Wheeler, James Atlee, Capt

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
Last AFSC Group
Primary Unit
1965-1965, 34th Tactical Group
Service Years
1955 - 1965
Officer Collar Insignia

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Sgt Thomas LaRoe (Birddog) to remember Wheeler, James Atlee, Capt.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Tucson, AZ
Last Address
Bien Hoa AB

Casualty Date
Apr 18, 1965
Hostile, Died
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Vietnam, South (Vietnam)
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
South Lawn Memorial Cemetery - Tucson, Arizona
Wall/Plot Coordinates
01E 103

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Vietnam Veterans Memorial
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Aviator (Basic)

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
1st Air Commando Squadron34th Tactical Group
  1965-1965, 1st Air Commando Squadron
  1965-1965, 34th Tactical Group
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1965-1965 Vietnam War
 My Aircraft/Missiles
A-1 Skyraider (Sandy, Spad)  
  1964-1965, A-1 Skyraider (Sandy, Spad)1
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
  In May 1964 the 1st Air Commando Squadron turned in their tired T28D aircraft for the versatile Douglas A1E Skyraider "wide-body" attack aircraft. With its fantastic capability to carry an unusually wide range of ordnance (8,000 lbs. of external ordnance), great flight range (out to 3,000 miles), and the ability to absorb punishment, the A1 became one of the premier performers in the close air support and attack mission (nickname Spad) and RESCAP mission (nickname Sandy) roles.

The Skyraider served the Air Force, Marines and Navy throughout Southeast Asia until the end of the war. On 18 April 1965, Captain James A Wheeler was the pilot of an A1E Skyraider in a flight of aircraft that was conducting an interdiction mission against Viet Cong (VC) activity just south of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border in the southern most region of South Vietnam. The area was laced with rivers, canals and waterways of all sizes and flowing in all directions. Villages and hamlets surrounded by rice fields dotted the landscape. The VC had several strongholds in this sector, including one in the village of Ba Chuc, Tri Ton District, An Giang Province, South Vietnam.

As the Skyraiders flew low over Ba Chuc, enemy gunners fired at them. Capt. Wheeler and the pilots immediately turned around to attack the enemy position. Other pilot's watched Capt. Wheeler as he made his dive-bombing attack on the village. They observed him release a fragmentation bomb, then saw it detonate immediately upon leaving the aircraft. They watched in horror as the Spad dove straight into the ground trailing fuel and smoke, and exploded upon impact. None of the pilots saw the canopy or ejection seat leave the aircraft before impact. The crash site was located in the center of Ba Chuc between two legs of the same road, Highway TL55. It was also 70 meters from a small pagoda and 300 meters east of the western-most portion of the road. Further, a large number of huts surrounded the Spad's wreckage.

James Wheeler was immediately declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. In 1994, a US/Vietnamese team under the auspices of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) traveled to Ba Chuc to conduct a field investigation into the fate of Capt. Wheeler. The team found that the village as it existed at the time of loss no longer exists today. The terrain in the 100-meter by 100-meter search area believed to be the location of the crash is flat and grassy with bamboo, small trees and shrubs. The team's investigation found no signs of aircraft wreckage, no remains and no sign of a burial site. US personnel did interview a Vietnamese who said he witnessed the crash. According to this witness, after the Spad was downed, he saw the nose and tail of the aircraft about 7 meters apart. He said he also observed a pair of boots and a human foot lying on the surface of the ground near the wreckage, but did not see any other remains in or around the crash site. He told the JTFFA team members that when US forces arrived about an hour later, he left the village. When he returned two days later, the boots and human foot were gone. He did not believe the aircraft wreckage had been disturbed or scavenged at that time. When the American members of the JTFFA team returned to Hawaii where their detachment is stationed, they attempted to follow up on the Vietnamese witness's statement that "US forces arrived about an hour later."

After CIL-HI's staff completed its work, the remains were returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
NOTES: http://skyraider.org/skyassn/skysqdhist/1sqdhist.htm http://www.pownetwork.org/bios/w/w382.htm http://www.taskforceomegainc.org/w382.html (photo) http://skyraider.org/skyassn/classpics/hurlphot.htm (photo) http://archives.starbulletin.com/2002/05/26/news/story5.html (photo) http://www.vvmf.org//index.cfm?SectionID=110&Wall_Id_No=55482 Memorial stone:: Arlington National Cemetery Plot: Memorial Section G
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