James Gabriel, Jr
Specialist Five
Army of the United States
Honolulu, Hawaii
March 22, 1938 to April 08, 1962
JAMES GABRIEL Jr is on the Wall at Panel 1E, Line 8

James Gabriel
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- In Memory and Honor -

- Billie

James Gabriel

James Gabriel's marker at the Naional Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Hawaii

James Gabriel Jump

Composite Photo of "Kimo" ready to jump and airborne...

- From sister Billie Gabriel

James Gabriel

SGT James Gabriel (L) and SFC Alan Combs taken at the Hoa Cam Agency site at I Corps Tactical Zone (ICTZ) (the northern five provinces of South Vietnam) Republic of Vietnam, in early 1962. Gabriel killed April 1962 and Combs killed in 1965. In this photo they were on Temporary duty from 1st Special Forces Group, Army wearing Viet Cong (VC) uniforms and armed with Swedish K Rifles. Army's Special Forces Group Gabriel Demonstration Team and Combs Hall (SWC) named in their honor. (Photo by Mike Phelan, D-3054).

- Magazine Article photo from Billie Gabriel

Monday, May 24th, 2010 | Posted by Duane Vachon | Hawaii Reporter

A True Hawaiian Hero

Kind, sweet, considerate, always putting others first. These are hardly the words one expects to hear describing a Special Forces soldier, particularly one who was a member of the 1st Special Forces Group, Vietnam.

These were the words that Billie Gabriel, one of Gabriel's eight siblings, used to describe her brother James Gabriel Jr. as she sat across the table from me holding the last letter that her brother had sent home to his mother. He spoke of how much he missed her and how he wished he could have some of her homemade coconut cookies.

"When I read his letters I could feel that sense of pride and he was so young but yet eager," said Billie who was only 11-years-old when her brother was at war. "At the same time you could sense the fear you know in his words."

Their mother kept every letter written by Kimo.

"This was the last letter you know that he had written."

It was postmarked April 3, 1962.

"Today I got the blessing of my life. Nobui told me that she is expecting," says Billie Gabriel, struggling to read her brothers final words to his mother. "I just want to say don't worry about me because I'm fine. Give my love to dad and the kids, I have to go now sorry. Your loving son, Kimo."

Five days later Gabriel was executed by Viet Cong guerrillas during a training mission, the First Special Forces soldier and first native Hawaiian killed in Vietnam. He was only 24. Five months later James Gabriel III was born.

James Gabriel

James is seen in the center in the photograph above taken just days before he was executed by the Viet Cong.

James along with three other Special Forces team members from the 1st Special Forces group was working in a small village about 350 miles north of what was then known as Saigon. Their mission was to train South Vietnamese in village defense.

On the morning of April 8th, 1962 Communist Viet Cong guerrillas who had been alerted by spies in the village of An Chau, attacked the village. Eventually superior firepower and manpower won out and the village was overrun.

Gabriel, using a small machine gun and calling for reinforcements, was wounded three times. When the Viet Cong began marching Gabriel and the other men to a prisoner of war camp, Gabriel and one of the other soldiers had been so badly wounded they could not keep up. The Viet Cong executed both men by shooting them in the face.

On that day Gabriel took on the dubious honor of being the first native born Hawaiian to die in Vietnam, as well as the first Special Forces soldier to die in Vietnam.

It has taken a while, just a bit over 48 years but on Saturday May 22nd 2010 the Fifth Special Forces Group will officially dedicate the Gabriel Memorial Field at Fort Campbell Kentucky. His sister Billie Gabriel is scheduled to meet with the 120 Hawaiian soldiers currently stationed at Fort Campbell. During this meeting she will present them with a KOA fishhook pendant - a gift from the Kamehameha Schools class of 1969.

James Gabriel Jr was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star for Valor and the National Defense Medal. He was the inspiration for the song Barry Sadler wrote about the Special Forces.

As I thought about what to write for this week's column, it seemed fitting to me that on this Memorial Day, James Gabriel Jr, the first native born Hawaiian to die in the Vietnam conflict would be an excellent choice. Please remember him and the 58,159 other Americans who paid the ultimate price.

