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 Category: 3 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Refno: 1322 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. NETWORK 2006.
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 that evening.
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 enemy.
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 families
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 government. .....