Name: James Lee Paul
Rank/Branch: Warrant Officer 1st Class/US Army 
Unit: Troop D, 3rd Squadron,
5th Cavalry,  1st Brigade, 
5th Infantry Division 

Date of Birth: 13 October 1948 (Detroit, MI)
Home of Record: Riverview, MI
Date of Loss: 05 February 1971
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 164031N 1064457E (XD865443) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered

Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: AH1G "Cobra"

Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS:   The first Bell AH1G Cobra helicopter gunships arrived in Vietnam on 1 September 1967 and since it carried both guns and rockets, it was a major step forward in the development of the armed helicopter. The Cobra had enough speed to meet the escort mission perimeters, tandem seating, better armor, and a better weapons system than any previous helicopter of its day. By 1970-1, the Cobra's armament included the 2.75-inch rocket with a 17-pound warhead, the very effective 2.75-inch flachette rocket, and the SX-35 20mm cannon which made it a truly powerful aircraft.

On 5 February 1971, WO1 Carl M. Wood, pilot, and WO1 James L. Paul, co-pilot, comprised the crew of an AH1G Cobra gunship (tail #66-15340) in a flight of helicopters on an extraction mission in the vicinity of Khe Sanh, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

Shortly after the extraction aircraft departed its base, WO1 Paul's aircraft entered a heavy cloud cover that forced the pilot to go on instruments while attempting to climb above the weather. As WO1 Wood increased altitude, he also turned the aircraft to the left. Instead of breaking out of the cloud cover, the Cobra impacted the side of a jungle covered mountain and exploded approximately 3 miles north of Highway 9, 5 miles north of Khe Sanh and 15 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Laotian border.

Another helicopter participating in the same mission immediately began an aerial search of the area. The crash site was found quickly with the Cobra still on fire. Ground search teams were inserted into the crash site to inspect it and a 50-meter area around it. Based on the condition of the Cobra, the team determined there had been a violent explosion upon impact. Further, they found and recovered WO1 Wood's remains from the aircraft wreckage.

When weather deteriorated the search and recovery (SAR) operation had to be suspended until 10 February 1971. At that time another search team entered the area to continue looking for James Paul. During their extensive search, they found a baseball cap inscribed with his name, a watch, part of a ring, a map and a chinstrap one-meter away from the wreckage.

The team also discovered an unidentifiable hand under the wreckage. However, there is no record in the casualty files to indicate if that hand belonged to WO1 Wood whose remains had already been recovered, or to WO1 Paul. In spite of the fact that only personal property belonging to James L. Paul and no remains were found a short distance away from the wreckage, he was still listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam 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 by the country they so proudly served.