SGT James Douglas Locker

 

This hero is home

The crash site of the Air Force Helicopter Jolly Green 23 was discovered
on 09 November 2002 and excavation began on 17 January 2003.
The remains of the four crew members were repatriated to US soil on 14 February 2003.
SGT Locker was buried with full military honors in Sidney, Ohio on 18 October 2003.

See  The Recovery of Jolly Green 23  for pictures from the crash site.
See Tom Pilsch's website for the story of  The Search for Jolly Green 23.
On 15 February 2005, Senate Bill 156 designated Ohio State Route 48
as  USAF Pararescue Memorial Parkway.

Pararescue emblem
Pararescue Creed
It is my duty as a Pararescueman to save life and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do, "That Others May Live."
Pararescue Beret
POW/MIA bracelet
Name James Douglas Locker
Rank/Branch E4/US Air Force
Serial Number 15754661
Unit 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, DaNang, Republic of Vietnam
Date of Birth 25 February 1947
Home City of Record Sidney OH
Date of Loss 09 June 1968
Country of Loss South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates 162144 North 107053 East
Status (in 1973) Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category 2 - Suspected Knowledge

This category includes personnel who were:
A. Involved in the same incidents as individuals reported in category 1 (Confirmed Knowledge), or
B. Lost in areas or under such conditions that they may reasonably be known by the enemy, or
C. Connected with an incident which was discussed but not identified by name in the enemy news media, or
D. Probably identified through analysis of all-source intelligence.

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground HH3E Jolly Green Giant Combat Rescue Helicopter (Jolly Green 23)
The Wall Panel 58W - Row 010
Other Personnel In Incident Elmer Holden, Jack Rittichier, Richard Yeend (all Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered)
Source Compiled by the P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action Combat Casualty File; PJ's in Vietnam; Task Force Omega. Inc.

Synopsis

On 9 June 1968 US Coast Guard Lt. Jack C. Rittichier, pilot; and US Air Force Capt. Richard C. Yeend, Jr., Co-pilot; SSgt. Elmer L. Holden, flight engineer; and Sgt. James D. Locker, Pararescueman; comprised the crew of a HH3E helicopter (tail #67-14710), call sign "Jolly Green 23".

Jolly Green 23 was flying a SAR mission for HELLBORNE 215, a USMC A-4E piloted by 1Lt Walter R. Schmidt Jr. (MIA), who was downed northwest of the A Shau Valley, in the middle of a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) encampment, thirty seven miles west of Hue RVN. Voice contact was established with the survivor, who reported he possibly had a broken arm and leg. The enemy was using him as bait to lure SAR aircraft, especially the very vulnerable Jolly Green Giants, within killing range. Air strikes pounded the area and brutalized the enemy, but with little effect.

Three times the lead helicopter, Jolly Green 22, attempted to reach Schmidt, but they were unsuccessful due to the intense ground fire. When that Jolly was forced to depart because of low fuel, Jim's aircraft assumed the low bird role. After suppressive fire was put in, Jolly Green 23 moved in to attempt the pickup. The crew fought its way in but was forced to withdraw. Again it went in, this time surrounded by gun ships, but again the enemy met them head on.

As the Jolly Green Giant hovered over the rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 9 miles northwest of the A Shau Valley floor near the downed pilot, the helicopter was struck by heavy enemy ground fire. It was seen to fall to the ground in flames and disintegrate upon impact by the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC) just to the west of a primary road used by the communists to infiltrate troops and supplies into South Vietnam from the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The location of loss was approximately 1300 meters northeast of the village of Ka Kou, 12 miles northwest of the village of A Luoi, 25 miles southeast of Khe Sanh and 29 miles west-southwest of Hue. This location was also 4 miles north of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, near the border between Thua Thien and Hue Provinces.

The pilot of Jolly Green 23 attempted to land in a small clearing, but the helicopter exploded when it hit the ground and burned intensely, killing Jim Locker and all the others on board. >Another aircraft flew over the wreckage, but its crew saw no survivors and heard no emergency beeper signals. Because of the intense enemy presence in the area, no ground search was possible. The pilot they were attempting to pick up was later rescued by another search and rescue (SAR) team. Jack Rittichier, Richard Yeend, Elmer Holden and James Locker were immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

On 12 October 1991 a villager turned in to the "Office PA15 - Public Security", Dong Ngi Province, Vietnam, a dogtag and remains reportedly belonging to Lt. Rittichier. The information on the dogtag correlates with the correct data for Jack Rittichier. That information was provided to US personnel, however, the dogtag and remains were not turned over by the Vietnamese. There was no information provided by the villager as to the fate of Elmer Holden, James Locker or Richard Yeend.

While there is little doubt the crew of the Jolly Green Giant died when their helicopter crashed into the dense jungle covered mountains located at the northern edge of the A Shau Valley, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible.

