JAMES E. KENNEDY was born on January 2, 1950, in Woodbury, NJ. His home
of record is Pine Hill, NJ.
On December 22, 1969, SP4 James E. Kennedy, door gunner; WO Donald D. Burris Jr., pilot; WO John H. Hunsicker, aircraft commander; and SP5 Timothy A. Purser, crew chief; were the crew of a UH1C "Iroquois" helicopter on a combat support mission when it developed mechanical problems and crash landed.
Official records differ as to the location of the crash. US Army
casualty and Joint Casualty Resolution Center records indicate that the
crash was in Cambodia, yet Defense Department, State Department and
other records indicate that the crash occurred near the border of
Attopeu and Saravane Provinces in Laos, some 30-35 miles north of the
closest point in Cambodia. Coordinates 152029N 1072941E
SYNOPSIS: By early 1967, the Bell UH1 Iroquois was already the standard Army assault helicopter, and was used in nearly every "in-country" mission. Better known by its nickname "Huey," the troop carriers were referred to as "slicks" and the gunships were called "Hogs." It proved itself to be a sturdy, versatile aircraft which was called on to carry out a wide variety of missions including search and rescue, close air support, insertion and extraction, fire support, and resupply to name a few. It usually carried a crew of four.
On 22 December 1969, WO John H. Hunsicker, aircraft commander; WO Donald D. Burris Jr., pilot; SP5 Timothy A. Purser, crew chief; and then SP4 James E. Kennedy, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1C helicopter (tail #66-00587). The Huey was conducting a combat support mission in Cambodia when it developed mechanical problems. WO Hunsicker and WO Burris first attempted to nurse their crippled aircraft eastward toward the South Vietnamese border. When it became apparent it was no long flyable, the air crew made an emergency Mayday call giving their location, then crash landed in the Huey in the heavily forested mountains of extreme eastern Cambodia. The location of loss was 1 ½ miles east of the Cambodian/South Vietnamese border, 5 miles south-southeast of the closest point on the Cambodian/Lao border and 18 miles south-southwest of the tri-border area where South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos meet. This location was also 25 miles southwest of Dak To and 36 miles west-northwest of Kontum.
John Hunsicker and Donald Burris escaped through the left cargo door uninjured. They found Timothy Purser outside the aircraft with a broken arm. They looked for James Kennedy in the downed helicopter and the area immediately surrounding the aircraft wreckage, but could found no trace of him. Because the door gunner's position is located to one side of the main cargo compartment by an open door, they thought it possible he might have decided to jump from the descending aircraft as it gyrated to the ground, or he may have fallen out of it.
Minutes after the helicopter landed, a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter arrived on site and lowered ropes with McGuire rigs through the dense jungle to the three survivors. Unfortunately, the downed aircrew had not been trained in the proper use of this equipment. After lift off, and only a few feet off the ground, SP5 Purser fell out of his rig. WO Burris and WO Hunsicker remained in their rigs as the rescue helicopter started toward Dak To. Five minutes into the flight, Donald Burris lost his grip on the rope and fell to the jungle floor below from an altitude of from 2,500 to 3,000 feet. The rescue helicopter continued on to the nearest landing zone (LZ) unaware of this latest accident.
Another SAR team was inserted into the crash site a short time later to rescue SP5 Purser. The team also searched a 200-meter radius around the downed Huey for SP4 Kennedy, but again found no sign of him. The full SAR operation was initiated for the missing pilot and door gunner, but was discontinued on 25 December with negative results. At the time the formal search was terminated, James Kennedy was declared Missing in Action. No ground search was possible to look for WO Burris because of the hostile threat in the area and the lack of information to pinpoint his exact loss location. Because of the circumstances of loss, Donald Burris was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
There is little doubt that Donald Burris died as a result his loss. He has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. However, for James Kennedy who might easily have survived his loss only to have been captured by enemy forces known to be operating in this region, his fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.
MESSAGES LEFT ON THEWALL-USA
** Note that some of these messages are from years ago and their contact information may not be good anymore **
Jimmy, a few days late but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! You are missed. TK
ALWAYS REMEMBER ED- ALWAYS LOVED
Jim - You have never been forgotten. There is not day in
the life of your mother and father, (who are now deceased)your brother,
your aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, that you are not thought of.
My Cousin, My Hero
Jimmy was my first cousin and best of friend. We went to school together, (he was a year older than I), and grew up in the same town. (There were four cousins all around the same age that called ourselves the kissin' cousins - Joey, Jimmy, Betty & Elaine). I cannot tell you how I miss him. He is always on my mind. I just had mementos out a couple of days, looking at them. I think the not knowing is so cruel. You can never have that closure that is needed. He was such a great guy; handsome, kind and always a gentleman. I miss him still! I love you always Jimmy.
I have your bracelet...
I didn't know you, but I have looked at your name for the last 18 years on my wrist. The bracelet has become part of me. I never take it off... If Jim's family would like it please email me so I can get it to you. I would be honored to do that for your family Jim. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you made for your country...
Just a memory
I went to school and played in a wedding band with this mans younger brother, Phil! When I visited this site I decided to see if anything more had ever been discovered concerning James.the empty links and entries made me feel as though someone had to do or say something.I remember having the same feeling when I went to his home in Pine Hill for a band rehearsal in 1974 and his brother pointed out the car waiting for James' then anticipated return,,,,,at the time they only knew he was MIA,,,,,I guess that never changed. None the less, almost 30 years have past since I saw the empty, dusty car in the garage.I didn't want to leave this link the same way.God Bless and be with you James.and thank you for your service!
LOST BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN
I REMEMBER WATCHING JIM PLAY BASKETBALL IN HIGH SCHOOL HE WAS ONE OF THE BEST. HE WAS 3 YEARS AHEAD OFF ME IN SCHOOL, BUT HE WAS ALWAYS LOOKED UP TO BY THE UNDERCLASSMAN AND TEAM MATES. WHEN HE GRADUATED HE AND HENRY BOYED WHEN INTO THE SERVICE TOGETHER I BELIEVE, BUT I'M NOT SURE. HENRY WAS ALSO KILLED IN VIETNAM. JIM WILL ALWAYS BE LOVED AND MISSED BY ALL OF US THAT ATTENDED OVERBROOK REG. HIGH SCHOOL. RAMS ON THE RAMPAGE FOREVER. PEACE BROTHER
My adopted MIA
SSGT James Kennedy, My name is Tyra Brown. I'm a 2006 Junior at Sam Houston High School in Arlington, TX. As part of a class assignment on Vietnam MIA's, I learned your story and shared it with my classmates. I learned of your sacrifice and will remember you.
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