JACKSON, JAMES ELEX JR.
Name: James Elex Jackson, Jr. Rank/Branch: E8/US Army 5th Special Forces Unit: (Detachment A-21?) Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Talcott, WV Loss Date: 5 July 1966 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 085110N 1045000E (VQ820780) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Refno: 0384 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 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 2008.
REMARKS: 671111 RELEASED IN CAMBODIA [Family states Captured: July 5th, 1966 [his 4th tour] Released: Nov. 3rd, 1967 [returning Stateside on the 11th] [sorry for the confusion].
SYNOPSIS: The U.S. Army Special Forces, Vietnam (Provisional) was formed in 1962 to assist the South Vietnamese government in organizing, training and equipping the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) forces. USSF Provisional was given complete charge of the CIDG program, formerly handled by the CIA, in July 1963.
The USSF Provisional/CIDG network consisted of fortified, strategically located camps, each one with an airstrip. The development programs soon evolved into combat operations, and by the end of October 1963, the network also conducted border surveillance. Two of the camps were at Hiep Hoa (Detachment A-21) and Tan Phu (Detachment A-23). Their isolated locations made them vulnerable to attack.
On October 29, 1963, "Rocky" Versace, 1Lt. "Nick" Rowe, and Sgt. Daniel Pitzer were accompanying a CIDG company on an operation along a canal when they were ambushed and captured by the Viet Cong. The three were photographed together in a staged setting in the U Minh forest in their early days of captivity.
The camp at Hiep Hoa was located in the Plain of Reeds between Saigon and the Cambodian border. On November 24, Hiep Hoa was overrun by an estimated 400-500 Viet Cong just after midnight. It was the first Special Forces camp to be overrun in the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong captured four Americans: SFC Issac "Ike" Camacho, SFC Kenneth M. Roraback (the radio operator), Sgt. George E. "Smitty" Smith and SP5 Claude D. McClure. The early days of their captivity were spent in the Plain of Reeds, southwest of Hiep Hoa, and they were later held in the U Minh forest, where they were held with Pitzer, Versace and Rowe.
The following summer, they were joined by Special Forces MSgt. Edward R. Johnson. Johnson had been captured near Hiep Hoa on July 21, 1964. The Viet Cong called him "da den" (black skin).
Camacho continually looked for a way to escape, and was successful in July 1965. His and Smith's chains had been removed for use on two new American prisoners, and in the cover of a violent night storm, Camacho escaped and made his way to the village of Minh Thanh. He was the first American serviceman to escape from the Viet Cong in the Second Indochina War. McClure and Smith were released from Cambodia in November 1965.
In in the summer of 1966, another American joined the camp. A Special Forces medic, SFC James E. Jackson, Jr. had been captured on July 5, 1966 in the same vicinity as the others. Jackson was a 20-year Army veteran on his second tour of Vietnam.
In a propaganda move, Jackson and Johnson, who are both black, and Pitzer (who is caucasian) were released from Cambodia in on November 11, 1967. At the time, racial tension was high in the U.S. and the Vietnamese seized the opportunity to show their "humane and lenient" treatment of Americans, especially black Americans. "Humane and lenient" when Jackson had at one point suffered simultaneously from malaria, beri-beri, hepatitis and amoebic dysentery.
Jackson, Pitzer and Johnson were released to the custody of Tom Hayden (whom Jackson had not heard of before). Hayden took the men to Lebanon where they were met by U.S. officials. Jackson later became friends with Hayden and his wife, Jane Fonda, and although he frequently disagreed with the pair politically, he respected them for their intelligence and living what they believe.
Rocky Versace had been isolated in an attempt to break him. Versace had proven to be quite a problem for the Viet Cong, refusing to accept their indoctrination and arguing philosophical points better than the Viet Cong could do. This humiliated them. Rowe and Pitzer saw Rocky at interludes during their first months of captivity, and saw that he had not broken. Indeed, although he became very thin, he still attempted to escape. By January 1965, Versace's steel-grey hair had turned completely white.
On Sunday, September 26, 1965, "Liberation Radio" announced the execution of Rocky Versace and Kenneth Roraback in retaliation for the deaths of 3 terrorists in Da Nang. A later news article stated that the executions were faked, but the Army did not reopen an investigation. In the late 1970's information regarding this "execution" became classified, and is no longer part of public record.
Rowe was scheduled to be executed in late December 1968. But while away from the camp, Rowe took advantage of a sudden flight of American helicopters, struck down his guards, and ran into a clearing where the helicopters noticed him and rescued him, still clad in black prisoner pajamas.
Rowe remained in the Army, and in 1987, Lt.Col. Rowe was assigned to the Philippines, where he assisted in training anti-communists. On April 21, 1989, a machine gun sniper attacked Rowe in his car, killing him instantly.
Of the nine U.S. Army Special Forces personnel captured near Hiep Hoa and Tan Phu, the fates of only Versace and Roraback remain unknown. The execution was never fully documented; it is not known with certainty that these two men died. Although the Vietnamese claim credit for their deaths, they did not return their remains. From the accounts of those who knew them, if these men were not executed, they are still fighting for their country.