JAMES, SAMUEL LARRY
Remains buried 04/18/99 ID disputed.
Name: Samuel Larry James
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Date of Birth: 24 July 1945
Home City of Record: Chattanooga TN
Date of Loss: 18 April 1973
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 134200N 1065900E (YA153151)
Status (in 1973): (none)
Other Personnel in Incident: Douglas K. Martin (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project and the P.O.W. NETWORK - updated
using one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency
sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews
with Barbara White, POW sister of Samuel James.
REMARKS: DEAD-CHARRED BODIES-FBIS
SYNOPSIS: Capt. Douglas K. Martin was the pilot, and Capt. Samuel L. James the
weapons system officer on an F4E "Phantom" jet assigned the task of marking a
target in Cambodia with a smoke rocket on April 18, 1973. Radar contact was lost
with the aircraft during the mission and no radio contact was made with the
crew. Wingmen observed no explosion or parachutes, and no emergency radio signal
"beepers" were heard. The wingmen did not see the plane go down, but they did
observe a new swath cut through dense jungle nearby.
A subsequent 700-square-mile search was conducted for the aircraft. During the
search for Martin and James, aerial photographs were taken of a probable crash
site which revealed an ejection seat, wing debris and one main landing gear. The
Air Force stated that James "is probably a POW according to our intelligence."
A July 8, 1973 report from a South Vietnamese agent who spoke with a refugee
described three American prisoners wearing one-piece flight suits who arrived in
Kompong Barey Hamlet in Prey Veng Province in southern Cambodia, en route to an
unnamed location near Loc Ninh in South Vietnam. The agent contacted a Viet Cong
cadre who stated that they would be held at Loc Ninh for future exchange. U.S.
officials later denied that the July 8, 1973 sighting report existed, although
James' father saw it himself in James' file when in Thailand in October, 1973.
Mr. James also spoke with the wingmen. They all agreed that the crew could have
A Cambodian broadcast report stating that the bodies of Martin and James were
found "charred" in the plane wreckage, was dismissed in 1973 by the Defense
Department as "propaganda," and the family was told not to regard it seriously.
The documentation provided the family dated 18 APR 73 ended with "these
statements are considered propaganda in nature, Your brother is still
officially listed as missing in action. Yet, as late as 1980, the "charred
bodies" remark remain as data identifiers in Defense Department records, with
no further explanation given to the family.
A former government official (who had access to MIA/POW classified information)
provided Sam's mother and sisiter an unsolicited summary of another sighting
report. A hand-picked, controlled agent was sent back to check out the
first sighting report. The villagers in the area said that the pilots had
"popped out" (ejected) and were captured.
James' family has never given up hope that he is still alive, waiting for his
country to secure his freedom. His family has worked tirelessly since the day he
was shot down to bring him home.
Both Douglas K. Martin and Samuel L. James attended the U.S. Air Force Academy.
When shot down, James was wearing a POW bracelet bearing the name of a missing
Academy friend, Dennis Pugh.
Date: Saturday, 02-Jan-99
Subject: POW Where is Justice for Samuel L. James
Barbara C. White
As most of you know my brother, Samuel Larry James, became Missing in Action
over Cambodia on April 18, 1973. Larry was a Navigator on a F4 Phantom Jet.
The wingmen flying with him that day observed no explosions or parachutes.
It was the policy of his squadron not to use beepers, and no beepers were
heard. Aerial photographs of the probable crash site were taken. An
unnamed source in the government said to a journalist that "James was
probably a POW according to our intelligence."
A sighting report was seen at the JCRC (located in SEA at that time)
concerning my brother and his pilot. The report told of American pilots in
that area being taken into custody by Vietnamese troops. The Vietnamese
were taking the pilots towards Vietnam.
In the book The Men We Left Behind by Mark Sauter, on page 200 and American
CIA agent overheard Samuel Larry James telling his name and that he was okay
on a radio transmission that was intercepted by this CIA agent. The CIA
does not release classified documents so this report has not appeared in
As family members we have continued to contact anyone and everyone to find
evidence concerning my brother for 25 years. Very little has appeared in
For years we have been told that nothing was known. We were told that the
probable crash site was swept clean and used as farm land. In 1993 my
brother's daughter (considered by the government as his Primary Next of Kin)
was told that an old woman saw the plane crash, and she walked to the site.
My husband discovered that this explanation did not refer to Larry's crash
site. It was 30 miles away and referred to another incident. The ent ire
scenario was removed from my brother's file and was not mentioned by
Casualty again after that.
The government sent a letter stating my brother's case was inactive and did
not recommend excavation. Then one year ago I discovered on the Internet a
joint team going into Cambodia to do excavation. My Mother and I waited to
hear if in fact a team went in to my brother's crash site for excavation. We
waited and waited. No word came. In June we made our trip to Washington,
D.C. Nothing was in Larry's file about a recent excavation. We verbally
asked the SEA official at Air Force Casualty if a team had gone into Larry's
site. He answered yes. Evidently Air Force Casualty was waiting (months)
to notify the Primary Next of Kin (my brother's daughter). He said he did
not have her current address. My husband showed it to him in the file. All
this time had passed and the address was there in the file. He said the
Primary Next of Kin had to be notified then my Mother and me.
