WIDDIS, JAMES WESLEY JR.
REMAINS IDENTIFIED 10/30/96
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
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.
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
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
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