THOMAS, JAMES RICHARD
Name: James Richard Thomas Rank/Branch: E6/US Air Force Unit: 37th ARRSQ / Pararescue, Da Nang Date of Birth: 05 July 1943 Home City of Record: Ft. Walton Beach FL Date of Loss: 25 November 1971 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 103800N 1064800E (XS953730) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 3 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: HH53C Refno: 1780 Other Personnel In Incident: none missing
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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 1998.
SYNOPSIS: Jim Thomas joined the Air Force when he was 18 and was assigned duty as an aircraft mechanic. While he was stationed in Hawaii, he was able to train for pararescue, and subsequently assigned to a pararescue Squadron at Da Nang, Vietnam.
On November 25, 1971, while on a TDY assignment, Jim was on a rescue mission which successfully retrieved 13 soldiers whose helicopter had been shot down. Jim's chopper took ground fire during the rescue, and the crew stopped at a forward base camp to make sure the chopper was safe to fly. The soldiers got off at that time.
On the flight back to its home base at Bien Hoa, the chopper took more fire and the pilot was hit. It began a slow descent and impacted in a river, breaking in two. Three crew members were found dead. The two crew members standing next to Jim both got out and were recovered by friendly forces. A local fisherman who saw the crash said a third man, wearing a white t-shirt, also escaped. Jim was the only one wearing a white t-shirt. One side of the river was controlled by friendly forces, and the other by enemy troops.
When American Prisoners of War were released in 1973, Jim Thomas was not among them. He remains unaccounted for.
Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports have been received concerning Americans still in captivity in Southeast Asia, but the U.S. has been unable to secure freedom for any of those who remain.
On November 25, 1998, Jim's wife, Julie, passed away. Her friends said "she died of a broken heart." Julie never knew the fate of her husband, and left three daughters, Kimmie, Lisa and Symphony to carry on the fight.