We finally received a report with vague explanations. I wrote Joint Task
Force-Full Accounting for more detailed answers. Evasive answers were
returned one month later with photographs of the excavation. The
photographs were not labeled and very difficult to discern. The report
stated that teeth with restorations were found but we were never told how
many teeth. Bone Fragments were said to be found but we were never told how
many fragments were found. My mother and I have not been asked for a blood
sample so Mt. DNA has not been used. We were told about limited plane parts
and personal effects. The excavation team said they found my brother's
identification tag. Lately quite a few tags have been found at crash sites.
Were they at the crash site or in a drawer to be pulled out when needed?
On December 10, 1998 I received a phone call from AF Mort uary saying a
dental identification would be made on my brother and the pilot.
Years ago we asked the AF Casualty about my brother's dental file, and we
were told that they did not have it. The small bone fragments in size and
quantity, personal effects, and plane parts were determined to be a group
identification. 25 years later we are down to a few chips of bone , few
chips of teeth, ID tags, and plane parts to determine the identity of two
soldiers. Where is justice and truth? My brother's daughter will be
allowed to choose the individual service (location and time) and my brot
er's daughter will confer with the pilot's wife to set a time for the group
identification service. My mother does not have a say in any of these
decisions. Not conferring with my mother about Larry's case is fore ign to
me. No one is closer to a son than his mother. This does not mean that
uncertainty has been lifted or that we now have an answer about Larry's
fate. It means we were told what the government has decided.
My brother will be marked identified on the government's book, but the truth
has not been told.
My mother and I wrote letters to our Congressmen and Senators. Please
continue to pray for my brother and my family. To my family my brother's
fate is still unknown. However; God is certain.
National Alliance of Families
For The Return of America's Missing Servicemen
World War II - Korea - Cold War - Vietnam - Yugoslavia
Dolores Alfond ----- 425-881-1499
Lynn O'Shea ------- 718-846-4350
Website ------------- http://www.nationalalliance.org
April 11, 1999
Another Family's Questions - On April 18, 1999 remains identified as Douglas
Martin and Samuel Larry James will be intered at the Air Force Academy
Cemetary. While Capt. James' daughter accepts the identification, his
mother Virgie James, and his sister Barbara White DO NOT. Larry's
identification is based on a dog tag found at the site and several teeth
which DO NOT match Capt. Martin and "compare favorably" to Capt. James.
The dental identification of Capt. James is far from conclusive. Four
independent dentists reviewed the odentolgist report. Their opinion is
split down the middle, with two saying it could be Capt. James and two
saying it might not be Capt. James. A dental comparison should either
match or not match. A favorable comparison, is not sufficient for an
The identification of remains is not a game of horseshoes. Close does not
Neither Larry's mom nor his Sister will be attending the April 18th
internment. Both Mrs. James and her daughter Barbara ask that those wearing
Larry's POW bracelet continue to wear the bracelet, as they do not consider
him accounted for.
MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS April 16, 1999
The remains of six American servicemen previously unaccounted-for from
the war in Southeast Asia have been identified and are being returned to
their families for burial in the United States.
They are identified as Air Force Capt. Dean A. Wadsworth,
Clarendon, Texas; Marine SSgt. Harold E. Reid, Salt Lake City,
Utah; Navy Lt. David L. Hodges, Chevy Chase, Md.; Air Force Lt.
Col. Lewis M. Robinson, Saginaw, Mich.; Air Force Capt. Douglas
K. Martin, Tyler, Texas; and Air Force Capt. Samuel L. James,
On Oct. 8, 1963, Wadsworth and his South Vietnamese crewman were
flying their T-28B Trojan on a combat support mission approximately 50
miles southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam. As he completed his bombing
run over the target, his aircraft broke apart in mid air, crashed and
exploded, as reported by another pilot on the mission. A massive search
and rescue operation was initiated that day by two Marine helicopters
but they disappeared during the mission. At dawn on the following day,
Marine heli copters airlifted two companies of South Vietnamese
infantrymen to the area of the downed aircraft. As the helicopters
landed, enemy troops fired on them, wounding three Marine crewmen and
killing a Vietnamese soldier.
Two T-28s, B-26s and a South Vietnamese A-1 aircraft responded
by strafing enemy positions. An American L-19 light observation
aircraft directing the strike was hit, the Vietnamese observer was
wounded, and the aircraft made a forced landing. Meanwhile, the
Vietnamese ground troops found both Marine helicopters that had
disappeared on the first day. Ten bodies were recovered, but two remain
missing in action to this day. In the days during the search and rescue
operations, 207 missions were flow n, three aircraft were lost and four
others damaged. Fifteen South Vietnamese soldiers were killed and seven
In late 1993, a Vietnamese local turned over remains he said
were recovered near the crash site. In May of the following year, a
joint U.S./Vietnamese team, led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting,
visited the area of the crash, interviewed villagers and obtained some
aircraft debris and pilot-related equipment. In September, another
joint team examined the crash site and found more debris, but no
remains. Then in May 1995, another team excavated the site where they
found remains, as well as two identification tags of Wadsworth.
