Name: James Edward Duncan 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant First Class/US Army 
Unit: Advisory Team 21, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam 22nd ARVN Ranger Battalion 
Date of Birth: 11 July 1940 (Mason County, WV)
Home of Record: Pleasant Point, WV
Date of Loss: 03 March 1971 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 143351N 1073619E (YB807116)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: Orie J. Dubbeld (missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  On 3 March 1971 1Lt. Orie J. Dubbeld and SFC James E. Duncan were serving as advisors to the 22nd ARVN Ranger Battalion. The unit they were advising was conducting a reinforced search and destroy mission. The area in which they were operating consisted of the rolling hills covered in tall elephant grass and small patches of trees southeast of an area frequently referred to as the "Parrot's Beak" in the tri-border region of Southeast Asia where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia meet. During the mission, their unit came under a heavy and accurate small arms and mortar attack from a concealed enemy force of unknown size. Orie Dubbeld and James Duncan rapidly took shelter in a depression they used for a foxhole.

During the ensuing firefight, an enemy mortar round landed directly in the foxhole where 1st Lt. Dubbeld and SFC Duncan were located. An ARVN medical officer immediately moved to the foxhole to examine both Americans. He stated that Orie Dubbeld was killed instantly and that James Duncan died a few minutes later. After confirming their deaths, the medical officer continued moving to other locations within the ARVN Ranger's perimeter identifying other dead and treating the wounded.

Later in the chaos of battle, the ARVN commander determined their position was no longer tenable. Under intense fire, he ordered the surviving patrol to pull back. The Rangers attempted to carry the bodies of their dead and wounded with them, however, the fighting was so intense they found it was necessary to bury their dead in shallow graves before breaking contact with the advancing communist force. The gravesites were located less then a mile north of Highway 511, approximately 5 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border, 10 miles south-southeast of the tri-border point where the three countries meet and 11 miles southwest of Dak To, Kontum Province, South Vietnam.

During the unit's after action debriefing, the ARVN medical officer confirmed that the mortar shell that struck their position killed 1st Lt. Dubbeld and SFC Duncan. He, as well as other surviving members of the patrol, gave specific information about the location of where the American and ARVN soldiers were buried. Due to the continuing heavy communist presence in the area, no ground search and recovery (SAR) operation was possible. At the time of loss, Orie Dubbeld and James Duncan were immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

While the fate of 1st Lt. Dubbeld and SFC Duncan is not in doubt, each man has a right to have his remains returned to their family, friends and country. Above all else, they have the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which they gave their lives.

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.

American servicemen in Vietnam were called upon to operate 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.