HARWOOD, JAMES ARTHUR
Name: James Arthur Harwood
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Company A, Detachment B-43, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 10 March 1950 (Omaha NE)
Home City of Record: Dallas, TX
Date of Loss: 15 January 1971
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 103415N 1045652E (VS943684)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Gerald F. Kinsman (missing)
Note: Operation Nui Ta Bec
Source: Compiled 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 in 2020.
SYNOPSIS: Sgt. James Harwood and 1Lt. Gerald Kinsman were part of the 5th
Special Forces Group Detachment B-43 based at the Special Forces camp at Chi
Lang, South Vietnam. The two were assisting in the training of the
Reconnaissance Platoon, 2nd Company, 1st (later the 6th) Cambodian Mobile
Operations Battalion as part of Capt. Harry Purdy's instruction team.
Chi Lang was situated in a dangerous, contested border zone. Any training
venture away from camp was subject to becoming a frightening battlefield
between Cambodian trainees and hardened Viet Cong regulars, with predictable
results, although the Special Forces had considerably more faith in the
abilities of the Khmer troops than they had had in the Vietnamese CIDG unit
they had formerly trained. The situation was worsened by the serious
friction between Detachment B-43 and the former CIDG Vietnamese troops at
the camp. The Special Forces made no secret of the fact that they felt the
Khmer troops were superior to the ARVN border rangers, whom they considered
hoods and thieves. The Vietnamese officer, Maj. Hoa countered by refusing to
punish any Vietnamese caught stealing from the Americans.
In January 1971, Capt. Purdy's team and the Khmer battalion-in-training
conducted a field exercise at Nui Ta Bec, five miles northwest of Chi Lang.
1Lt. Gerald F. Kinsman, the tactics committee instructor, accompanied the
was then lost and McCarty's shouts to him received no response. battalion's
3rd Company cadre, Lt. James J. McCarty and Sgt. James A. Harwood. On 15
January, the three Special Forces troops were escorting the company's 24-man
reconnaissance platoon, which was awaiting the arrival of the 8th Khmer
Infantry Battalion, coming to replace them in the field.
The platoon was moving downhill through thick bamboo on the slope of Hill
282 (Nui Ta Bec) northwest of Chi Lang and 2 miles from the Cambodian
border, after searching several large rock outcroppings of Nui Ta Bec. Sgt.
Harwood was in the lead, 1Lt. Kinsman was in the middle, and McCarty to the
rear of the platoon. At this time, the platoon was moving in column
formation. Suddenly the pointman came under automatic weapons fire, engaging
the platoon in a firefight.
Harwood radioed 1st Lt. James J. McCarty that he was crawling up toward the
point, and was receiving direct fire from the front. Communications were
then lost with Harwood, and McCarty's shouts to him met with no response.
McCarty then approached Kinsman's position at the front, and saw Lt. Kinsman
standing in an open area saying he had been hit in the stomach. When he
reached Kinsman, McCarty found him lying on his back in a bamboo thicket. He
had been shot in the stomach, just to the side of the navel with an exit
wound in the back, and was lying in a large pool of blood. McCarty tried to
administer aid, but his weapon was shot away, and he was wounded himself. He
tried to drag the unconscious 1Lt. Kinsman from the area, but enemy troops
were approaching and he had to hide. McCarty did not see Harwood.
McCarty's radioman was wounded in the leg as he frantically radioed Sgt.
Stamper at the base of the hill. Maj. Leary, the Detachment B-43 commander,
was overhead in an O-1 aircraft and relayed the request for immediate
assistance to Maj. Hoa at Chi Lang. Hoa claimed all of his units were "busy"
and no response was possible. Leary summoned a battalion from the 9th ARVN
Division next, but by the time they arrived, the fighting was over. In
addition to the Cambodian casualties, both Lt. Kinsman and Sgt. Harwood were
McCarty was later evacuated. Harwood was classified Missing In Action, and
Kinsman, because of his severe wounds was classified as Killed/Body Not
In August 1974, a Vietnamese source reported the following information which
he received second hand from another Vietnamese, "The enemy (Viet Cong)
ambushed a Government of Vietnam team, killed one American and captured one
American, one officer and one NCO in that vicinity. The live American was
ordered to pull the body into the forest. In the forest, the American was
ordered to dig a hole and bury his friend. As soon as he finished his work,
a VC cadre stood beside him and fired at his head with a K .54 pistol. The
two bodies were rushed into the hole, and it was filled with earth." The
source also assumed that the grave site might have been in a valley.
The fates of Harwood and Kinsman are unknown. They are two of nearly 2500
Americans who are still missing from Southeast Asia. As reports flow in that
hundreds of Americans are still alive in Vietnam and Laos, one wonders if
Harwood or Kinsman are among them. If the 1974 report is true, why have
their bodies not been returned? If it is not, and they are alive, what must
they be thinking of us?