James Edward Widener

Private First Class
United States Marine Corps
12 November 1948 - 11 June 1967
Churchville, New York
Panel 21E Line 093


James E Widener

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for James Edward Widener

18 Feb 2003

Jimmy was an all-around athlete, who competed in soccer, wrestling and track. Always had a big smile on his face and had a good sense of humor. On high school graduation night, June 25, 1966, he and some other guys were sitting in the front row on the stage, and on cue, they all crossed their legs. It was very funny. He dated Gloria, my next door neighbor.

From a high school classmate,
Ronnie Johnston
RR 6 Box 79, Marietta, Ohio 45750

21 Feb 2003

I grew up with Jimmy, he was like a big brother to me. His Mom baby-sat for me while my mom worked. Jimmy was one of four brothers so to have a girl in the family, well, I guess I was teased by them all as anyone can imagine. They had a backyard in-ground pool, the only one in the country neighborhood that we grew up in, so our summers were spent at the Widener's pool. What fun!!! I have so many wonderful memories of growing up in their family and can still remember like it was yesterday when we heard that his helicopter had gone down and he was MIA. It was like losing a brother, because that was how I felt about the whole family, they were like my own. I was only 14 years old, but the memory of that day will always be with me, 34 years later.

Kathleen Westlake Moses

01 Jun 2005

Jimmy was my uncle. I never met him, or got to know him. All I knew about him was a photo that hung in my grandparent's home when I was young. I remember stories that my grandmother used to tell about him getting into a healthy amount of fun as a child, and what a great person he was. It's so sad to talk about him in the past tense. Even though I didn't know him, I miss the fact that I was denied him in my life. He is the reason that I support the troops when there is time of war, and the reason I pray for their return. I know the sadness my family has endure losing him, and I hope that everyone thinks of Jimmy fondly.

From a niece,
Rhionna Widener

09 Mar 2006

Jimmy was my Uncle and I still to this very day remember him holding me when he left for the war. I was just a year and a half old. As he held me he pulled me close and whispered in my ear, "Take care of everyone while I'm gone."

At first my family didn't believe that my memory could be that long until I described the type of furniture that was in the room to them. We all miss Jimmy in our own way. I still pray for him every night.

God Bless you Jimmy and all the other soldiers on this Wall.

Dawn M. Pratt
E-mail address is not available.

29 May 2006


by a friend,
Sallie L. Myers (Coyle)
22 Sep 2006

My mother, Kathleen, who posted above, called me this morning to say that they have identified Jimmy's remains, and that he is finally coming home. I've been hearing about Jimmy since I was a little girl, from my mother, and my Uncle, Robert Westlake. I'm glad he's finally coming home, so people can now have a chance to say goodbye to someone who was loved very much.

Jennifer Pierce

21 Nov 2006

"Portray sincerity
Act out of loyalty
Defend your free country
Wish away the pain
Hand out lobotomies
To save little families
Surrealistic fantasy
Bland, boring pain!"

I didn't know my Uncle, but I heard he was a good person.

I'd imagine the quote out of the song "Downer" could pretty much sum up what his leaving for Vietnam was like, but then again I wouldn't know ... I'm only 15.

From a great-niece,

03 Mar 2007

Jim and I were High School buddies. We played sports together and were in the Boy Scouts together. We had some great times. I also am a Vietnam Veteran. Jim was truly a great person and I think about him often. I am grateful that Jim is finally home after all these years. God Bless America.

From a friend,
Paul W Strine

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On 11 June 1967 a reconnaissance team from the 3rd Force Recon Company was scheduled for insertion into position on the southern border of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) four kilometers north of Hill 208 and 900 meters west of Hill 174, both well known NVA positions.

The insertion force consisted of two CH-46As from HMM-265 and two UH-1E gunships from VMO-2. The lead CH-46A (BuNo 150270) carried four crewmen and seven men of the recon team:

Hank Trimble, pilot of one of the VMO-2 gunship escorts, recalls that three insertion attempts were made. The first and second attempts were aborted due to enemy activity and fire in the intended landing zones, but the third LZ was clear. As the CH-46 approached the LZ it
"transitioned to landing speed, in almost slow motion his nose rose, then rose more sharply, then climbed toward the vertical. Then the aircraft rolled inverted, split S, and dived down and exploded."
Trimble's recollection is that there was no evident enemy action and that the likely cause was mechanical failure.

