JAMES EDWARD GEORGE JR.
The 101st Airborne Division had a new battalion just outside of Quang Tri City. "Charlie" was everywhere around the city. Radio contact was yet to be established with logistics and a single band radio needed to be delivered there ASAP. Colonel Pen Purcell was the executive commander of the 80th General Support Group and deputy commander of the Da Nang Sub-Area Command and decided to hand carry the radio on their way to Dong Ha to check on other troops.
Warrant Officer Joe Rose was flying the UH-1 "Huey" and Warrant Officer Dick Ziegler was his copilot. The crew chief was SP/4 Robert Chenoweth, and SP/4 Mike Lenker was the door gunner. PFC James E. George, a refrigeration mechanic from Purcell's command, sat in the jump seat.
Purcell handed the radio he had come to deliver to Capt. Drake. Private George, the refrigeration mechanic, hurried over to repair a disabled refrigeration truck, which was his mission on this trip.
Captain Drake and his communication sergeant got in their jeep and drove off. As Purcell started back toward the helicopter, he saw that the two pilots and Chenoweth had a panel raised and were looking at something.
One of the radios was out and they could not fly back up through the overcast skies without it. They had to cancel the rest of the trip up to Dong Ha.
Rose turned the helicopter toward the southeast and headed toward the coast. They were flying about three hundred feet or so above the ground - not high enough to be out of range of small-arms fire.
Suddenly Warrant Officer Ziegler turned toward Purcell and shouted, "We're being fired on!" His next message was, "We're on fire!"
The helicopter gave a sudden lurch and then the inside flared brightly with an orange light. Only seconds after the first round hit, the fire was already hot just forward of the transmission housing in the center of the passenger compartment of the helicopter. Private George and Col. Purcell were sitting on the outside seats as far away from the heat as it was possible to be.
The helicopter made a sweeping turn to the right and toward the ground trailing fire and smoke. Rose fought to control the helicopter and to land it as quickly as possible.
The helicopter hit hard and the tips of the rotor blades dug into the ground and broke as they struck a large granite monument. The helicopter was ripped to shreds by the ground impact and the flailing rotor blades.
George, Chenoweth, Lenker, and Purcell loosened their seat belts and jumped out, but the pilot and copilot couldn't get out through their respective doors. They were trapped in their seats by the "chicken plates," as the aircrews humorously called the armor shields installed between them and their doors. The door gunner ran to the front doors and slid the panels back so Rose and Mr. Ziegler could get out. By the time he opened their doors, though, the pilots had already butted their way through the windshield.
Ziegler was hit in the leg. George ran back to the ship to recover his M-14 rifle, which was lying on the floor between the pilots' seats. He drove right into the middle of the flames and the fire engulfed him instantly. Lenker and Purcell had to reach in and drag him out. Flames had licked at George's hands and face, and his skin there was hanging in strips.
Lenker and Purcell had a hold of George and they half-carried and half dragged the badly burned young soldier away from the burning helicopter. Ziegler was limping badly, his leg was bleeding, and George was in great pain and groaning softly.
Soon after, the crew was surrounded by twelve Viet Cong. Realizing they had no chance to fight with few weapons and ammunition, the crew surrendered.
As the VC forced them to move, the injured George asked Ben Purcell to pray. The VC soon put an end to the prayers -- Purcell was forced to move off and a shot was heard. James E. George was believed executed that day. His remains have never been found.
In 1992, Ben and Anne Purcell wrote a love story entitled "LOVE & DUTY" -- the remarkable story of a courageous MIA family and the victory they won with their faith. This short biography was written with information from their book.
Until 1997 - this was the only information available:
An American releasee reported during his debriefing on March 30, 1973, that SP4 George was with him and others the day after Georges capture. The group was being marched, presumably north, although the destination is not clear. The releasee stated that George could not keep up with the group and he was pulled from the group. Later a shot was heard from the direction George had been taken. The releasee believed that the guards had executed George.
Several returned POWs identified George as having been a prisoner of war, and 1980 adjusted his records adjusted accordingly. He had been carried as Missing in Action until it was clear that he had been captured.
Although George was confirmed to be an American POW, the Vietnamese deny any knowledge of him, and have not returned his remains. He is one of nearly 2500 Americans still missing, prisoner or unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
Unfortunately, thousands of reports have been received regarding the men missing in Southeast Asia. Most authorities agree that many are alive. Presidents Reagan and Bush have both pledged to take necessary action to free them if confirmed "proof" is found, but distracters say that proof is in hand, but the willingness to act is missing.
As long as one American remains prisoner in Southeast Asia, the war cannot be considered over. Future generations of American fighting men who keep the faith with their country must know that their country will do everything to keep the faith with them. These men must be brought home.