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In Memory

James Kennedy (Missing In Action -Vietnam) - Class Of 1968

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KENNEDY, JAMES EDWARD Name: James Edward Kennedy Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army Unit: 57th Aviation Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group Date of Birth: 02 January 1950 (Woodbury, NJ) Home of Record: Pine Hill, NJ Date of Loss: 22 December 1969 Country of Loss: Cambodia Loss Coordinates: 152029N 1072941E (YA678975) Click coordinates to view maps Status in 1973: Missing in Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1C "Iroquois" Other Personnel In Incident: Donald D. Burris (missing); Timothy Purser and John Hunsicker (rescued) REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: By early 1967, the Bell UH1 Iroquois was already the standard Army assault helicopter, and was used in nearly every "in-country" mission. Better known by its nickname "Huey," the troop carriers were referred to as "slicks" and the gunships were called "Hogs." It proved itself to be a sturdy, versatile aircraft which was called on to carry out a wide variety of missions including search and rescue, close air support, insertion and extraction, fire support, and resupply to name a few. It usually carried a crew of four. On 22 December 1969, WO John H. Hunsicker, aircraft commander; WO Donald D. Burris Jr., pilot; SP5 Timothy A. Purser, crew chief; and then SP4 James E. Kennedy, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1C helicopter (tail #66-00587). The Huey was conducting a combat support mission in Cambodia when it developed mechanical problems. WO Hunsicker and WO Burris first attempted to nurse their crippled aircraft eastward toward the South Vietnamese border. When it became apparent it was no longer flyable, the air crew made an emergency Mayday call giving their location, then crash landed in the Huey in the heavily forested mountains of extreme eastern Cambodia. The location of loss was 1½ miles east of the Cambodian/South Vietnamese border, 5 miles south-southeast of the closest point on the Cambodian/Laos border and 18 miles south-southwest of the tri-border area where South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos meet. This location was also 25 miles southwest of Dak To and 36 miles west-northwest of Kontum. John Hunsicker and Donald Burris escaped through the left cargo door uninjured. They found Timothy Purser outside the aircraft with a broken arm. They looked for James Kennedy in the downed helicopter and the area immediately surrounding the aircraft wreckage, but could find no trace of him. Because the door gunner's position is located to one side of the main cargo compartment by an open door, they thought it possible he might have decided to jump from the descending aircraft as it gyrated to the ground, or he may have fallen out of it. Minutes after the helicopter landed, a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter arrived on site and lowered ropes, with McGuire rigs, through the dense jungle to the three survivors. Unfortunately, the downed aircrew had not been trained in the proper use of this equipment. After lift off, and only a few feet off the ground, SP5 Purser fell out of his rig. WO Burris and WO Hunsicker remained in their rigs as the rescue helicopter started toward Dak To. Five minutes into the flight, Donald Burris lost his grip on the rope and fell to the jungle floor below from an altitude of from 2,500 to 3,000 feet. The rescue helicopter continued on to the nearest landing zone (LZ) unaware of this latest accident. Another SAR team was inserted into the crash site a short time later to rescue SP5 Purser. The team also searched a 200-meter radius around the downed Huey for SP4 Kennedy, but again found no sign of him. The full SAR operation was initiated for the missing pilot and door gunner, but was discontinued on 25 December with negative results. At the time the formal search was terminated, James Kennedy was declared Missing in Action. No ground search was possible to look for WO Burris because of the hostile threat in the area and the lack of information to pinpoint his exact loss location. Because of the circumstances of loss, Donald Burris was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. There is little doubt that Donald Burris died as a result of his fall of 2,500 to 3,000 feet. He has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. However, for James Kennedy who might easily have survived his loss only to have been captured by enemy forces known to be operating in this region, his fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY. Pilots and aircrews were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.

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11/26/08 04:27 PM #1    

Elaine Krantz (Ratliff ) (1969)

Jimmy was my cousin. I truly miss him. He was in the class one year ahead of me. He was not only my cousin, but a great friend. I have many many happy memories of our childhood; unfortunately they ended way too soon. I miss him and think about him all the time. I don't think I will ever get over losing him.

Elaine Krantz Ratliff

12/02/08 10:20 AM #2    

Elizabeth Nelson (Kligge) (1968)

Jimmy lived in my neighborhood growing up and he was a friend of my ex-husband, Charlie Reichmann. I remember the day the call came that he was missing....it was a very sad surreal moment. After all these years I still think about Jimmy.

12/07/08 01:19 PM #3    

Lynn Venuti (Kirk) (1970)

Jimmy was one of the kindest guys I knew. I was a gawky,awkward kind kid in Junior High when I developed a major crush on Jimmy. We were in band together. He always talked to me when we saw each other in the halls and such, but never lead me on or made fun of me. He was just a nice guy. As an adult, I realize how special and mature he was in his tolerance and understanding. My son has a very smilar demeanor and I am so proud of him for the way he treats others. Jimmy is still missed and wouldn't it have been nice if he could have been with us in October when we celebrated our years together in high school and shared stories about those memories and what we've accomplished in the years since?

Lynn Venuti Kirk

09/07/14 11:04 PM #4    

William Morgan (1968)

Jim was on my Pine Hill Pony League (age 13 and 14) baseball team.  He was a Catcher and often caught when I pitched.  He was a good athlete and a very nice guy.  It hurt when I first found out he was Missing in Action.  His name was the first I looked for when visiting the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC.  I always think of him first when thinking of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  Thank You Jim !

09/08/14 07:39 PM #5    

Ed Menold (1968)

Jim and I played in the band togetherm ran track together, and even played in a small band a few times we formed with Ken Kling and a few others.  I went all through school with Jim's wife, and the conversations we had after the report left no doubt in mind, how much he was loved and missed by all who knew him.  RIP.

10/13/16 03:03 PM #6    

Susan Morgan (DeFrance) (1973)

Jim was a friend of my brother a really nice kid.

My memory is one of a very yong girl. I remember it in a Dick, Jane and Sally kind of fog... My mom made my brother take me with him to play one day. Billy, Artie Jamieson & Jimmy met us at the Joey Green field.  The boys talked about hunting frogs with bows & arrows.  I made noises & stomped thru the woods (where the John Glenn School is now) trying my best to scare away ANY frogs.  My brother had just about enough of me and he picked me up and put me on a tree branch while they went off.  I cried.  Jimmy came back & took me down out of the tree.  He stayed with me until the others returned.  I dont have any ending to the story, really.  I guess Jimmy had made the ending nice enough for me.

I loved him, as much as I knew him.  I was kind of a hippie (we said "freak") in school, so when he went missing it made a BIG impact on me. I think of him FIRST on every memorial day.  God Bless you, Jimmy.

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