Name: James Richard Thomas
Rank/Branch: E6/US Air Force
Unit: 37th ARRSQ / Pararescue, Da Nang
Date of Birth: 05 July 1943
Home City of Record: Ft. Walton Beach FL
Date of Loss: 25 November 1971
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 103800N 1064800E (XS953730)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 3
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: HH53C
Refno: 1780
Other Personnel In Incident: none missing

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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.


SYNOPSIS: Jim Thomas joined the Air Force when he was 18 and was assigned
duty as an aircraft mechanic. While he was stationed in Hawaii, he was able
to train for pararescue, and subsequently assigned to a pararescue Squadron
at Da Nang, Vietnam.

On November 25, 1971, while on a TDY assignment, Jim was on a rescue mission
which successfully retrieved 13 soldiers whose helicopter had been shot
down. Jim's chopper took ground fire during the rescue, and the crew stopped
at a forward base camp to make sure the chopper was safe to fly. The
soldiers got off at that time.

On the flight back to its home base at Bien Hoa, the chopper took more fire
and the pilot was hit. It began a slow descent and impacted in a river,
breaking in two. Three crew members were found dead. The two crew members
standing next to Jim both got out and were recovered by friendly forces. A
local fisherman who saw the crash said a third man, wearing a white t-shirt,
also escaped. Jim was the only one wearing a white t-shirt. One side of the
river was controlled by friendly forces, and the other by enemy troops.

When American Prisoners of War were released in 1973, Jim Thomas was not
among them. He remains unaccounted for.

Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports have been received concerning
Americans still in captivity in Southeast Asia, but the U.S. has been unable
to secure freedom for any of those who remain.

On November 25, 1998, Jim's wife, Julie, passed away. Her friends said "she
died of a broken heart." Julie never knew the fate of her husband, and left
three daughters, Kimmie, Lisa and Symphony to carry on the fight.




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On November 25, 1971, an HH-53C Jolly Green Giant (tail number 68-10366, call sign "Jolly Green 70") with six crew members participated in a rescue mission for survivors of a helicopter crash in South Vietnam. While picking up the survivors, the helicopter took some battle damage, but soon dropped off the survivors and determined the damage to be superficial and non-critical. "Jolly Green 70" then took off with another helicopter to return to base. The aircraft soon encountered a very heavy rain shower, and after flying in the downpour for several minutes "Jolly Green 70" began to descend and crashed into the Song Nha Be River. The helicopter flipped over and broke apart on impact, sinking near several Vietnamese fishing boats. Two men survived the crash and were picked up a short time after. Divers recovered the remains of three other crew members who died in the crash during searches in the following days. The sixth crew member, however, could not be located following the incident. 

Staff Sergeant (SSgt) James Richard Thomas entered the U.S. Air Force from Florida and served in the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. He was a pararescueman aboard "Jolly Green 70" and is the crew member whose remains were not recovered following the incident. Further attempts to locate them were unsuccessful. After the incident, the Air Force promoted SSgt Thomas to Technical Sergeant.  Today, Technical Sergeant Thomas is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Non-recoverable.

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