Name: James Reed Johnson   
Rank/Branch: Private First Class/US Army 
Unit: Troop B, 1st Squadron, 
9th Cavalry, 
1st Cavalry Division 
Date of Birth: 26 March 1948 
Home of Record: Indianapolis, IN
Date of Loss: 21 August 1966 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 133730N 1073505E( YA 793 098)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos and Cambodia for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

On 21 August 1966, PFC James R. Johnson was assigned as a rifleman in Troop B, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. His unit was conducting a reconnaissance mission through dense jungle to the north of their location. Mountain foothills rose up and paralleled their position just to the south as they moved along the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border. Their mission was to locate enemy activity infiltrating across the border in this hotly contested region of Pleiku Province, South Vietnam.

This sector was heavily populated and had two primary roads running generally north/south. They intersected one another, with one running west into Cambodia while the other continued to the southeast. The Ia Drang River also split into two branches with each branch paralleling and running close to each of the roads. The road and river running west into Cambodia is where Troop B attempted to cross the Ia Drang River by means of a rope bridge at grid coordinates YA 796 075.

This river's current was swift and treacherous. The water was also very muddy with jungle growth flourishing along both banks. Tree limbs and vines overhung the river's edge. As PFC Johnson was crossing the rope bridge, he lost his footing and accidentally fell into the fast moving river. Other members of the patrol immediately initiated rescue procedures, but they were unable to reach him. The location of loss was approximately 10 miles south of Thang Duc and 57 miles south-southwest of Kontum City.

PFC Johnson disappeared from sight well downstream from the bridge. The other members of the patrol searched both riverbanks as thoroughly as possible, but found no trace of James Johnson along either bank or in the river. Because of the strong current, a search in the Ia Drang River itself was impossible. At the time the immediate search was terminated, James Johnson was declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

If James Johnson drowned in the murky Ia Drang River and his remains were carried somewhere downstream, there is little chance he can ever be found. However, as an American soldier, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all humanly possible.

On the other hand, if he did not drown as the military believes, there is a chance he could have surfaced out of sight of the rest of the patrol only to be captured by communist forces known to be operating in the area. If that were the case, then 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.

Military men in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to 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 by the country they so proudly served.