Lucama, NC

Name: Jimmy Lee Watson
Rank/Branch: W2/US Army
Unit: Troop A, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry; 1st Cavalry Division
Date of Birth: 28 July 1946
Home City of Record: Lucamo NC (Local residents say correct spelling is LUCAMA)
Date of Loss: 13 March 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163650N 1072618E (YD601383)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1B
Refno: 1085
Other Personnel In Incident: Cleveland Evans; Steven Heitman (both missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2002.


SYNOPSIS: On March 13, 1968, SP5 Heitman, Sgt. Evans, passengers, WO Jimmy Watson, pilot, SFC Eugene Gubbins, PFC Larry Moore and Lt. Purda, crewmembers and 4 unidentified passengers of the 101st Airborne Division were aboard a UH1H helicopter (tail #67-17254) which proceeded north from Phu Bai airfield on a logistics mission to Camp Evans, Republic of Vietnam. About 3-5 miles southeast of Camp Evans, the helicopter was hit by enemy fire and was forced to land. All 10 persons exited the aircraft and split into two 5-man teams in an attempt to evade to friendly lines.

Lt. Purda and the four 101st Airborne personnel walked into Camp Evans at 2000 hours. An intensive search was initiated, but failed to reveal any trace of the aircraft or the 5 missing. On March 28, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division found 2 bodies in a shallow grave in the area of the crash site. They were later identified as those of SFC Gubbins and PFC Moore. The fates of the other 3 remained a mystery and the three were classified Missing in Action.

Since the war ended, thousands of reports have convinced many authorities that hundreds of Americans are still held captive in Southeast Asia. The three survivors of the helicopter crash on March 13, 1968 could be among them. They also could be dead. Until the U.S. seriously pursues his fate, we may not know with certainty what happened to Jimmy Watson.

Source: POW Network

Classmates remember missing soldier
Ceremony will honor pilot of Huey helicopter that went down in Vietnam in 1968

By Heather Wilkerson

Published: July 5, 2008

WILSON - WILSON - Early one spring morning, five gray-haired men, who long ago graduated from Lucama High School, gathered around a six-man table at Bojangles.

There was a symbolic empty seat. Someone was missing. That someone was a classmate and friend who has been missing for more than 40 years. That morning, his friends vowed that even though he is gone, he will never be forgotten.

On March 13, 1968, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Jimmy Lee Watson was piloting a Huey helicopter when it was struck by small-arms fire, causing him to make an emergency landing in Thua Thien Province of South Vietnam.

Of the 10 men onboard, five returned safely to camp. Search teams were unable to find the other five men, or any evidence of the helicopter. Two weeks later, on March 28, a unit of the 101st Airborne found two of the five missing soldiers buried in shallow graves. Watson was not one of them.

He and the two other soldiers were considered missing in action.

Watson would turn 62 this month, and although he is not here to celebrate his birthday or the coming Lucama High School Class of 1964 reunion, he will be the center of attention at a recognition service planned in his honor.

James Boyette, who now resides in Tallahassee, Fla., and Chris Raper of Elm City are spearheading the service.

"When our class is gone, he will be forgotten," Boyette said. "We're not going to let that happen."

At 4 p.m. on July 19, at the Lucama Elementary School auditorium, Watson will be remembered and honored by his classmates. There were 32 people in the class of 1964.

The guest speaker for the ceremony will be retired U.S. Army Col. Walter Joseph Marm Jr. Marm also served in Vietnam and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service.

When the planning process for this service began many months ago, Boyette and Raper realized that not knowing what happened to Watson had an effect on all of their classmates.

"There is a huge hole individually and collectively," Boyette said. "We want to know what happened to him. We want to move on as a class. The hole will always be there, but we want some closure."

With renewed interested, Raper began a more diligent search for answers.

Although there has never been any official word from the military to the Watson family, Raper's extensive research of declassified U.S. government files has been able to shed some light on those dark days in Vietnam.

One document revealed information reported on Nov. 11, 1974, to John G. Rogers with the Joint Casualty Resolution Center. The information, based on analysis of witness statements, was that, "there is strong, confirming testimony that in fact, all five Americans were killed and buried...."

A 1995 letter to the sister of one of the missing five crew members, Sgt. Steven W. Heitman, from James W. Wold, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/MIA Affairs, stated: "Five of the crewmen walked to the camp while Sergeant Heitman and four others remained behind to secure the helicopter. These men were subsequently attacked and killed by a large enemy force."

In 1973, a "data plate" from the missing helicopter was found near the emergency-landing site. Other declassified reports gave names and statements of both participants and witnesses of the battle that may have led to their deaths. The reports also detailed possible burial locations for Watson and the two other missing soldiers. The validity of these reports led to several archaeological digs by U.S. teams during the mid-1990s. Excavations of those areas failed to find any evidence of the missing soldiers.

For Boyette and Raper, the documentation provides at least some of the closure they are seeking.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem, NC on July 5, 2008