AMERICAN BATTLE MONUMENTS COMMISSION

James E. Kennedy

Staff Sergeant

155423333

57th Aviation Company
52nd Aviation Battalion

1st Aviation Brigade
 
Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: December 22, 1069

MISSING IN ACTION                                 

Awards:


STAFF SERGEANT JAMES E. KENNEDY was born on January 2, 1950, in Woodbury, NJ. His home of record is Pine Hill, NJ.

He entered the US Army where he was assigned to the 57th Aviation Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group and he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSGT).

Kennedy has been listed as missing in action since December 22, 1969.

Synopsis (from the POW Network) as to the circumstances behind being listed as MIA:

On December 22, 1969, SP4 James E. Kennedy, door gunner; WO Donald D. Burris Jr., pilot; WO John H. Hunsicker, aircraft commander; and SP5 Timothy A. Purser, crew chief; were the crew of a UH1C "Iroquois" helicopter on a combat support mission when it developed mechanical problems and crash landed.

Official records differ as to the location of the crash. US Army casualty and Joint Casualty Resolution Center records indicate that the crash was in Cambodia, yet Defense Department, State Department and other records indicate that the crash occurred near the border of Attopeu and Saravane Provinces in Laos, some 30-35 miles north of the closest point in Cambodia. Coordinates 152029N 1072941E (YA678975) )
Click coordinates to view maps) are that location. The locality of YA678975 is undoubtedly Cambodia.

It is possible that their combat support mission was in Cambodia, and the subsequent rescue flight took a circular northwesterly course around the mountains in northern Cambodia along the Laos border, circled back east towards Dak To (its destination). Some records pinpoint the actual location of loss at the beginning of the flight, while others record it during flight.

When the aircraft landed, Burris, Purser, and Hunsicker had survived the crash, but they could not locate James Kennedy. A search of the general area revealed no trace of SP4 Kennedy and he was not trapped in the wreckage. (As door gunner, and at a position on the side of the main cargo area of the aircraft positioned at an open door, Kennedy may have decided to bail out of the descending aircraft, or may have fallen. Since the gunners were generally strapped into the frame of the helicopter this seemed unlikely thus becoming separated from the others.)

Minutes after the helicopter crashed, a recovery helicopter arrived in the area and lowered ropes with McGuire rigs attached through the dense jungle to the downed men. The survivors were not trained in the proper use of this equipment, and SP5 Purser fell out of his rig a few feet off the ground. WO Burris and WO Hunsicker remained in their rigs and were lifted out, and the helicopter started toward Dak To, with the two rescued men still on the ropes. Five minutes into the flight, Burris lost his grip on the rope and fell from an altitude of 2500 3000 feet. The rescue helicopter continued to the nearest landing area.

A search and rescue team was inserted into the crash site area and recovered Purser, who was injured. The team searched widely for SP4 Kennedy, but found no trace of him, and concluded their search on December 25, 1969..


JAMES E. KENNEDY
is honored on Panel 15W Line 81 of
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.


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 22 December 1969, WO John H. Hunsicker, aircraft commander; WO Donald D. Burris Jr., pilot; SP5 Timothy A. Purser, crew chief; and then SP4 James E. Kennedy, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1C helicopter (tail #66-00587). The Huey was conducting a combat support mission in Cambodia when it developed mechanical problems. WO Hunsicker and WO Burris first attempted to nurse their crippled aircraft eastward toward the South Vietnamese border. When it became apparent it was no long flyable, the air crew made an emergency Mayday call giving their location, then crash landed in the Huey in the heavily forested mountains of extreme eastern Cambodia. The location of loss was 1 miles east of the Cambodian/South Vietnamese border, 5 miles south-southeast of the closest point on the Cambodian/Lao border and 18 miles south-southwest of the tri-border area where South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos meet. This location was also 25 miles southwest of Dak To and 36 miles west-northwest of Kontum.

John Hunsicker and Donald Burris escaped through the left cargo door uninjured. They found Timothy Purser outside the aircraft with a broken arm. They looked for James Kennedy in the downed helicopter and the area immediately surrounding the aircraft wreckage, but could found no trace of him. Because the door gunner's position is located to one side of the main cargo compartment by an open door, they thought it possible he might have decided to jump from the descending aircraft as it gyrated to the ground, or he may have fallen out of it.

Minutes after the helicopter landed, a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter arrived on site and lowered ropes with McGuire rigs through the dense jungle to the three survivors. Unfortunately, the downed aircrew had not been trained in the proper use of this equipment. After lift off, and only a few feet off the ground, SP5 Purser fell out of his rig. WO Burris and WO Hunsicker remained in their rigs as the rescue helicopter started toward Dak To. Five minutes into the flight, Donald Burris lost his grip on the rope and fell to the jungle floor below from an altitude of from 2,500 to 3,000 feet. The rescue helicopter continued on to the nearest landing zone (LZ) unaware of this latest accident.

