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Name: James Lawrence Suydam
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army
Unit: Company A, 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade
Date of Birth: 04 October 1948 (Easton PA)
Home City of Record: Stephens City VA
Date of Loss: 09 October 1969
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 110546N 1070433E (YD267273)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1D
Other Personnel in Incident:
Jimmy R. Garbett; Raymond G. Moore; Dallas A. Driver; James H. Turner; (all missing). WO Kilbourne (the pilot - survived); unnamed crew chief, (survived immediate crash, later drowned - remains recovered); CW4 James W. Bailey (aircraft commander - remains recovered)


On October 9, 1969, a UH1H helicopter crew and passengers were attempting an extraction from a mined pickup zone in eastern Long Khanh Province, South Vietnam near the shores of the Song Dong Nai River.

During the extraction attempt, the helicopter's rotor blade struck trees, causing the loss of rotor RPM's and lift capability. The helicopter began losing altitude, turned right and headed west and downriver in an attempt to regain air speed. Shortly thereafter, the aircraft struck 15-20 feet of water in an almost level attitude, and sank on its left side in less than 10 seconds.

Immediate and continuous air and water searches, loudspeaker broadcasts, and phamplet distributions were conducted during the period of 9-15 October and 19-21 October, suspended October 16-18 only because of poor weather conditions. No recovery was made of any of those missing from the aircraft, but the remains of two personnel aboard were located and subsequently identified.

A LRRP swimmer trying to inspect the site had difficulty staying afloat even with a rope. The individual reported that equipment seen on the shore after the crash appeared to be alternately submerged and then reappear. It could not be determined at the time how many persons escaped the aircraft. One who was known to escape (unnamed in Army records) reported that he could not make it to shore and went under. Another survivor reported seeing him go down within 3-4 feet of him, but never saw him again. One of the individuals who was initially seen to survive, later drowned or was lost in the indicent.

The only survivor of the original crash was WO Kilbourne, the pilot. The two remains located were identified as the crew chief, who had survived the immediate crash, but later drowned. CW4 James W. Bailey, the aircraft commander, was lost and remains recovered.

The waters of the Song Dong Nai River were swift and treacherous. It is particularly tragic that men who survived an aircraft would drown trying to reach safety. Driver, Garbett, Moore and Turner were listed as Killed, Body Not Recovered. Since their remains were never found, they are listed with honor among the missing.

Unlike the crew of the UH1H, many of the cases of missing Americans in Southeast Asia have no clear resolution. Some were known to have been captives, but simply did not come home. Others were alive and well the last time they were seen. Reports continue to be received on some, specifically by name and location. Many authorities believe that there are hundreds still alive being held against their wills.

Although the U.S. has named the resolution of the POW/MIA issue of "highest national priority", little seems to have been done for those who wait for their country to secure their freedom.


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