James Randall Williams
Senior Master Sergeant
United States Air Force
Charlotte, North Carolina
March 28, 1945 to June 24, 1977
(Incident Date December 29, 1967)
JAMES R WILLIAMS is on the Wall at Panel 33E, Line 1

James R Williams
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02 Dec 2003

This account began for me in 1971 and came to closure on December 29, 2000. I will shorten it as much as possible but still will get all pertinent information included. Please bear with me.

I had been honorably discharged from the Army in 1969 and attended college afterward. In 1971, I sent away for a POW/MIA bracelet from one of the national POW committees. I received a silver metal bracelet with the name of James R. Williams, T/SGT, USAF, and the date of 12/29/67 inscribed on it. I wore the bracelet for a while until I graduated from college and then put it away in a box and stored it at my parent's house. I had forgotten James R. Williams at that point.

I was visiting my mother on Memorial Day, 1999, and she gave me a box of my old stuff to take home with me. Mom is always trying to get me to take things out of her basement and over to my house. Well, the POW/MIA bracelet was right on top. I put it on my wrist and felt sort of an electric chill go through my body. At that point, I decided to try and find out more information on James R. Williams.

I found some sites on the Internet that looked promising and went to The Virtual Wall website. Sure enough, James R. Williams was listed as still being MIA. The information that followed sent more of a chill through me than did putting on the bracelet. James R. William and I shared the same birthday - month, day, and year! What are the chances that I would have received his MIA bracelet through a random selection? On Memorial Day, 1999, I posted a memorial message on the VVMF web site for James but I still wanted more information.

Through research, I found more information on James' last mission in Vietnam and that he had presumably died in a plane crash but no remains had been recovered. In October, 2000, I received an e-mail from an active duty Air Force sergeant who had studied this plane crash and the deaths of the persons aboard it. He sent me pages of information as well as a photograph of James Williams from 1967. The remains had been recovered from villagers and were being buried in a common grave at Arlington National Cemetery in November, 2000. I was invited to attend the funeral service but felt I might be considered an intruder to the families and declined the invitation.

It was now December, 2000, and I still had the POW/MIA bracelet and also the knowledge of exactly what happened that night of December 29, 1967. I was thinking about what should be my next step. It was now time for closure on my part. On December 29, 2000, I went with my daughter to the Vietnam Memorial and slowly walked to Panel 33 East. I took the bracelet off my wrist, touched it to James' name on the panel, and placed the bracelet on the black granite base of the Wall. I said a last goodbye, wiped away a tear, turned and left.

The bracelet had made a full circle.

29 Dec 2004


It has been 4 years to the day since I placed your MIA bracelet at the base of the Vietnam Memorial. You are not forgotten to me or to the country.

Tonight, I will drink a toast to you with some Napoleon cognac that I save for special occasions. I will then drink a toast to all the other heroes of the Vietnam War and to the current heroes of the Iraq War.

Richard Norris Davis


A Note from The Virtual Wall

On the night of 28/29 December 1967, a "Combat Talon" MC-130E (tail number 64-0547) departed Nha Trang for a special operations mission over North Vietnam. The aircraft and the crew (Combat Talon crew S-01) were assigned to Detachment 1, 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, 13th AF, based at Nha Trang.

The mission involved a low-level incursion into northwestern North Vietnam, with a propaganda leaflet drop that would be followed by a diversionary resupply drop in the Song Da Valley. These drops were intended to fool the North Vietnamese into thinking there were clandestine teams working within a particular area. Progress along the route was reported by "quick-burst" radio signals. At about 4 AM the crew reported completion of the leaflet drop. Nothing further was heard, and the aircraft did not return to base.

Although extensive efforts were made to locate the crash site, it was not found. The 11 crewmen were classed as Missing in Action. In 1977 and 1978 the Secretary of the Air Force approved Presumptive Findings of Death for the eleven missing crewmen, all of whom had been promoted while in MIA status. The eleven crewmen were

  • Colonel Charles P. Claxton, Chicago, IL
  • Colonel Donald E. Fisher, Halfway, OR
  • Lt Col Edwin N. Osborne, Raiford, FL
  • Lt Col Gerald G. Van Buren, Toledo, OH
  • Lt Col Gordon J. Wenaas, Mayville, ND
  • Major Frank C. Parker, Bridgeport, PA
  • CMSgt Edward J. Darcy, Portland, ME
  • CMSgt Wayne A. Eckley, Enterprise, OR
  • CMSgt Jack Mc Crary, Madison, TN
  • CMSgt Gean P. Clapper, Altoona, PA
  • SMSgt James R. Williams, Charlotte, NC
In the early 1990s the crash site was located about 100 feet below the summit of a 4900-foot-high karst cliff in the mountains of Lau Chau Province, NVN, some 32 miles northeast of Dien Bien Phu. Investigations in 1992 identified the aircraft and led to a full-scale excavation in 1993. Department of Defense analysts concluded from the distribution of the aircraft wreckage that the C-130 hit the mountainside and that the crew was unaware of the impending crash. The identification of the very fragmented human remains repatriated on 13 December 1993 - almost 26 years after the loss - was announced on Friday, 27 Oct 2000.

Only five of the men could be positively identified by means of DNA analysis - Darcy, Eckley, Parker, Fisher, and Williams. The remaining individually unidentifiable remains were grouped as remains "from an incident involving" 11 men. On 6 November 2000 the remains were turned over to the crewmens' families for burial, and on 15 November 2000 the remains were interred in a group burial in one casket in Arlington National Cemetery under a headstone bearing all 11 crewmen's names.

Photograph by M. R. Patterson, October 2002
From the Arlington Cemetery site

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