James Douglas BirchimCaptain
RT NEW HAMPSHIRE, FOB-2, CCC, MACV-SOG, 5TH SF GRP
Army of the United States
16 July 1946 - 10 May 1971
Panel 39W Line 069
The database page for James Douglas Birchim
I was 21 at the time of my husband's loss. Several years ago I participated in a remembrance ceremony sponsored by the San Francisco Chapter, Special Forces Association in conection with the San Francisco Save Our Shade Ceremony.
A memorial from his wife,
A Note from The Virtual WallOn 15 November 1968, 1LT Birchim led an 8-man Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol from Forward Operating Base 2 on a search mission in Laos. During the mission, the patrol was ambushed and in evading the enemy Birchim suffered a broken ankle and fragmentation wounds. He radioed and requested that the patrol be extracted that evening.
Because the difficult terrain prevented helicopters from landing to exfiltrate the patrol, the men were to be picked up by McGuire extraction rigs, devices which were lowered through the trees to the ground. Once the ground troops attached themselves to the device they would be pulled up through the trees and carried in suspension until they could safely be brought aboard the helicopter or placed on the ground.
The first helicopter successfully extracted four men. The second aircraft, which had only three rigs aboard, hovered to pick up the other four men. 1LT Birchim ensured that the other 3 men were situated and then hung on the back of one of his men. Their rig was dragged through the trees, nearly dislodging them, but Birchim hung on for what was estimated to be about 30-45 minutes before falling from a height of about 2500 feet. The exact location could only be estimated.
All elements of 5th Special Forces Group in the area were notified, but Birchim's body was never found. Birchim's last location was placed in Kontum Province, South Vietnam, about half-way between the towns of Dak Sut and Dak To.
The recon team was engaged by enemy forces ... Upon extraction, during the hours of darkness, Lt Birchim and a young Special Forces NCO, both wounded, managed to latch themselves together in a single McGuire rig. They dangled from a rope through a violent, heavy tropical storm, holding on to each other in pitch blackness. Upon landing in South Vietnam, there were only ice laden clothes and gear and an unconscious, shivering young NCO passed out with rope burns cut deep into his hands where he had tried to hold onto Lt Birchim. Lt Birchim was gone, falling to the jungle floor below.
1LT Birchim was placed in "Missing in Action" status and was promoted to Captain while MIA. On 10 May 1971, a "Presumptive Finding of Death" was issued by the Secretary of the Army.
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 2 Oct 2001
Last updated 10/17/2011