. He later stated he was high enough almost to run across the treetops, and the next thing I knew, Id come back crashing through the trees falling 30-40 feet into double canopy jungle below. SFC Hernandezs rope had snagged in the trees and snapped under the added weight of carrying the two gear bags.
SFC Hernandez crashed into the double canopy jungle at the same time the Huey sustained accurate ground fire from NVA anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. Fatally crippled, the aircraft traveled forward approximately 600 feet before abruptly making a u-turn, tipped upside down, crashed into the side of the cliff and fell in flames into the dense foliage below. Dragged behind the Huey, Doc Watson and Baby Jesus Lloyd STABO ropes entangled in the trees and snapped free of the Huey at the edge of the cliff.
As the helicopter continued over the edge, the two men were slammed into the side of the cliff killing them instantly before suspending them in mid-air out of view of the other aircraft.
As darkness approached and weather conditions deteriorated, Sammie Hernandez heard NVA troops moving through the surrounding jungle. He hid in the dense undergrowth and went undetected. By the next morning he had returned to the small clearing used the day before to insert the team. When he heard a nearby Huey, SFC Hernandez crawled into the open and signaled it with an escape and evasion panel. In an hour, Sammie Hernandez found himself back at the teams base camp at Phu Bai.
Other aircrews witnessed CWO2 Bergs helicopter crash, and reported they saw no survivors on the ground and heard no emergency beepers. The crash site was located in the rugged jungle covered mountains of the A Shau Valley approximately 1 mile northeast of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, 10 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), 29 miles west-southwest of Hue/Phu Bai Airfield and 57 miles west of DaNang, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. Under the circumstances, all six men were immediately reported as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
On 19 February, another MACV-SOG team, named RT Habu, was inserted into the crash site to search for and recover the remains of the aircrew and RT Intruder. Cliff Newman commanded RT Habu. Other team members included Charles Wesley and Charles Danzer.
In order to reach the crash site, the team members had to rappel down the sheer cliff. Once on the ground, they found WO Woods and CWO2 Berg dead in their seats and one leg of SPC Demsey, the crew chief, very near the burned out cargo compartment. The recovery personnel believed that Walter Demsey had been thrown from the helicopter when it crashed and it rolled over on him cutting the leg off and trapping the rest of his body under the wreckage. SPC Johnson, the door gunner, had also been thrown from the Huey and was found dead in a tree 30 feet away. The aircrews remains were placed in body bags and then laid on top of the wreckage for extraction.
The weather again was closing in and daylight fading when RT Habu made the decision to leave the remains at the crash site and stay nearby over night. The team members moved northwest along the top of the ridgeline. As they passed a cliff, they spotted two ropes hanging from the trees. They investigated the ropes and found Ronald Watson and Allen Lloyd still in their STABO rigs roughly 50 feet down the cliff with their sling ropes hanging from trees at the top of the cliff.
RT Habu members tried to secure their remains, but the mens ropes were just out of reach. The recovery team continued north to Hill 1528 where they set security and settled in for the night. The next morning t RT Habu prepared to return to the crash site when it was attacked by a large NVA force.
RT Habu immediately contacted the onsite FAC informing the pilot of their predicament and requesting an immediate emergency extraction. US Air Force pilot 1st Lt. James L. Hull, pilot; and SFC William Fernandez, MACV-SOG observer; comprised the aircrew of the O2A Skymaster. As they directed the extraction operation, the FAC was struck by enemy ground fire and crashed into rugged double canopy jungle approximately 6 miles northwest of the Hueys crash site.
The downing of this aircraft further complicated the overall mission and delayed plans for retrieving the remains. Another reconnaissance team was inserted into the Skymasters crash site shortly after its loss. They found both crewmen dead and were able to extract the body of SFC Fernandez. However, they were unable to recover 1st Lt. Hull because his body was buried underneath the aircraft wreckage.
That night a reinforced NVA company pinned the members of RT Habu against a sheer drop and likely would have overrun them at dawn. The team, with half its men wounded, escaped by jumping off the cliff, then made their way to a designated area for their own emergency extraction.
For months the NVA left the body bags containing the remains of George Berg, Gerald Woods, Walter Demsey and Gary Johnson as well as leaving the bodies of Allen Lloyd and Ronald Watson hanging in place in the open and in plain sight hoping a MACV-SOG ground team or helicopter crew might attempt to recover their friends and countrymen. In the end, no such attempt was made.
And politicians wonder why some vets don't want to make nice with the Government of RVN.
We owe it to these warriors to remember their sacrifices.
That is perfect. Nothing to add.