On Sept. 13, 1967, Reid completed his tour guarding an
observation post near a river in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam.
Before dawn, he crossed the bridge to visit a friend on the south side
of the river. He was never seen again. A joint U.S./Vietnamese team in
August 1993 interviewed local informants who claimed to have buried an
American Marine who had been shot by the Vietcong near the river. The
informants stated that the body had been moved and re-buried at another
location, but the team could not locate it. In September 1995, another
team interviewed other informants, but obtained little information.
Then in April 1996, a third team excavated the reported burial site
about 1,000 meters from the southern end of the bridge where they found
remains as well as material evidence and personal equipment.
On Oct. 7, 1967, Hodges was leading a strike mission near Hanoi,
North Vietnam when his A-4E Skyhawk was struck by an enemy
surface-to-air missile. His wingman reported receiving a radio
transmission from the lieutenant that his engine had flamed out. As the
wingman watched, Hodges' burning aircraft rolled to the right, entered a
steep dive, and crashed. No parachute was sighted and no emergency
beeper signals were heard. Because of enemy control of the area, there
was no search and rescue missi on mounted.
Acting on information obtained from Vietnamese wartime documents, a
joint U.S./Vietnamese team interviewed villagers in July 1995 who
claimed to have visited the site shortly after the crash and buried the
pilot. But the crash crater had been filled with dirt to allow farming,
so the team found no evidence of a crash. But the following April,
another team mounted an excavation at the site where they did recover
remains, a wristwatch fragment, pilot-related items and aircraft
wreckage. Later, in S eptember 1996, a third team continued the
excavation and found additional remains among the wreckage.
Robinson was flying his A-1E Skyraider on a close air support mission
over Saravane Province, Laos, on June 4, 1967, when he was struck by
enemy ground fire. His aircraft pitched up abruptly, struck the wing of
another aircraft, went into an inverted spin and crashed amid an
explosion. None of the other pilots in the flight reported seeing a
parachute nor hearing emergency beeper signals. Hostile threats in the
area prevented air or ground searches of the crash site.
In early 1988, representatives of the Laotian government turned over
remains to the U. S. Joint Casualty Resolution Center, the unit leading
joint recovery operations in Southeast Asia at the time. A joint
U.S./Lao team traveled to the area of the crash site in November 1993,
interviewed villagers, surveyed the area and recovered skeletal
fragments, aircraft wreckage and pilot-related equipment. Then in
January 1998, a second joint team excavated the site and recovered more
remains and personal eq uipment.
Martin and James were flying a forward air control mission over Cambodia
on April 18, 1973, when they descended below a 6,000-foot layer of haze
in their F-4E Phantom. They radioed they had the target in sight, but
their wingman was unable to maintain visual contact. He asked Martin
and James to give him an automatic direction-finder signal but there was
no response. On several passes over the target, the wingman noted fires
and explosions near the target area. There were no parachutes sighted,
nor emergency beeper signals. Enemy activity in the area prevented a
ground search, but aerial reconnaissance the following day noted
aircraft debris at the site.
In 1993, 1995 and 1997, three joint U.S./Cambodian teams developed leads
through interviews with local villagers and surveys of the crash site.
The informants noted that the crash site had been heavily scavenged and
that remains had been present at one time. Then in January 1998, a
joint team excavated the site where they found remains amid numerous
pieces of aircraft wreckage. Anthropological analysis of the remains and
other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory,
Hawaii confirmed the identification of all six of these servicemen.
With the accounting of these six, there are now 2,063 Americans
unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. Since the release of American
POWs in 1973, 520 MIAs from Southeast Asia have been accounted-for and
returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of
the governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's
Democratic Republic, and the Kingdom of Cambodia that resulted in the
accounting of these servicemen. We hope that such cooperation will
bring increased results in the future. Achieving the fullest possible
accounting for these Americans is of the highest national priority.
I am a cadet at the US Air Force Academy. Yesterday I attended the funerals
of Capts. Doug Martin and Sam James, 2 USAFA grads whose remains were
recently found in Cambodia and returned to the United States to be buried.
They were buried together in the same casket with the same headstone, just
as they were found "buried" together in their F-4 for the last 26 years. I
thought it was a great moment. There were over 300 people at the service
including many of the two deceased pilots' classmates from the Academy, as
well as many Vietnam vets and those who have still "not forgotten". Thank
you for your time.
C3C Jerimy D. Maclellan
Associated Press Newswires
Saturday, April 17, 1999
Relatives of airman doubt remains are his
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - The sister and parents of Capt. Samuel L.
James will not be at the Air Force Academy on Sunday to see his remains put
to rest after 26 years -- because they doubt the remains are his......