Name: James Vernon “Jim” Dawson  
Rank/Branch: Captain/United States Air Force
Unit: 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 31st Tactical Fighter Wing
Tuy Hoa Airbase, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 16 February 1940
Home of Record: Ashland, KY
Date of Loss: 16 July 1969
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 130401N 1092059E (CQ211450)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F100D “Super Sabre
Other Personnel In Incident: (None Missing)


SYNOPSIS: The North American F100 Super Sabre, nicknamed “Hun,” was a single seat jet fighter that first came into service during the Korean War. During the Gulf of Tonkin Crises, which catapulted the United States head long into the Vietnam War, the first Air Force F100 squadrons were sent to DaNang, South Vietnam in August 1964. Interestingly, during both wars, the Hun’s most valuable uses were in close air support for ground troops, and as a principle strike aircraft because it could deliver its ordnance on target at treetop level at full speed.

On 16 July 1969, Capt. James V. “Jim” Dawson was the pilot of the number two aircraft (serial #56-3420), call sign “Elect 62,” in a flight of two that departed Tuy Hoa Airbase to conduct a routine combat mission. All aspects of the flight progressed normally and uneventfully until they returned to base.

At 1218 hours, Elect Lead landed from the southwest to northeast with Elect 62 in trail. During his final approach, Capt. Dawson overshot the runway and was instructed by the Runway Control Officer to go around for another try. He did not acknowledge the command; however, the RCO and others on the flight line reported that Jim Dawson appeared to apply power to his Super Sabre as he continued toward the northeast. Shortly thereafter, the RCO saw the canopy come off and the ejection seat fire as the aircraft rolled to the right with its nose low. At this time the aircraft was nearly one mile from the end of the runway and at an altitude estimated to be 300 feet above the South China Sea. Capt. Dawson’s parachute did not have enough time to deploy and it is questionable as to whether or not there was time for the pilot to separate from the ejection seat before hitting the water.

An Army helicopter was onsite within seconds and Air Force search and rescue (SAR) helicopters as well as two Navy Swift Boats were there within minutes. The extensive search continued until dark on the day of loss, resumed the next day at dawn and continued until 1600 hours. Recovery personnel described the current at the scene as “swift and heading out to sea".

Navy personnel used electronic sonar equipment to locate the wreckage in the roughly 80-foot deep water. Swift Boat PCF-73 and PCF-91 provided dive platforms for Air Force scuba divers who conducted the underwater search operation for Jim Dawson as well as for the salvage operation for the recovery of the aircraft’s wreckage. During the savage portion of the mission, the wings, tail, engine, canopy and most of the fuselage were recovered, but nothing of the pilot or the ejection seat was found. At the time the SAR operation was terminated, Jim Dawson was declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

The fate of Jim Dawson is not in doubt and the hard reality is there is virtually no chance of ever recovering his remains. Above all else, he has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life. 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 POWs 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.

James V. Dawson graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1963.