BIRCHIM, JAMES DOUGLAS
Name: James Douglas Birchim
Rank/Branch: O2/US Army Special Forces
Unit: FOB 2, CCN, 5th SFG
Date of Birth: 16 July 1946
Home City of Record: Independence CA
Date of Loss: 15 November 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 144520N 1074549E (YB975330)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: (None missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 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.
SYNOPSIS: On November 15, 1968, 1st Lt. Bircham was the patrol leader of an
8 man LRRP (long-range reconnaisaince patrol) of the FOB2, 5th Special
Forces Group on a search mission in Laos. During the mission, the patrol was
ambushed, and in evading the enemy, Bircham suffered a broken ankle and
fragmentaion wounds. He radioed and requested that the patrol be extracted
Because of the difficult terrain, which prevented the helicopters from
landing to exfiltrate the patrol, the men were to be picked up by McGuire
extraction rigs. These devices were dropped through the trees near the
ground, where the men situated themselves on them, were pulled up through
the trees, and carried in suspension until they could safely be brought
aboard the helicopter or placed on ground.
After 4 members of the patrol were sucessfully extracted in the first
helicopter, the second aircraft hovered to pick up the other four men, with
only 3 rigs. Lt. Birchim ensured that the other 3 men were situated and then
hung on the back of one of his men. Their rig was dragged through the trees,
nearly dislodging them, but Birchim hung on for what was estimated to be
about 30-45 minutes before falling from a height of about 2500 feet. The
exact location can only be approximated by time from the known pickup point.
All elements of 5th Special Forces Group in the area were notified, but
Birchim's body was never found. It is estimated that Birchim's last location
was in Kontum Province, South Vietnam, about half-way between the towns of
Dak Sut and Dak To.
Barbara Birchim was 21 when she was notified of the loss of her husband. He
had been declared Killed/Body Not Recovered. When she received documents
related to the loss, however, doubts remained. There just was not enough
solid information for her to let go of the hope that somehow he survived.
In 1988, Mrs. Birchim traveled to Vietnam hoping to find some clue to the
fate of her husband or others who remained prisoner, missing or unaccounted
for in Southeast Asia. She has devoted half her life to resolving the
mystery of the loss of these men.
Since American involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975, nearly 10,000 reports
relating to Americans missing, prisoner, or otherwise unaccounted for in
Indochina have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials, having
examined this largely classified information, have reluctantly concluded
that many Americans are still alive today, held captive by our long-ago
Whether James Birchim survived the the fall from the McGuire rig to be
captured is certainly not known. It is not known if he might be among those
thought to be still alive today. What is certain, however, is that as long
as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we owe him our
very best efforts to bring him to freedom.
James Douglas Birchim was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period
he was maintained missing.
Wife of Vietnam MIA tells of search for truth
Tale opens readers' eyes to frustrations, agonies endured by grieving
By: Alison Morgan, Special to The News Messenger
Thursday, August 11, 2005 9:26 AM PDT
It is a story often told: a soldier disappearing in Vietnam and leaving
behind a grieving family.....
Nov 13, 2005
Ms. Barbara Birchim: Barbara is the wife of Capt. James D. Birchim, USA who
was lost on November 15, 1968. Then 1st Lt. Birchim was patrol leader of a
LRRP mission of the 5th Special Forces in Laos. His patrol was ambushed and
during the extraction Lt. Birchim fell from the rig and was lost. It is not
certain that he survived and was not among the returning POWs during
Operation Homecoming in 1973. Barbara has devoted her life to finding the
answer to Jim's case, even traveling to Vietman for more information. Her
work about her husband's case and others missing in Vietnam led her to write
"Is Anybody Listening? A True Story About The POW/MIAs In The Vietnam War".
Her book, co-written with Sue Clark, is not only a story of a soldiers wife,
it is the experience and battles of a soldier herself, fighting for the
truth amid all the trials and possibilities of Jim's survival. Her book is a
valuable addition to the libraries of activists and civilians alike.
MWSA Book Review
Is Anybody Listening?
Authors: Barbara Birchim with Sue Clark
Reviewer: Bill McDonald - President of the MWSA
Powerful Indictment of our Government and Our History of The Vietnam War
There is just no way you can come away from reading author Barbara Birchim's
book "Is Anybody Listening? A True Story About The POW/MIA In The Vietnam
War" and not have an opinion about her, the war, the CIA, and our own