|Name:||James Larry Phipps|
|Rank/Branch:||Chief Warrant Officer 3/US Army|
C, 7th Squad,
17th Air Cavalry,
17th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade
Chu Lai, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:||09 December 1943 (Washington, DC)|
|Home of Record:||Matoon, IL|
|Date of Loss:||09 January 1968|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:||153817N 1080930E (AT955308)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing In Action|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||Warren E. Newton and Rainier S. Ramos (missing); Fred J. Secrist (remains recovered)|
SYNOPSIS: By early 1967, the Bell UH1 Iroquois was already the standard Army assault helicopter, and was used in nearly every "in-country" mission. Better known by its nickname "Huey," the troop carriers were referred to as "Slicks" and the gunships were called "Hogs." It proved itself to be a sturdy, versatile aircraft which was called on to carry out a wide variety of missions including search and rescue, close air support, insertion and extraction, fire support, and resupply to name a few. It usually carried a crew of four.
On 9 January 1968, then WO1 James Phipps, aircraft commander; WO1 Rainier Ramos, pilot; SP4 Warren Newton, door gunner; and Fred Secrist, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1C helicopter on a gunship cover mission operating as the "Killer" aircraft in a two-aircraft "Hunter-Killer" team. The "Hunter" aircraft's job was to scout for any enemy activity in the team's area of operation, then notify the "Killer" aircraft of the enemy's position and strength for the gunship to attack.
As the hunter-killer team flew low over the rolling jungle covered mountains located approximately 4 miles west of the western edge of the Rue Son Valley, Lt. Williamson, the pilot of the scout aircraft who was flying in front of the gunship, received a radio call from WO1 Phipps. He stated the aircraft had been hit by automatic weapons fire and was going down. Lt. Williamson immediately turned his helicopter around and began following the crippled Huey. He reported seeing smoke trailing the aircraft, but saw no fire until it impacted the ground. The scout pilot estimated the Huey was traveling at a speed between 65 and 80 knots when it crashed and exploded. The location of the crash site was 3 miles northwest of Phu Binh, 11 miles southeast of An Hoa, 22 miles southwest of the coastline, 26 miles south-southwest of DaNang and 38 miles northwest of Chu Lai, Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. The hotly contested Rue Son Valley was densely populated, rich in rice fields and laced with numerous rivers and streams.
The Senior Ranking Officer (SRO) of Troop C arrived on site shortly after the loss. He made several low passes over the burning wreckage searching for any sign of his men. As he made his third pass over the Huey, he took heavy automatic weapons fire from enemy positions hidden in the dense jungle to the north and east of the crash site. During the first 45 minutes of on-sight inspection by the Troop Commander and other pilots in the area, they saw that fire and internal explosions from 2.75 rockets and 40mm grenades carried onboard the gunship, were exploding every minute or so, and which gutted the fuselage. They also noted they saw no signs of life in or around the wreckage. The SRO remained over the wreckage for roughly 1½ hours.
On 20 January, a search and recovery (SAR) team, along with a security detachment, was inserted into the crash site. The main portion of the Huey was located at the bottom of a large trench. The team searched the wreckage and surrounding area, and recovered what they believed to be the partial remains of three crewmen. At the time formal search efforts were terminated, Warren Newton, James Phipps, Rainier Ramos and Fred Secrist were listed Missing in Action pending examination of the remains. When examined by mortuary personnel, only one body was positively identified - that of Fred Secrist. When his remains were identified, his status was changed to Killed in Action/Body Recovered.
While there appears little chance that WO1 Phipps, WO1 Ramos and SP4 Warren Newton survived the loss of their aircraft, they have the right to have their remains returned to the families, friends and country if possible. 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Military men in Vietnam 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.