KETTERER, JAMES ALAN
Name: James Alan Ketterer
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang
Date of Birth: 18 December 1942
Home City of Record: Milwaukee WI
Date of Loss: 20 January 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 174000N 1062900E (XE573537)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Tilden S. Holley (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance of
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 2020.
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served
a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and
electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2),
and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission
type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and
high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art
electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing
capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest"
Capt. Tilden S. Holley was the pilot of an F4C in a flight of two aircraft
dispatched from Da Nang on a night armed reconnaissance mission over North
Vietnam. An armed reconnaissance mission's purpose was to seek out enemy
targets and strike them. Holley's backseater on the mission was 1Lt. James
A. Ketterer, whose responsibility was to operate the bombing equipment and
other technical equipment onboard the aircraft.
While striking a target near the city of Quang Khe in Quang Binh Province,
North Vietnam, flight members observed an orange streak of light through the
clouds while Holley's aircraft was making passes over the target. A brief
beeper was heard after the light was seen, but no radio transmissions were
received and no parachutes were observed. Evidently, the aircraft had been
hit by enemy fire.
Even though the Air Force states that no parachutes were seen, and no
emergency radio beepers were heard, subsequent information is included in
the Defense Department raw data which may reveal the fates of Ketterer and
Holley. The DIA notation on Holley's incident indicates that he successfully
ejected from the aircraft, but was killed in a shootout with enemy troops in
the area. Ketterer's DIA remarks simply state he is dead, and list the
report code numbers.
Because these men were not found presumptively dead until 1978, it must be
concluded that the DIA reports relating to the two were not confirmed. If
they had been confirmed reports, these two men would have had timely status
changes to Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered. The possibility exists,
therefore, that the two did not die at the point they reached the ground.
The possibility exists, also, that the two were captured alive.
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
All the information on Holley, Ketterer, and hundreds of other Americans is
not yet in. As long as reports continue to be received, the hope that some
of them are still alive will persist. Until Vietnam is totally forthcoming
with information -- or live prisoners -- and until the U.S. makes the return
of these men a priority item, there can be no end to the war. It's time we
brought our men home.