GEORGE, JAMES EDWARD JR.
Name: James Edward George, Jr.
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army
Unit: 129th Maintenance Company, 69th Maintenance Battalion
Date of Birth: 19 July 1947
Home City of Record: Ft. Worth TX
Date of Loss: 08 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 164424N 1071941E (YD471521)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action (later changed to Killed in Captivity)
Other Personnel in Incident: Lenker, Michael, returnee; Rose, Joseph,
returnee; Chenoweth, Robert, returnee; Ziegler, Roy "Dick", returnee;
Purcell, Benjamin, returnee
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK 02 March 1997 from one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews, "Love & Duty", by Benn and
Anne Purcell. 2020
SYNOPSIS: The 101st Airborne Division had a new battalion just outside of
Quang Tri City. "Charlie" was everywhere around the city. Radio contact was
yet to be established with logistics. A single band radio needed to be
delivered there ASAP. Colonel Pen Purcell was the executive commander of the
80th General Support Group and deputy commander of the Dan Nang Sub-Area
Command. Purcell decided to hand carry the radio on their way to Dong Ha to
check on other troops.
Warrant Officer Joe Rose was flying the UH-1 "Huey" and Warrant Officer
Dick Ziegler was his copilot. The crew chief was SP/4 Robert Chenoweth,
and SP/4 Mike Lenker was the door gunner. Pfc. James E. George, a
refrigeration mechanic from Purcell's command, sat in the jump seat.
Purcell handed the radio he had come to deliver to Capt Drake. Private
George, the refrigeration mechanic, hurried over to repair the disabled
reefer truck, which was his mission on this trip.
Captain Drake and his commo sergeant got in their jeep and drove off. As
Purcell started back toward the helicopter, he saw that the two pilots
and Chenoweth had a panel raised and were looking at something.
One of the radios was out and they could not fly back up through the
overcast skies without it. They had to cancel the rest of the trip up to
Rose turned the helicopter toward the southeast and headed toward the
coast. They were flying about three hundred feet or so above the
ground - not high enough to be out of range of small-arms fire.
Suddenly Warrant Officer Ziegler turned toward Purcell and shouted,
"We're being fired on!" His next message was, "We're on fire!"
The helicopter gave a sudden lurch and then the inside flared brightly
with an orange light. Only seconds after the first round hit, the fire
was already hot just forward of the transmission housing in the center
of the passenger compartment of the helicopter. Private George and
Col. Purcell were sitting on the outside seats as far away from the heat
as it was possible to be.
The helicopter made a sweeping turn to the right and toward the ground
trailing fire and smoke. Rose fought to control the helicopter and to
land it as quickly as possible.
The helicopter hit hard and the tips of the rotor blades dug into the
ground and broke as they struck a large granite monument. The helicopter
was ripped to shreds by the ground impact and the flailing rotor blades.
George, Chenoweth, Lenker, and Purcell loosened their seat belts and
jumped out, but the pilot and copilot couldn't get out through their
respective doors. They were trapped in their seats by the "chicken
plates," as the aircrews humorously called the armor shields installed
between them and their doors. The door gunner ran to the front doors and
slid the panels back so Rose and Mr. Ziegler could get out. By the
time he opened their doors, though, the pilots had already butted their
way through the windshield.
Ziegler was hit in the leg. George ran back to the ship to recover his
M-14 rifle, which was lying on the floor between the pilots' seats.
He drove right into the middle of the flames and the fire engulfed him
instantly. Lenker and Purcell had to reach in and drag him out. Flames
had licked at George's hands and face, and his skin there was hanging in
Lenker and Purcell had a hold of George and they half-carried and
half dragged the badly burned young soldier away from the burning
helicopter. Ziegler was limping badly, his leg was bleeding, and George
was in great pain and groaning softly.
Soon after, the crew was surrounded by twelve Viet Cong. Realizing they
had no chance to fight with few weapons and ammunition, the crew
As the VC forced them to move, the injured George asked Ben Purcell to
pray. The VC soon put an end to the prayers -- Purcell was forced to
move off and a shot was heard. James E. George was believed executed
that day. His remains have never been found.
In 1992, Ben and Anne Purcell wrote a love story entitled "LOVE & DUTY" --
the remarkable story of a courageous MIA family and the victory they won
with their faith. This short biography was written with information from
Until 1997 - this was the only information available:
An American releasee reported during his debriefing on March 30, 1973, that
SP4 George was with him and others the day after George`s capture. The group
was being marched, presumably north, although the destination is not clear.
The releasee stated that George could not keep up with the group and he was
pulled from the group. Later a shot was heard from the direction George had
been taken. The releasee believed that George had been executed by the
Several returned POWs identified George as having been a prisoner of war,
and by 1980, his records were adjusted accordingly. He had been carried as
Missing in Action until it was clear that he had been captured.
