HESTAND, JAMES HARDY
Name: James Hardy Hestand Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: Date of Birth: (ca 1950) Home City of Record: Oklahoma City OK Date of Loss: 17 March 1971 Country of Loss: Cambodia Loss Coordinates: 121005N 1062140E (XU480455) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1H Refno: 1727
Other Personnel in Incident: On UH1H: Richard L. Bauman; Craig M. Dix; Bobby G. Harris (all missing); From AH1G: Capt. David P. Schweitzer (rescued); 1Lt. Lawrence E. Lilly (missing).
REMARKS: 730212 RELEASED BY PRG
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.
SYNOPSIS: On March 17, 1971, Capt. David P. Schweitzer, pilot and 1Lt. Lawrence E. Lilly, co-pilot, comprised the crew of an AH1G helicopter (serial #69-17935) conducting a visual reconnaissance mission. As the aircraft was near a landing zone at grid coordinates XU488458, it was hit by enemy fire of the F-21B Infantry Regiment, 5th Viet Cong Division and forced to the ground. The LZ was deep inside Cambodia in the Snuol District of Kracheh (Kratie) Province, near Seang Village.
Rescue efforts were successful in extracting Capt. Schweitzer, but due to heavy enemy fire, they were forced to leave the area before Lilly could be extracted. Lt. Lilly was last seen by U.S. personnel lying on his back wth his shirt partially open and blood on his chest and neck. He was observed being fired upon by Viet Cong forces.
In mid-April 1971, a report described two U.S. personnel onboard a helicopter shot down in this region getting out of the helicopter and climbing a tree, and firing upon enemy forces. One of the crewmen was shot to death, and the other was captured by Viet Cong soldiers of the 6th Company, 2nd Battalion, F21B Infantry Regiment. The report continued that both crewmen were caucasian and had light complexions. The source described the POW and said that he was later told that the dead airman had been cremated by Cambodian villagers who had come to salvage parts from the aircraft. Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) evaluated the report and concluded that it could possibly relate either to Lilly's incident or another the same day at the same location.
The other incident related to a UH1H helicopter flown by WO1 James H. Hestand and carrying CW2 Richard L. Bauman; SP4 Craig M. Dix; and SP4 Bobby G. Harris. The aircraft was shot down near Snuol. A medivac chopper lowered a jungle penetrator to men seen on the ground through triple canopy jungle, but was forced to leave the area due to enemy fire and low fuel.
Five ARVN were captured in the same operation and were told by Viet Cong guards that three chopper crew members had just been captured. One was killed in the crash, one was shot in the leg (ankle) trying to escape. The wounded crewmember and two others were finally captured.
James Hestand was captured and was released in 1973. In his debriefing, he reported that Craig Dix was the one who had been shot in the upper right ankle. Hestand stated that Dix was ambulatory and evading capture at the time of his own capture. Hestand also stated that, when last seen, CW2 Bauman was alive, in good condition, and was hiding with Dix. Hestand said that he had seen the body of Harris, whom he believed to be dead because of throat lacerations and a discoloration of his body. Harris had been thrown from the aircraft. Hestand was separated from the others when he was captured, and had no further information on Dix, Bauman or Harris. Defense Department notes indicate that Harris was killed in the crash. Defense Department notes indicate that some intelligence say that Bauman, Dix and Harris are dead, yet other intelligence reports placed Dix in a Cambodian hospital after having been captured, and according to Hestand, the two were alive and well the last time he saw them.
An ARVN ground unit entered the battle area to try to rescue Lilly, but found him dead. The unit came under heavy fire, and in the course of the battle, the body was lost to the enemy. Lilly's remains were never recovered.
In 1988, the Cambodian government announced that it had the remains of a number of American servicemen it wished to return to the United States. The U.S. did not respond officially, however, because there are no diplomatic ties between Cambodia and the U.S. Several U.S. Congressmen have attempted to intervene and recover the remains on behalf of American family members, but Cambodia wishes an official overture. Meanwhile, the bodies of Americans remain in the hands of our former enemy.
Even more tragically, evidence mounts that many Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia, still prisoners from a war many have long forgotten. It is a matter of pride in the armed forces that one's comrades are never left behind. One can imagine any of the men lost in Cambodia on March 17, 1971, being willing to go on one more mission for the freedom of those heroes we left behind.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
JAMES H. HESTAND CWO - United States Army Captured: March 17, 1971 Released : February 12, 1973
I'm James Hardy Hestand, the first born in an average American family in Oklahoma City. I have a younger brother and sister. When I was nine years old my father died. My mother raised the three of us by herself.
After graduating from high school I was undecided as to my future, so I joined the Army. Upon finishing helicopter training I was off to Vietnam in July 1970. Up until March 17, 1971 I was James Hardy Hestand, pilot, "one of the men the enemy could never get." Then the bullets started hitting my plane, not someone else's. Down I went.
For the next two years I was "Ni" (my Vietnamese name since they could not say James Hestand), and my cage buddy was "Da" (short for Danny). For these two years it was Da, Ni, Emde! (Vietnamese for shut-up.) We had to whisper and talk low or be punished severely by the "Cong." One end of a six foot chain was attached to my ankle and the other end to a log of a wooden cage, tiger pit, or a dark bunker. It never came off 24 hours a day.
I am still haunted by dreams of deadly foot long centipedes and scorpions, six foot cobras, bamboo vipers, and spiders as big as a man's stretched-out hand. These creatures were ever constant "visitors" leaving tracks through my cage. Each morning when I awoke I wondered why I was still alive and how long I would survive. The B-52 raids and the steady diet of fish scraps with rice and muddy water made me feel I would never return . . . add to that the fact that my captors did not care whether we lived or died by refusing medical attention; and it was a wonder we kept our spirits and hopes of survival alive.
During those long and endless days we pooled our strength and courage into one force, determined to survive this seemingly endless nightmare of pain, suffering, torment, and fear.
The most wonderful day of my life was when I walked out of the dark jungles of Cambodia on February 12, 1973, into the waiting arms of Freedom. Although my hopes were shaken and shattered many times, I knew that my prayers would someday be answered. When I stepped off the plane at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, I knew my prayers had finally come true. My greatest desire is that someday all of the remaining POWs and MIAs will come home again.
Mr. Hestand left Germany after working for the Department of Defense and has made his home in Oklahoma.