The crash was not survivable. The enemy presence in the area prohibited recovery of the bodies at the time, and as of 19 Feb 2003 their remains have not been repatriated.

From the
USMC/Vietnam Helicopter Association


The POW Network page contains the statement that
"Machinegunmen had been waiting for the opportune time to fire on the aircraft. Portions of the rear blades were seen to separate from the aircraft and a radio transmission was received from the aircraft indicating that it had been hit."
and the Task Force Omega page states that "Capt. Bohlscheid radioed that they had been hit by machinegun fire".

No source is given for these statements, which contradict Trimble's recollection that there was no observed enemy fire or radio call stating that the aircraft had been hit.

On 29/30 June 1967 Echo and Golf Companies, 2/9 Marines, were sent from Con Thien to search for the wreckage and recover the bodies. Echo 2/9 encountered a bunker complex and suffered four men killed while cleaning it out. A platoon from Golf 2/9 did reach the area where the crash was thought to have occurred but found nothing - the seach area was about 1-1/2 kilometers north of the actual crash site. The four dead from Echo 2/9 were

  • Cpl Thomas A. Goddeau, Morrisonville, NY;
  • LCpl Richard H. Freudenthal, Alexandria, VA;
  • HN Noel S. Nelson, St Paul, MN; and
  • Pfc Christopher P. Johnson, Wyandotte, MI.


As of 08 October 2006 DoD's PM/SEA Office has not released official notice that any of the men aboard CH-46A BuNo 150270 have been identified. However, the following news article appeared on 22 Sep 2006, apparently based on information released by the family:

Chili MIA ordeal ends
Marine's remains ID'd, 39 years after helicopter crash in Vietnam
Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Staff writer
©Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle
Reproduced under 17 USC �107

(September 22, 2006) - CHILI - The Widener family never gave up hope. But they were realistic about the odds of ever hearing word about their son, who was declared missing in action after a helicopter crash during the Vietnam War.

On Wednesday, a Marine Corps officer came to Jay and Lenore Widener's Union Street home and ended their long wait. The remains of their son, missing in action for 39 years, had been identified.

Pvt. James E. Widener of Chili was reported missing June 11, 1967, when his helicopter was shot down over South Vietnam. James Widener was a student athlete at Churchville-Chili High School who received scholarship offers from the State University College at Buffalo and the University of Dayton.

However, he chose to enlist in the Marines after graduating in 1966. Trained as a radio operator, he volunteered for reconnaissance duty after arriving in Vietnam. On his mother's birthday, his squad was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. The helicopter that pulled them out was hit by ground fire, knocking off its tail and sending it to the ground. All seven aboard were reported missing in action.

As of Jan. 1, 1,382 people remained on the roll of those missing from the Vietnam War, according to the U.S. Defense Prisoners of War/Missing Personnel Office.

James Widener, who was 18 at the time of the crash, will have a full U.S. Marine Corps military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

The remains had been recovered by the Vietnamese.

"His body was stored in a warehouse and they never let us know he was dead. We tried to find him after the war, hoping for years that maybe he was alive," said his father, who still holds bitter feelings toward Vietnam officials. "Even in war, there should be some fairness. This is awful, but at least it closes the situation."

The military recovered some of Widener's bone fragments in May 2005, including part of his skull, his teeth and a leg bone. The military took DNA from Widener's aunt on his mother's side, Gloria Alves, and last week told the family they were coming to visit.

Widener's remains are at Hawaii's Hickam Air Force Base, and the family gave the military Oct. 27, Oct. 30 or Nov. 3 as possible funeral dates at Arlington. The Widener family has lost at least five members during various wars, going back to the Civil War, said Jay Widener.

James Widener's brother, Peter, 61, said family members, especially his mother, were devastated 39 years ago when they first received the news from the Marines.

"When we heard he was missing in action, it was a tremendous loss. I never gave up hope but I still didn't think it was possible," said Peter Widener, who lives in Chili. "I'm happy that I got my brother back and this has been resolved. We thank the U.S. military for all the hard work they have done all these years."

Peter Widener was enlisted in the Marines at the same time as his brother, but he was sent home after his brother's crash.


The Defense Department has announced that Pfc Widener's remains were repatriated on 05 Aug 2005 with identification made on 22 Aug 2006. No announcement has been made with respect to the other men on the helicopter.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 18 Feb 2003
Last updated 08/10/2009