McELVAIN, JAMES RICHARD Name: James Richard McElvain Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 23 March 1939 Home City of Record: LaVerne CA Date of Loss: 18 December 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 201700N 1063600E (XH635434) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F111 Refno: 1952 Other Personnel In Incident: Ronald J. Ward (missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, including "Linebacker" by Karl J. Eschmann. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated air offensive of the war - known as Linebacker II - in December 1972. During the offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings," 40,000 tons of bombs were dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only when all U.S. POWs were released and an internationally recognized cease-fire was in force. On the first day of Linebacker II, December 18, 129 B52s arrived over Hanoi in three waves, four to five hours apart. They attacked the airfields at Hoa Lac, Kep and Phuc Yen, the Kinh No complex and the Yen Vien railyards. The aircraft flew in tight cells of three to maximize the mutual support benefits of their ECM equipment and flew straight and level to stabilize the bombing computers and ensure that all bombs fell on the military targets and not in civilian areas. Protecting their flight were fighter jets, both serving as SAM suppression, ECM protection, and laying a chaff corridor for the B52s. The pilots of the early missions reported that "wall-to-wall SAMS" surrounded Hanoi as they neared its outskirts. On the first night of bombing, December 18, only one TACAIR aircraft was lost. The F111 flown by LtCol. Ronald J. Ward and co-pilot Maj. James R. McElvain was scheduled to strike the Hanoi International Radio Communication (RADCOM) Transmitter at 0853 hours, Hanoi time. The last radio call contact was received by an orbiting Moonbeam C130 command and control aircraft at 0854 hours after bomb release on the target. No trace was ever found of the aircraft, and both Ward and McElvain were declared Missing in Action. The Christmas Bombings, despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the most precise the world had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of strikes generally agree that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic targets was so successful that the U.S. "could have taken the entire country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in Hanoi and marching it southward." To achieve this precision bombing, the Pentagon deemed it necessary to maintain a regular flight path. For many missions, the predictable B52 strikes were anticipated and prepared for by the North Vietnamese. Later, however, flight paths were altered and attrition all but eliminated any hostile threat from the ground. The survival rate of the B52 crews downed during the Christmas bombings was surprisingly high, and many were released in 1973. Many others were known to survive the crash of the aircraft, only to disappear. The fate of Ward and McElvain is uncertain. Reports mount that have convinced many authorities that Americans are still held captive in Southeast Asia. There is every reason to believe some of the men lost during the December 1972 bombings could be among those still alive today. It's time we found them and brought them home.