WIDDIS, JAMES WESLEY JR. REMAINS IDENTIFIED 10/30/96 AIR FORCE LT. COL. JAMES W. WIDDIS OF NEWARK, N.J.; AIR FORCE MAJ. ROBERT C. DAVIS OF BURLINGTON, N.J.; LOST MARCH 23, 1969 - LAOS. JOINT FIELD ACTIVITIES IN 1994 AND 1995 RESULTED IN THE RECOVERY OF "AIRCRAFT WRECKAGE AND HUMAN REMAINS. THE REMAINS OF DAVIS WERE INDIVIDUALLY IDENTIFIED AND REMAINS OF BOTH MEN WERE INCLUDED IN A GROUP REMAINS IDENTIFICATION. MITOCHONDRIAL DNA TESTING AIDED IN CONFIRMING THE IDENTIFICATION OF DAVIS." DEFENSE POW/MIA WEEKLY UPDATE - OCTOBER 30, 1996 Name: James Wesley Widdis, Jr. Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: 609th Special Operations Squadron Date of Birth: 03 July 1939 Home City of Record: Newark NJ Date of Loss: 23 March 1969 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 170900N 1055200E (WD910980) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A26A Refno: 1413 Other Personnel in Incident: Robert C. Davis (missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 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. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: The Ban Karai Pass was one of several passes through the mountainous border of Vietnam and Laos. U.S. aircraft through them regularly, and many aircraft were lost. On the Laos side of the border coursed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail", a road heavily traveled by North Vietnamese troops moving materiel and personnel to their destinations through the relative safety of neutral Laos. The return ratio of men lost in and around the passes is far lower than that of those men lost in more populous areas, even though both were shot down by the same enemy and the same weapons. This is partly due to the extremely rugged terrain and resulting difficulty in recovery. The Douglas A26 was a twin-engine attack bomber with World War II service. In Vietnam, it served the French in the 1950's and also the U.S. in the early years of American involvement in Southeast Asia. In 1966, eight A26s were deployed to Nakhon Phanom (NKP) to perform hunter-killer missions against truck convoys in southern Laos. Some of these A26s were assigned to the 609th Special Operations Squadron at NKP. On March 23, 1969, an A26A departed NKP on a combat mission with a crew consisting of Capt. James W. Widdis Jr., pilot, and Capt. Robert C. Davis, navigator. As the two were about 15 miles west of the Ban Karai Pass, the aircraft was struck by hostile fire. No parachutes were seen and no beepers were heard, but the opportunity existed for the two to safely eject, and they were listed missing in action. Davis was determined presumed dead in 1975, and Widdis in 1978. During the period they were listed missing, Widdis was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and Davis to Major. Davis and Widdis are among nearly 2500 Americans who remain missing in Indochina. Unlike "MIAs" from other wars, most of these men can be accounted for. Tragically, over 10,000 reports concerning Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. since the end of the war. Experts say that the evidence is overwhelming that Americans were left behind in enemy hands. Widdis and Davis could be among them.