JACKSON, JAMES WESLEY JR "JIMMY"

Name: James Wesley "Jimmy" Jackson, Jr. 
Rank/Branch: Gunnery Sergeant/US Marine Corps 
Unit: Company L, 3rd Battalion, 
4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division 
Date of Birth: 26 February 1948 (Atlanta, GA)
Home of Record: Atlanta, GA
Date of Loss: 21 September 1969 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 164310N 1071200E (YD340510) 
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground 
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  On Sunday, 21 September 1969, then LCpl. Jackson had been in Vietnam five months serving as a rifleman in Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division when he seems to have simply vanished. He was a rifleman stationed on a remote hilltop outpost known as Fire Support Base Russell. It was located in northern I Corps, northwest of the Rockpile near the DMZ, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. This base had been the scene of fierce, deadly fighting over the previous year, and Fire Support Base Russell was being abandoned.

21 September was to be its last day in friendly hands. Demolition charges were being wired to blow the bunkers and trench lines, and excess powder bags for the 105mm artillery pieces were being dumped in a pit to be burned. At some point during this process, one of the unit's two Bru scouts is believed to have thrown a lit cigarette into a pit containing the powder bags. The resulting fire touched off a series of explosions that scattered burning ammunition all over the top of the hill. The two Bru scouts were killed instantly. Two Marines, both badly burned, also died. Fifteen others, including Jimmy Jackson, were wounded.

HM3 Lannie Gary, a Navy Corpsman assigned the fire support base, clearly remembers finding LCpl. Jackson sitting alone and dazed on the side of the hill with his elbows on his knees. A small piece of shrapnel had struck him in the back. The wound did not appear to be serious since it was about the size of the Corpsman's fingernail. However, there was no way to know for sure because HM3 Gary could not tell how deep the wound was just by looking at it. HM3 Gary placed a thick gauze battle dressing on Jackson's wound and tied the loose ends around his chest.

All the wounded Marines were gathered at a landing zone (LZ) below the crest of the hill away from the fires and explosions. When the CH46 Sea Knight medivac helicopters arrived, Jimmy Jackson was one of the last men to be evacuated. His platoon sergeant and the company radio operator carried Jackson onto the medivac. HM3 Gary was on the same helicopter where he tended the wounded during the 15-minute flight to the Quang Tri Hospital. After the medevac helicopter landed, two Corpsmen from the hospital lifted LCpl. Jackson to his feet, and with a Corpsman holding each arm, helped him to walk slowly out of the back of the aircraft and into the triage room at 3rd Medical Battalion. The last time LCpl. Jackson was seen by anyone was when HM3 Gary saw his patients, including Jimmy Jackson, being assisted around the blast barrier and into the emergency room of the hospital.

It was six weeks before the Marine Corps discovered LCpl. Jackson was missing. In fact, the search was not initiated for the missing Marine until his parents and friends became alarmed because they had not heard from him for weeks and they began calling and writing Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC. Up until then his parents thought he was with his unit. His unit thought he was in the hospital, but the hospital had no record of him being treated or admitted, so it had no reason to look for him.

The inquiry showed he was not with his unit, not in the hospital at Quang Tri, and not on the hospital ship USS REPOSE. He was no where to be found in Vietnam. The search was hindered by several factors, not the least of which was that the 4th Marines were in the process of being reassigned to Okinawa, Japan.

After a thorough search by the military Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the FBI and the Marine Corps, an Article 32 investigation, the military equivalent of a grand jury probe, was ordered to investigate Jimmy Jackson's loss. For two months the Board of Inquiry interviewed dozens of witnesses and brought in records from his unit. On 10 January 1970, the Board of Inquiry issued its report. It stated that "LCpl Jackson had simply vanished without explanation." In the same report, the board made it clear that at no time was LCpl. Jimmy Jackson's honor ever questioned.

His mother summed it up quite accurately when she stated: "The Marine Corps lost my son. I had prepared myself for the possibility my son might die in Vietnam. I was ready for him to be wounded or captured, or any of the things you expect in war because I was the mother of a Marine. But I wasn't ready for him to be lost without any explanation, and that's just what happened."

The circumstances surrounding LCpl. Jackson's disappearance is truly a mystery. Further, it is unique because he was not lost in the jungle while on patrol or in a helicopter or airplane that crashed or was shot down. He was not part of any special unit on a clandestine mission, nor did he wander off into the seamier sections of Saigon or DaNang. He simply walked into a hospital in the middle of the Quang Tri Combat Base and vanished from the face of the earth. Institutionally, this case is an embarrassment to the Marine Corps since they pride themselves on taking care of their own. Further, it is a case that defies all logic and reality.

LCpl. Jimmy Jackson was simply lost by the US military. If he is dead, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, by the very nature of his loss, he could have been captured by enemy forces operating clandestinely within the area of the hospital without the Marine Corps ever knowing it. If so, his fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, 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 military personnel were called upon to fly and fight 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 - or lost - by the country they so proudly served.