TURNER, JAMES HENRY

Name: James Henry Turner  
Rank/Branch: Specialist 5th Class/US Army 
Unit: 118th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion,
12th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade 





Date of Birth: 23 October 1947 (Trinity, NC)
Home of Record: Columbus, OH
Date of Loss: 09 October 1969 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 110546N 1070433E (YD267273)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1D "Iroquois"
Other Personnel In Incident: Jimmy R. Garbett; Raymond G. Moore; James L. Suydam; Dallas A. Driver; (missing). WO Kilbourne (rescued); CW4 James W. Bailey, an unnamed crew chief and unnamed passenger (remains recovered) 

REMARKS:  IN RIV - 2 REMS RCV - NSUBJ - J

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 October 1969, CW4 James W. Bailey, aircraft commander; WO Kilbourne, pilot; an unnamed crewchief; and SP5 James H. Turner, door gunner; comprised the crew of an UH1H helicopter. The members of the flight crew were assigned to the 118th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion, 12th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade. The aircrew was conducting an extraction mission for a ground unit from a mined landing zone (LZ) located on the bank of the Song Dong Nai River. Sgt. Raymond G. Moore, Sgt. Dallas A. Driver, Sgt. James L. Suydam and Sgt. Jimmy R. Garbett were 4 of 5 members of a ground unit being extracted. The patrol members were assigned to Company A, 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade.

The Song Dong Nai River ran generally east/west through rugged jungle covered mountains and the extraction point was located approximately 14 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border and 33 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). It was also 16 miles south-southwest of Quang Tri, 21 miles southeast of Khe Sanh and 28 miles west-northwest of Hue, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.

After picking up the 5 members of the ground unit, WO4 Bailey started to maneuver away from the riverbank when the helicopter's rotor blades struck some trees resulting in a loss of rotor RPM and lift capability. As the aircraft began loosing altitude, James Bailey and WO Kilbourne were able to turn the aircraft toward the right and headed west down the Song Dong Nai River in an attempt to gain airspeed, then altitude. Unfortunately shortly thereafter the Huey struck the water in an almost level flight, continued forward along the surface of the river for roughly 15 to 20 feet as it stalled out. Finally it settled into the river, rolled onto its left side and sank within 10 seconds. The aircrew was able to make an emergency radio call before the Huey was lost. Immediately both aerial and water-born search and rescue (SAR) operations were initiated in response to that call.

When SAR personnel arrived in the area of loss, they noted the river's current was flowing at a rate of approximately 10 knots, which was swift enough to carry one of the two survivors far downstream and strong enough to cause both men substantial difficulty in swimming to shore. WO Kilbourne and one of the passengers were rescued shortly thereafter. WO Kilbourne reported that in the chaotic aftermath of the Huey's sinking, he saw James Turner in the river. SP5 Turner was 3 to 4 feet away from him as they were swept downstream. The door gunner went under water and the pilot did not see him surface. The unidentified crewchief was also able to escape the submerged Huey, but drowned before reaching safety.

The SAR operation continued around the clock with the aide of firefly helicopters - those rigged with searchlights mounted on them for night operations - from 9-15 October and again from 19-21 October. The search was suspended from 16-18 October due to poor weather conditions.

In addition to visual and electronic SAR efforts, pamphlets were distributed offering a reward to local residents who provided assistance to survivors or could provide information about the fate of the missing crew and passengers. Loudspeakers were also employed to broadcast the same type of information being distributed in the pamphlets. During the massive search, only the remains of CW4 James Bailey and the Huey's crewchief were recovered.

A member of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) assigned to the overall operation, attempted to inspect the site. He swam out to the wreckage, but had difficulty staying afloat in the swift and treacherous current even with a rope to hold on to. The swimmer reported that aircraft equipment that could be seen from the shore after the crash appeared to be alternately submerged and then reappear as the river ebbed and flowed. He was unable to enter the wreckage to search for the remains of any of the passengers who might have been trapped inside of it. At the time the formal search was terminated, James Turner, Jimmy Garbett, Raymond Moore, James Suydam and Dallas Driver were listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

Based on the circumstances of loss, there appears to be little chance SP5 Turner, Sgt. Garbett, Sgt. Moore, Sgt. Suydam and Sgt. Driver could have survived their loss. James Turner was known to be out of the aircraft and being carried downstream. If Jimmy Garbett, Raymond Moore, James Suydam and Dallas Driver were also able to exit the Huey, they most certainly would have been carried well downstream and possibly into the control of enemy forces who were known to be operating in this hotly contested region. If that did happen, their fate, like that of 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.

Above all else, as American soldiers, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. Above all else, each soldier has the right not to be forgotten by the nation he fought for and for which he may have given his life.

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.