|Name:||.James Christof Becker|
|Rank/Branch:||First Lieutenant/US Army|
Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion,
16th Aviation Group, 23rd Infantry Division (Americal)
|Date of Birth:||18 April 1944 (Oxford, NE)|
|Home of Record:||Palestine, TX|
|Date of Loss:||15 August 1970|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
|Loss Coordinates:|| 154943N 1070111E (YC509163)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Peter A. Schmidt (missing); Michael D. Crist; Raymond W. Anderson (both rescued)|
On 15 August 1970, CW2 Raymond W. Anderson, aircraft commander, 1st Lt. James C. Becker, pilot, SP4 Michael D. Crist, crewchief, and SP4 Peter A. Schmidt, door gunner comprised the crew of a UH1H helicopter (tail number 69-15375) on a reconnaissance team extraction mission approximately 4 miles from the Lao/Vietnamese border and 1 mile north of Dokchung, Xekong Province, Laos. Because of the extremely rugged, jungle-covered mountains in the planned extraction area, the reconnaissance team was to be lifted out. The helicopter hovered 50 feet over the pickup zone and dropped the ladder from the right side of the aircraft and the five team members climbed onto it. With the men clinging to the ladder, the helicopter climbed to an altitude of 100 feet before it began receiving enemy small arms fire. The reconnaissance team members were stripped off the ladder by the trees as the helicopter crashed into the jungle.
CW2 Anderson checked 1st Lt. Becker and SP4 Schmidt, the two crewmen on the right side of the aircraft. 1st Lt. Becker was upright in his seat; however, it appeared his head had jammed into the overhead instrument panel from the force of the impact. His helmet was gone, he had sustained extensive head wounds that were bleeding profusely and there was blood collecting on the floor. CW2 Anderson stated that James Becker did not appear to be breathing.
Raymond Anderson then checked Peter Schmidt who was trapped in the right gunnel. While he noted no blood on SP4 Schmidt, the aircraft commander could not determine if the door gunner was breathing or not. A few minutes later SP4 Crist checked SP4 Schmidt. The crewchief noticed that he was breathing in short gasps and was now losing a great deal of blood. Michael Crist had dislocated his collarbone during the crash and Raymond Anderson was equally shaken up in the landing. By working together, they attempted to free Peter Schmidt and James Becker from the wreckage, but were unable to do so.
CW2 Anderson and SP4 Crist then made their way to the pickup zone and were extracted by a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter. Because of the difficult terrain and the enemy presence in the area, no attempts were made to return to recover 1st Lt. Becker and SP4 Schmidt. Both men were immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not recovered.
The fate of the reconnaissance team members who were stripped off the ladder remains unknown. They were either recovered alive or dead after the incident, made their own way to safety, or were indigenous personnel whose fates were not noted in American records.
James Backer and Peter Schmidt are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.
While the fate of 1Lt. Becker and SP4 Schmidt is in little doubt, they have the right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate 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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances both on and off duty, 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.