Remains Identified 10/30/2001

Name: James Atlee Wheeler
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: (unknown, per USAF)
Date of Birth: 10 February 1933
Home City of Record: Tucson AZ
Date of Loss: 18  April 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 1002921N 1045451E (VX906594)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A1E
Refno: 0075
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 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 2020.


SYNOPSIS: The Douglas A1 Skyraider ("Spad") is a highly maneuverable,
propeller driven aircraft designed as a multipurpose attack bomber or
utility aircraft. The A1 was first used by the Air Force in its Tactical Air
Command to equip the first Air Commando Group engaged in counterinsurgency
operations in South Vietnam. The aircraft was retired in the spring of 1968
and had flown in more than twenty model variations, probably more than any
other U.S. combat aircraft.

Capt. James A. Wheeler was the pilot of an A1E assigned an interdiction
mission about 10 miles south of Tinh Bien in South Vietnam on April 18,
1965. The target area, very close to the Cambodian border, was in Chau Doc
Province. During Wheeler's dive bombing attack, his aircraft was seen to
release a fragmentation bomb which detonated immediately. The aircraft dived
straight into the ground trailing fuel and smoke and exploded on impact. It
was determined that Wheeler could not have survived.

James A. Wheeler is listed among the missing because his remains were never
recovered. Others who are missing do not have such clear-cut cases. Some
were known captives; some were photographed as they were led by their
guards. Some were in radio contact with search teams, while others simply

Since the war ended, over 250,000 interviews have been conducted with those
who claim to know about Americans still alive in Southeast Asia, and several
million documents have been studied. U.S. Government experts cannot seem to
agree whether Americans are there alive or not. Detractors say it would be
far too politically difficult to bring the men they believe to be alive
home, and the U.S. is content to negotiate for remains.

Well over 1000 first-hand, eye-witness reports of American prisoners still
alive in Southeast Asia have been received by 1990. Most of them are still
classified. If, as the U.S. seems to believe, the men are all dead, why the
secrecy after so many years? If the men are alive, why are they not home?


havasunews 04/11/02

After nearly 37 years, Arizona's first pilot lost in
South Vietnam will receive proper burial

The first Arizona pilot lost in South Vietnam is finally coming home.

Capt. James A. Wheeler - honored with a park in the heart of Lake Havasu
City's downtown area - crashed April 18,1965, while flying a strike mission
over enemy targets in Chau Doc Province. Other Air Force pilots watched as
his A-1E Skyraider suddenly dived, crashed and exploded. He was 32 years



Taps - 37 years later
Ex-Tucsonan Capt. James A. Wheeler was shot down in '65

Tucson Citizen
June 10, 2002

Thirty-seven years after he died when his aircraft was shot down over South
Vietnam, Air Force Capt. James A. Wheeler has been laid to rest at home.

Wheeler was buried with military honors Saturday morning at South Lawn
Cemetery, near the neighborhood where he grew up. As more than 100 people
watched under a hot late-morning sun, A-10 aircraft from Davis-Monthan Air
Force Base staged a flyover of the grave site in honor of the fallen





Return to Service Member Profiles

On August 21, 2001, Joint Task Force–Full Accounting (JTF-FA, now DPAA) identified the remains of Captain James Atlee Wheeler, missing from the Vietnam War.

Captain Wheeler entered the U.S. Air Force from Arizona and was a member of the 1st Air Commando Squadron. On April 18, 1965, he piloted an A-1E Skyraider (tail number 52-132601) that took off from Pleiku Airfield, South Vietnam, on a combat mission over Chau Doc Province, South Vietnam. While over the target area, the aircraft was damaged by the blast from one of its own bombs; it crashed and Capt Wheeler was killed in the incident. The active enemy presence prevented the recovery of Capt Wheeler's remains at the time of his loss. In 1998, a joint U.S./Vietnamese team visited the crash site and recovered remains that U.S. analysts eventually identified as those of Capt Wheeler.

Captain Wheeler is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

If you are a family member of this serviceman, you may contact your casualty office representative to learn more about your service member.