Lewis, James Wimberley, Col

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
Last AFSC Group
Primary Unit
1965-1982, MIA Vietnam
Service Years
1946 - 1965
Officer Collar Insignia

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SSgt John Paul Jones, Sr. (JJ) to remember Lewis, James Wimberley, Col.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Marshall, TX
Last Address
Bien Hoa AB, South Vietnam

Casualty Date
Apr 07, 1965
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
01E 102

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Cold War Medal

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  2012, Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified] - Assoc. Page

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Aviator (Senior)

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Air Force BandsAir Training Command34th Tactical Group8th Bombardment Squadron
US Air Force
  1949-1951, Air Force Bands
  1955-1956, Air Training Command
  1963-1965, 34th Tactical Group
  1963-1965, 8th Bombardment Squadron
  1965-1982, MIA Vietnam
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1965-1965 Non-operation sorties/Reconnaissance missions over Laos
  1965-1965 Vietnam Defensive Campaign (1965-66)/Operation Rolling Thunder I1
 Colleges Attended 
Mississippi State UniversityUniversity of North Texas
  1949-1950, Mississippi State University
  1951-1954, University of North Texas
 My Aircraft/Missiles
F-100 Super Sabre  T-33 Shooting Star (T-Bird)  F-84 Thunderjet  C-119 Flying Boxcar  
B-57 Canberra  
  1956-1965, F-100 Super Sabre
  1956-1965, T-33 Shooting Star (T-Bird)
  1956-1965, F-84 Thunderjet
  1956-1965, C-119 Flying Boxcar
  1965-1965, B-57 Canberra
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

SYNOPSIS: The B57 Canberra was a light tactical bomber that played a varied role in the Vietnam conflict. A veteran of operations Rolling Thunder and Steel Tiger, B57's from the 8th Tactical Bombing Squadron at Phan Rang, South Vietnam had also been equipped with infrared sensors for night strike operations in Tropic Moon II and III in the spring of 1967.

On 7 April 1965, then Capt. James W. Lewis, pilot, and Capt. Arthur D. Baker, navigator, comprised the crew of a B57B (serial #53-3880) on a multi-aircraft strike mission in extremely rugged, jungle-covered mountains approximately 18 miles west of the Lao/North Vietnamese border, 4 miles south of Ban Chuong La and 4 miles southeast of Ban Niang, Xiangkhouang Province, Laos. Their target was enemy traffic along Route 7. This area of Laos was considered a major artery into the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

At 1110 hours, Captain Lewis initiated a bomb run on an enemy target on Route 7 and was seen by his wingman as he descended through a thin cloud layer. His wingman did not see or hear from him again. Another member of the flight heard Capt. Lewis call "off target and out bound." The rest of the flight members conducted their attack passes, then returned to base as briefed. Because it was not uncommon for the aging bombers to separate during flights to and from base, no one was concerned until the Canberra failed to return to Bien Hoa Airbase at the scheduled time. A communications and ramp check of all airfields in the area was conducted and by 1400 hours it was determined the aircraft had not landed at any other base.

On 7 April aerial search efforts were initiated by search and rescue (SAR) and Air America aircraft in a 10 to 20 nautical mile radius of the target location, and continued through 12 April. These SAR operations were terminated when they failed to produce any indication of the crash site or any trace of the downed aircrew. At that time both James Lewis and Arthur Baker were listed Missing in Action.

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 757-05
26 July 2005


The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

They are Colonel JAMES WIMBERLEY LEWIS of Marshall, Texas, and Major ARTHUR DALE BAKER of San Antonio, Texas, both Air Force.

Lewis is to be buried in Marshall, Texas on 13 August , and Baker is to be buried in Longview, Texas on 29 July.

On 7 April 1965, Lewis and Baker led a flight of four B-57B Canberra aircraft on an interdiction mission over Xiangkhoang Province, Laos.

After their B-57 initiated an attack run into heavy clouds, Lewis radioed his plane was outbound away from the target.

There was no further radio or visual contact with the crew, and search and rescue missions failed to yield any evidence of the two men or their aircraft. Although the cause of the crash is unknown, enemy fire and bad weather are believed to be contributing factors.

In July 1997, a joint U.S.-Lao People's Democratic Republic team interviewed several witnesses, two of whom led the team to the crash site. Four excavations led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) from 2003 to 2004 yielded human remains and crew-related artifacts.

JPAC and Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab scientists used mitochondrial DNA to identify the remains as those of Lewis and Baker.

Of the 88,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, 1,827 are from the Vietnam War, with 372 of those within the country of Laos. Another 756 Americans have been accounted for in Southeast Asia since the end of the Vietnam War. Of the Americans identified, 197 are from losses in Laos.



Personal Information

Colonel [James Wimbereley] Lewis was born to Frank Hurston and Ruth Naomi Bell Lewis on 24 July 1928 in Starkville, Mississippi, where he grew up. Col. Lewis' father also served his country in World Wars I and II, joining the Army at age 14, and retiring as a major in the Air Force in 1950.

While in high school, Lewis played trombone in the Mississippi State University band. upon graduation, he joined the Air Force where he served as a member of the Air Force Band for three years. After receiving his discharge, he attended Mississippi State University for a year before transferring to North Texas State College, now University of North Texas, in Denton. During his years there, he helped establish the ROTC unit for the college. Lewis graduated in 1954, also receiving his commission into the United States Air Force as a second lieutenant.

While in college, Lewis met Barbara Gillihan, a student at Texas State College for Women, now Texas Women's University, also in Denton. They married on 28 December 1952. His son, David Scott, was born soon after graduation.

Lewis was called to active duty in April 1955. Entering pilot training in Hondo, Texas, he received his wings in 1956. Duty assignments included time in Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and finally Vietnam. Always anxious to fly, he volunteered for air time whenever and wherever he could. Because of this zeal, he maneuvered a great number of planes. His flight log included the F-100, T-33, F-84, C-119, and Ch-19, and over 1000 hours in the B-57. Commanders from base to base recorded favorable comments in his log, noting great flying ability as well as drive and dedication to his calling - the service of his country.

During this time, two daughters joined the Lewis family: Donna Carol, born in Oklahoma City in 1958, and Diana Gail, born in Tachikawa, Japan, in 1964.

Lewis and his family served at Yokota AFB in Japan in 1963 and 1964, where he flew the B-57B Canberra bomber. His squadron was transferred to Clark AFB on the Philippine Islands with his family joining him soon after the birth of their third child. A short time later, on 05 August 1964, Lewis' squadron was deployed to Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the beginning of the war. His squadron was engaged in the first bombing mission over North Vietnam where he continued flying until his loss.

Colonel Lewis was dedicated to God, his family, the Air Force, and to flying. He had a great love for a variety of music, photography, and carpentry. He acquired an extensive record collection and built his own stereo system, which gave him tremendous pleasure and relaxation. He volunteered as choir director for his church while stationed at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma.


Remains Returned

Memorial services were held on 13 August 2005 for James Lewis, who was promoted to Colonel during the time he was maintained missing. As with Arthur Baker, I had the privilege of attending the funeral -- really, a celebration of his life -- and talking with the family, to whom I thank for allowing me to share the above information with you. Also, like Arthur Baker, just because Lewis is now home does not mean that he will soon be forgotten. He too has become a part of me and will forever remain a part of me.

The Lewis family suggests that memorials be made to the National League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia, 1005 Glebe Rd., Suite 150, Arlington, Virginia 22201.

Return to the Vietnam War POW/MIA List


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