Although George was confirmed to be an American POW, the Vietnamese deny any
knowledge of him, and have not returned his remains. He is one of nearly
2500 Americans still missing, prisoner or unaccounted for from the Vietnam
Unfortunately, thousands of reports have been received regarding the men
missing in Southeast Asia. Most authorities agree that many are alive.
Presidents Reagan and Bush have both pledged to take necessary action to
free them if confirmed "proof" is found, but distractors say that proof is
in hand, but the willingness to act is missing.
As long as one American remains prisoner in Southeast Asia, the war cannot
be considered over. Future generations of American fighting men who keep the
faith with their country must know that their country will do everything to
keep the faith with them. These men must be brought home.
Apr 21 1998
Former POW gives Fort Hood soldiers food for thought
by Lisa Beth Snyder
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, April 20, 1998) -- The retired colonel
grasps a hand in a firm, long handshake to compensate for the years when he
had no human touch.
"In a literal twinkling of an eye, my lifestyle changed from a person of
some consequence to one in which food, shelter, and life itself were
uncertain," retired Col. Benjamin H. Purcell said to members of 13th Corps
Support Command who were gathered for a prayer breakfast recently at Fort
In that twinkling in February 1968, a helicopter in which he was a
passenger during the Vietnam War was forced to crash land. While he and
five other soldiers on that aircraft attempted to get out of the area, only
one was able to evade being encircled by the Viet Cong soldiers armed with
automatic weapons. As the senior soldier, Purcell made the difficult
decision to surrender in order to have a chance to survive.
He and three other soldiers were tied up and forced to march barefoot
through the jungle. The fifth soldier's face and hands were burned in the
crash and the Viet Cong did not bind his hands. When they briefly traveled
by boat, Purcell said he took this opportunity to pray, and this gave him
faith to endure the humiliations of being a prisoner of war.
When they resumed marching, he heard a shot. He suspected that the Viet
Cong had killed the burned soldier, Pfc. James E. George of Burlington,
Texas, because he was never seen again. Twenty-nine years later, Purcell
showed Col. Terry Tucker of Joint Task Force Full Accounting, the probable
location of the shooting on a map. A body was recovered at the site and it
is being identified at the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.
After six days as a prisoner of war, Purcell and his group were finally
interrogated. He only answered the questions required by the Geneva
Convention and gave his wife's address so that she could be notified of his
whereabouts. She was not notified until he was freed five years later.
"I was cold, I was hungry, I was hurting from broken ribs from the crash
when I realized it was my 40th birthday," he said. His captors noticed it
was his birthday, also, and followed their custom by honoring his special
birthday and temporarily suspended the interrogation and gave him some
He became so weak that he was carried on a litter to a camp where they
stayed for 30 days. Then they began marching again and sores from leech
bites made it difficult to walk. He was afraid he was going to stumble on
the night walk and be killed, so he said he prayed for light. The soldier
in front of him turned on a flashlight soon after.
When he reached the next camp, he was put in solitary confinement and
interrogated. During the interrogation he was told he was not a prisoner of
war, but a criminal of war and he would be tried if he did not rethink his
ways. Purcell insisted he was a prisoner of war and prayed for the strength
to endure the experience.
"We survived by faith, courage, and our devotion to duty, and on very rare
occasions our sense of humor," said Purcell, the Army's most senior
prisoner of war in Vietnam.
He said his prayers led him to politely argue with his captors to keep his
mind alert and to begin planning his escape. He fashioned tools for his
escape from metal fasteners in his cell and with handles made from bread
He also went on two hunger strikes to protest his solitary confinement that
prevented him from being with the soldiers he felt responsible for.
Purcell spent 58 months in solitary confinement, excluding the few precious
hours he had during two escapes.
"A man who cannot live with himself cannot live with his fellow man,"
Purcell said. "I learned to live with myself." He said he also developed a
greater love for his fellow humans from this experience.
To keep busy he made three versions of his wedding band, one from a plastic
toothbrush handle, one from an aluminum toothpaste tube, and the third from
bamboo; a communion set from various materials; and a salt and pepper
shaker set. He never got to use the salt and pepper set because he was not
given the condiments because of his escape attempts.
"The physical body has needs -- food, shelter, life -- but life is not
worth living without a spirit to feed," he emphasized. It was his faith in
God and country that allowed him to experience 1,874 sunsets after
awakening each of those mornings to a feeling that this would be the
morning he would go home.
On Jan. 27, 1973, the prisoners were told the war was over and were moved
to the Hanoi Hilton. Two months later on March 27, 1973, he was released.
He said his experience showed him that in addition to faith and family,
three things are important to him. "Human life is the most precious thing,"
he said. "Secondly, freedom. Without freedom life is an existence, not true
living. And communications, because of the time spent in solitary
In introducing Purcell, Col. Christopher A. Rockwell, 13th Corps Support
Command chief of staff, said that Purcell would "delve into the spiritual,
moral, and ethical aspects of our profession."
Members of the audience indeed got food for thought to go with their bacon
and eggs that morning.
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