Permission from Billie Gabriel for use of interview by
Duane A Vachon, PhD. Dr Vachon works at the National
Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and writes
for the Hawaii Reporter.      
- The Virtual Wall

How US Soldiers Died

   Too Wounded to Walk, 2 Are Slain by Guerrillas

Wounded Yanks were killed by Red Guerillas

   Two Army Sergeants Shot When they were unable to walk


  Survivors of Jungle Ambush in Vietnam Tell of Attack

Those were the 2 article headlines in the Pacific Stars and Stripes and other American Newspapers on Wednesday, April 11, 1962. Some of the article text below is located in the P.O.W. Network Biographies for Quinn, Gabriel, and Marchand. The newspaper article clipping from several newspapers are difficult to read. The Stars and Stripes article is maintained in the Coffelt Data Base and used by The Virtual Wall for documenting unit and other information on memorial pages. The combined articles and information are as follows:

Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (AP) -- Communist guerillas killed two captured U.S. Army sergeants because they were too badly wounded to walk any farther, the survivors of a jungle ambush reported Wednesday. The American's arms had been bound behind them.

Vietnamese patrols and air forces were still searching the jungle area 45 miles east of the Laos frontier for two other American army sergeants who were captured in the attack on a bivouac Sunday.

The U.S. Army identified the slain soldiers as Staff Sgt. Wayne E. Marchand Plattsmouth, Neb., and SP5 James Gabriel Jr of Honolulu HI.

Gabriel & Marchand Names on Wall
Gabriel & Marchand Names on Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

The two missing men are SFC Francis Quinn of Niagra Falls, NY and Sgt. George E. Groom of Stewartsvill, MO.

All four soldiers were members of an Army Special Forces unit which specializes in anti-querilla warfare and were engaged in training a village self-defense group.

Survivors told U.S. authorities the two slain Americans were seriously wounded in the attack by Viet Cong guerillas who over-ran the camp.

After the camp fell, one was seen being carried away by one of the other Americans who apparently escaped injury. The other wounded man was being helped by a Vietnamese Interpreter assigned to the Americans.

The bodies of the two wounded were found in their uniforms less than two miles from the scene of the attack. Both had been shot in the face with heavy caliber revolvers. Thier arms had been bound behind them with their shirts.

Authorities said the two men were apparently wounded early in the attack as they had been bandaged with American medical supplies

Marchand, Gabriel, Quinn and Groom had gone out on a training mission last Thursday with about 35 Vietnamese. (End of Stars & Stripes Article) They made camp Saturday night near the village of An Chau, 10 miles west of the heilcopter base and not far from the coast of the South China Sea. The general area is about 360 miles North of Saigon.

About 8 a.m. Sunday, headquarters here (Da Nang) received word that the camp was under heavy attack by Viet Cong guerillas estimated in company strength. Three minutes later, a second message said the camp was being overrun. A relief force sent by U.S. Army helicopters and trucks arrived in about an hour. But the attackers had disappeared in the jungle.

The article at this point continued into summarizing the week's casualties for both American and South Vietnamese units and the various ongoing operations.

Quinn and Groom were released by their Viet Cong Captors.

George E. Groom was released 05/01/62
Francis Quinn was released 05/01/62

The Memorial Page for SSG Marchand, the other of the two soldiers killed, can be viewed here.

- The Virtual Wall

The news article below provides information on the release of the 2 soldiers captured and again explained what happened to Gabriel and Marchand after the 4 men were captured by the Viet Cong.

James Gabriel

- The Virtual Wall

James Gabriel

Memorial had been moved from Fort Bragg to Fort Campbell in preparation for the dedication of Gabriel Memorial Field on May 22, 2010

- Photo from Billie Gabriel

James Gabriel

Announcement of Dedication of Gabriel Field at Fort Campbell, Kentucky

- Announcement with Photos from Billie Gabriel

May 22, 2010 - It was a day that brought together the Group's families, friends and soldiers, both past and present, to remember their fallen brothers as well as to officially dedicate Gabriel Field on Fort Campbell.

The field, named in honor of Spec. 5 James P. Gabriel, one of the first Green Berets to be killed in Vietnam, was memorialized with 57 markers placed around the perimeter of the field. Each marker was shadowed by an oak tree in remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in training or combat operations since the unit's activation on Sept. 21, 1961.

James Gabriel

Traditional Hawaiian leis adorn the monument designating Gabriel Field during a memorial ceremony. Upon Gabriel Field rests markers for 57 Special Operations personnel. The field is named in honor of Spec 5 James Gabriel, the first native Hawaiian killed in Vietnam. Gabriel was killed along with teammate Staff Sgt. Wayne E. Marchand when their camp was overrun by Viet Cong on April 8, 1962. - U.S. Army/Sgt. Andrew Jacob

James Gabriel

Two MH-6 Little Birds from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) conduct a fly-over during the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Gold Star Memorial Ceremony at Gabriel Field on Fort Campbell, Ky., May 19, 2012. The ceremony honored those 5th SFG (A) Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in training or combat operations. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Barbara Ospina)

Photos from US Army Special Operations Command  - The Virtual Wall

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