Another SAR team was inserted into the crash site a short time later to rescue SP5 Purser. The team also searched a 200-meter radius around the downed Huey for SP4 Kennedy, but again found no sign of him. The full SAR operation was initiated for the missing pilot and door gunner, but was discontinued on 25 December with negative results. At the time the formal search was terminated, James Kennedy was declared Missing in Action. No ground search was possible to look for WO Burris because of the hostile threat in the area and the lack of information to pinpoint his exact loss location. Because of the circumstances of loss, Donald Burris was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

There is little doubt that Donald Burris died as a result his loss. He has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. However, for James Kennedy who might easily have survived his loss only to have been captured by enemy forces known to be operating in this region, 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews were called upon to fly 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. 


MESSAGES LEFT ON THEWALL-USA

** Note that some of these messages are from years ago and their contact information may not be good anymore **

Jimmy, a few days late but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! You are missed. TK

Tom Kennedy
Chesapeake VA
Jan 5, 2009
tk76jersey@yahoo.com
Cousin

ALWAYS REMEMBER ED- ALWAYS LOVED

Jim - You have never been forgotten. There is not day in the life of your mother and father, (who are now deceased)your brother, your aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, that you are not thought of.

On that day, when we received the call from your father that you had been shot down in the helicopter and went missing,the hearts of all were broken, never to be mended. There is always hope in our hearts that some day we will receive news of your fate, whether it be happy or sad - just to know that you are in God's Kingdom and at peace would be enough for us.
Tears come and go - loving memories are forever!

Your Cousin Alice
Alice Hinderliter
ahinderliter@bhprsd.org
Mar 8, 2007

My Cousin, My Hero

Jimmy was my first cousin and best of friend. We went to school together, (he was a year older than I), and grew up in the same town. (There were four cousins all around the same age that called ourselves the kissin' cousins - Joey, Jimmy, Betty & Elaine). I cannot tell you how I miss him. He is always on my mind. I just had mementos out a couple of days, looking at them. I think the not knowing is so cruel. You can never have that closure that is needed. He was such a great guy; handsome, kind and always a gentleman. I miss him still! I love you always Jimmy. 

Love, Elaine
Elaine Ratliff
mommalainey@comcast.net
Cousin
4 Lindenwold NJ4
Mar 8, 2007

I have your bracelet...

I didn't know you, but I have looked at your name for the last 18 years on my wrist. The bracelet has become part of me. I never take it off... If Jim's family would like it please email me so I can get it to you. I would be honored to do that for your family Jim. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you made for your country... 

Deb Q.
Debbie Quantmeyer
Qsmuse@aol.com
Sep 13, 2006

Just a memory

I went to school and played in a wedding band with this mans younger brother, Phil! When I visited this site I decided to see if anything more had ever been discovered concerning James.the empty links and entries made me feel as though someone had to do or say something.I remember having the same feeling when I went to his home in Pine Hill for a band rehearsal in 1974 and his brother pointed out the car waiting for James' then anticipated return,,,,,at the time they only knew he was MIA,,,,,I guess that never changed. None the less, almost 30 years have past since I saw the empty, dusty car in the garage.I didn't want to leave this link the same way.God Bless and be with you James.and thank you for your service!

Bob Mumie
bmumie@comcast.net
his youngers brothers friend
Lindenwold, NJ 08021
Monday, May 27, 2002

LOST BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN

I REMEMBER WATCHING JIM PLAY BASKETBALL IN HIGH SCHOOL HE WAS ONE OF THE BEST. HE WAS 3 YEARS AHEAD OFF ME IN SCHOOL, BUT HE WAS ALWAYS LOOKED UP TO BY THE UNDERCLASSMAN AND TEAM MATES. WHEN HE GRADUATED HE AND HENRY BOYED WHEN INTO THE SERVICE TOGETHER I BELIEVE, BUT I'M NOT SURE. HENRY WAS ALSO KILLED IN VIETNAM. JIM WILL ALWAYS BE LOVED AND MISSED BY ALL OF US THAT ATTENDED OVERBROOK REG. HIGH SCHOOL. RAMS ON THE RAMPAGE FOREVER. PEACE BROTHER

ROBERT HENDERSON
PANHEAD49@AOL.COM
SCHOOL FRIEND
LINDENWOLD, NJ
Thursday, July 25, 2002

My adopted MIA

SSGT James Kennedy, My name is Tyra Brown. I'm a 2006 Junior at Sam Houston High School in Arlington, TX. As part of a class assignment on Vietnam MIA's, I learned your story and shared it with my classmates. I learned of your sacrifice and will remember you.

Tyra Brown
manders2@aisd.net
Mr. Anderson's History Student
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

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