GATES, JAMES WAYNE
Name: James Wayne Gates
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
Unit: 20th Aviation Detachment (see note in text)
Date of Birth: 30 December 1933 (Bonita LA)
Home City of Record: Mer Rouge LA
Loss Date: 06 April 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161819N 1064116E (XD803033)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: John W. Lafayette (missing); Harry Duensing;
Larry Johnson (on another OV1 - both rescued)
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published
sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK.
SYSOPSIS: On April 6, 1966, Capt. James W. Gates, pilot, and Capt. John W.
Lafayette, observer, departed Hue/Phu Bai airfield at 1540 hours in an OV1A
Mohawk (serial #63-1377) as number 2 aircraft on a visual reconnaissance
mission over Laos. Number one aircraft was an OV1A flown by Capt. Harry
Duensing and observer SP5 Larry Johnson.
At about 1648 hours, the U.S. Air Force airborne command post, Hillsborough,
received a mayday from the two OV1 aircraft, and dispatched two FAC in the area
for an immediate search for the two downed air crews. At 1730 hours, the air
crews were on the ground about 1 kilometer apart. One of the FAC's established
radio contact with both crews, who reported that they were all okay.
Duensing's aircraft had been hit by enemy ground fire, and Gates and Lafayette
began flying cover for the other crew. Gates' plane was hit immediately. All
four men safely ejected from their planes in the vicinity of 502-Charlie and
were in radio contact with air cover. Duensing and Johnson were evacuated
safely, and radio contact continued for 1 1/2 hours before contact was lost
with Gates and Lafayette. Their last transmission reported that they were being
surrounded by Viet Cong. It is believed that both men were captured.
The OV1A was outfitted with photo equipment for aerial photo reconnaissance.
The planes obtained aerial views of small targets - hill masses, road
junctions, or hamlets - in the kind of detail needed by ground commanders. The
planes were generally unarmed. The OV1's were especially useful in
reconnoitering the Ho Chi Minh trail.
When 591 American prisoners were released in 1973, Gates and Lafayette were not
among them. In fact, the Vietnamese deny any knowledge of the two. They are
among nearly 2500 Americans who did not come home from Southeast Asia at the
end of the war. Unlike the MIAs of other wars, many of these men can be
accounted for. Tragically, nearly 6000 reports of Americans still in captivity
in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S., yet freedom for them seems
beyond our grasp.
Men like Gates and Lafayette went to Indochina in our name. What must they be
thinking of us now?
NOTE: The 20th Aviation Detachment existed until December 1966, at which time
it was reassigned as the 131st Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion
(Combat Support). The 131st Aviation Company had been assigned to I Corps
Aviation Battalion since June 1966, when it arrived in Vietnam. In August 1967,
the 131st Aviation Company was reassigned to the 212th Aviation Battalion where
it remained until July 1971, whereupon it transferred out of Vietnam.
There were a large number of pilots lost from this unit, including Thaddeus E.
Williams and James P. Schimberg (January 9, 1966); John M. Nash and Glenn D.
McElroy (March 15, 1966); James W. Gates and John W. Lafayette (April 6, 1966);
Robert G. Nopp and Marshall Kipina (July 14, 1966); Jimmy M. Brasher and Robert
E. Pittman (September 28, 1966); James M. Johnstone and James L. Whited
(November 19, 1966); Larry F. Lucas (December 20, 1966); and Jack W. Brunson
and Clinton A. Musil (May 31, 1971). Missing OV1 aircraft crew from the
20th/131st represent well over half of those lost on OV1 aircraft during the
U.S. Army records list both Nopp and Kipina as part of the "131st Aviation
Company, 14th Aviation Battalion", yet according to "Order of Battle" by Shelby
Stanton, a widely recognized military source, this company was never assigned
to the 14th Aviation Battalion. The 131st was known as "Nighthawks", and was a
surveillance aircraft company.
SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE
NAMES: GATES James W., CPT, USA
LA FAYETTE, John, CPT, USA
OFFICIAL STATUS: GATES - MISSING
LA FAYETTE - DEAD, BODY NOT RECOVERED
CASE SUMMARY: SEE ATTACHED
RATIONALE FOR SELECTION: Search and rescue forces established radio
communications with both officers, who reported that they were all right,
although the enemy was closing in around them. No correlated reports have
been received subsequent to the incident date to indicate were either that
CPT Gates and CPT La Fayette were either captured or dead.
REFNO: 0297 22 Apr 76
(U) CASE SUMMARY
1. On 6 April 1966, CPT James W. Gates, pilot, and CPT John La Fayette
observer, departed Phu Bai Airfield -RVN at 1540 hours local in an OV1 (
#63-13117), as number two in a flight of two aircraft on a reconnaissance
mission over Laos. At about 1648 hours the USAF Airborne Command Post
(Hillsborro). received a "Mayday" radio transmission from the two OV1's.
Two Forward Air Controllers (FAC) in the area began an immediate search for
the two downed aircrews. (Ref 1)
2. At about 1730 hours the two aircrews were seen on the ground about one
kilometer apart. One of the FAC's established radio contact with both crews
who reported that they were OK. While waiting the arrival of the rescue
helicopters the two FAC's began directing air strikes into the area to
suppress hostile fire. At about 1815 hours Capts Gates and La Fayette
radioed that the VC were closing in on them. Shortly after, radio contact
was lost. (Ref 1)
3. At 1850 hours the crew of the other OV1 was rescued and a visual search
of the last known location of CPT Gates and CPT La Fayette was made by a
rescue helicopter, but neither officer was seen. Both rescue helicopters
received extensive damage from enemy fire. Search and rescue efforts were
resumed the next day from 0638 hours to 1300 hours. They were unsuccessful
and were suspended. (Ref 1)
4. The location of the incident is given as grid coordinates XD 803 033.
5. During the existence of JCRC, the hostile threat in the area precluded
any visits to or ground inspections of the sites involved in this case.
This individual's name and identifying data were turned over to Four-Party
Joint Military Team with a request for any information available. No
response was forthcoming. CPT Gates is currently carried in the status of
Missing. CPT La Fayette is currently carried in the status of Dead, Remains
1. RPT (U), 20th ASTA Det, 12 Apr 66.
2. RPT (U), Adjutant General DD Form 1300 21 Aug 73.
* National Alliance of Families Home Page