Name:  James Russell McQuade
Rank/Branch: Specialist Fourth Class/US Army 
Unit:  Troop F, 8th Cavalry, 
11th Aviation Group, 
1st Aviation Brigade 

Date of Birth: 03 June 1949 (Pasco, WA)
Home of Record: Hoquiam, WA
Date of Loss: 11 June 1972
Country of Loss:  South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  162336N 1072357E (YD562138)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  OH6A "Cayuse"
Other Personnel in Incident: James E. Hackett (missing)


SYNOPSIS:   The Hughes OH6A Cayuse was known by the troops by its nickname "Loach" - a derivative of "light observation helicopter." The armed OH6A was the primary scout helicopter used in Vietnam and usually carried a crew of two. The pilot controlled a mini-gun and a gunner/crew chief handled a "free 60" machine gun, among other weapons, which was attached to the aircraft by a strap. The Loach crews flew the most dangerous missions assigned to Army aviators because they flew low and usually slow enough to get a good look at the ground making them easy targets for the enemy.

In March 1972, the communists launched a three-pronged invasion of South Vietnam. One NVA force swept south across the demilitarized zone (DMZ), its goal to capture the northern provinces along with the city of Hue. A second NVA force drove south through Laos, then east into the Central Highlands. The third force drove further south through Cambodia, then east into those provinces held by US and ARVN troops northwest of Saigon. Fierce and unrelenting fighting ensued on all three fronts, with NVA success being the greatest in those areas attacked immediately south of the DMZ. Continuous fighting lasted until June, at which time the North Vietnamese began consolidating their positions while still holding considerable amount of South Vietnamese territory.

On 11 June, 1972, 1st Lt. James R. McQuade, pilot; and SP4 James E. Hackett, gunner; comprised the crew of an OH6A helicopter (tail #67-16275) that departed Camp Eagle on a visual reconnaissance mission to search for signs of enemy activity around two landing zones (LZ's) being used to deploy ARVN troops into this hotly contested area. The Loach aircrews monitored the insertion in the jungle covered mountains approximately 10 miles southwest of Hue, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam; they also performed aerial reconnaissance of the surrounding terrain for enemy activity.

The aircrew of another OH6A crewed by Capt. Arnold E. Holm, Jr., pilot; PFC Wayne Bibbs, gunner; and SP4 Robin R. Yeakley, observer; discovered enemy living quarters, bunkers and numerous well established trails. Capt. Holm radioed their findings to all aircraft participating in the troop insertion as well as to headquarters. During its second attack pass over a ridgeline at an altitude of about 25 feet, the Loach was struck by enemy ground fire, exploded and burned. Other aircrews reported seeing Capt. Holm's aircraft fall from the sky. As it descended, they saw smoke and white phosphorous grenades carried on board the Loach explode. The OH6A exploded again when it impacted the ground. Other aircraft in the area also received heavy enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire as they attacked entrenched communist positions. None of the crew was seen to exit the downed helicopter, nor were any emergency radio beepers heard during the immediately initiated search and rescue (SAR) effort.

During the ensuing search for downed Loach, 1st Lt. McQuade tried to enter the crash site location. They were also struck by heavy, accurate AAA fire from the same guns that hit Capt. Holm's aircraft causing it to explode in the air and burn upon impact just to the northeast of the first aircraft's wreckage. The intensity of the aircraft fire caused white phosphorous and smoke grenades carried aboard to explode prior to it hitting the ground, and continue to burn on the jungle floor. Neither crewman was seen to leave the aircraft before or after the crash. Aerial searches continued until dark, but no sign of either missing crew could be detected. No ground search was possible because of the intense enemy presence throughout the region. Further, at the time SAR efforts were terminated, James McQuade and James Hackett were declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. The crew of the first aircraft was also listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

While James McQuade and James Hackett probably perished in the crash of their helicopter, they have the right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. For other Americans, their fate is less certain.

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.