For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different. Since the end of the 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 American Prisoners or War remaining throughout Southeast Asia TODAY. Rescue aircrews in Vietnam 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.

The Air Force has dedicated two buildings to the memory of Jim Locker, at  Keesler AFB, Mississippi and at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.

USAF Pararescue

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Who Was James Douglas Locker?

James Douglas Locker was my friend!

He was a young man of quiet demeanor and strong stature. He was a principled man of high ideals, with a strong sense of commitment, and Jim was devoted to serving his fellow man, friend and foe alike.

In addition to our regular flight assignments on the HH-3E Jolly Green rescue helicopters, we also spent many hours flying medical-evacuation / local base rescue flights on the HH-43 Pedro rescue helicopters. We patched up and tended to the wounded combatants from both sides. No matter who, Jim's attention and skill to the wounded was indiscriminate and always one hundred percent.

Rewarded with some rest and recuperation days for being lowered to the ground on a mission in North Vietnam, we decided to tour the Orient. We spent ten grand days visiting the Philippines, Thailand and Japan, and had many great adventure stories to tell on our return to home base at the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron ,DaNang, RVN. Unfortunately, we never got that chance. On an early morning mission, the day after our return, Jim Locker was killed.

That morning I helped Jim prepare for his mission. Gathering up his gear we hurried to the Jolly Green for pre-flight duties. On the way we talked about the impending mission and the familiar dangers of combat rescue. To this day, Jim's words, on that last walk together, still echo in my head. "This is what it's all about... this what we were trained to do."

A little while later, on the way back to the flight line from the gun locker, I became increasingly concerned when, upon approaching the Jolly Green, I witnessed Jim giving away to his ground crew what turned out to be his "personal effects" . Instantly, an empty feeling descended on me, never to leave... not in all these years.

Pararescue (PJs), along with the total rescue community, lost four brothers that day. Closing my eyes I can still see those heroes, posed in my mind, next to their Jolly Green helicopter, making ready to do their duty... risking it all to save another.

Jim Locker (PJ) and his crew, Jack C. Rittichier (Pilot), Richard C. Yeend Jr (Co-Pilot), and Elmer "Larry" Holden (Flight Engineer), performed the ultimate sacrifice and gave all they could give, "That others may live".

A country grateful to its warriors saves its highest praise for the soldiers pulling a brother-in-arms out of danger. Pararescue warriors, along with their crews, are professionals voluntarily dedicated to that very mission, and often  beyond. A grateful nation should never forget their whole hearted dedication to duty, to God and country, and, most importantly, to their fellow man. It was my extreme honor and, indeed, a privilege to have known and served with Jim Locker, and his crew. I will always miss Jim's friendship ! He was a true friend !

Til I See You Again My Friends, may God hold you in his special care.

-- Douglas Joseph McGill Jr., USAF PARARESCUE, RETIRED (66-87)

Jim Locker
Jim Locker
Donated by Duane I. Beland, HH3E Flight Engineer, DaNang RVN, (1967-69).
(Click on the photo to view the full size picture and other photos.)


Awards and Decorations

  • SILVER STAR with 2 oak leaf clusters
  • DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS
  • 2 PURPLE HEARTS
  • AIR MEDAL with 7 oak leaf clusters
  • POW/MIA MEDAL (missing while serving in the defense of freedom in Southeast Asia)
  • MILITARY MERIT MEDAL
  • VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL
  • RVN GALLANTRY CROSS with palm
  • RVN CAMPAIGN MEDAL
Silver Star - 14 March 1968
"Sergeant James D. Locker distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as Rescue Specialist on an HH-3E in Southeast Asia on 14 March 1968. On that date, Sergeant Locker penetrated an extremely heavily defended hostile area to attempt the rescue of a downed pilot. After one helicopter was disabled by intense hostile fire, Sergeant Locker made two attempts to rescue the downed pilot before his aircraft was hit by hostile fire. After it was determined that the aircraft was not seriously damaged, Sergeant Locker returned to make another rescue attempt. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Locker persisted in the rescue attempt until his aircraft was heavily damaged by hostile fire. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Locker has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."
Silver Star
 
Silver Star - 1st Oak Leaf Cluster - 04 May 1968
"Sergeant James D. Locker distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as Rescue Specialist on an HH-3E in Southeast Asia on 4 May 1968. On that date, Sergeant Locker was instrumental in the rescue of two members of a Special Forces team that was in imminent danger of being overrun by the opposing forces that encircled their position in the A Shau Valley area. Despite intense hostile fire which severely damaged his aircraft, Sergeant Locker, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, effected the rescue of two Special Forces personnel. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Locker has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."
 
Silver Star - 2nd Oak Leaf Cluster - 09 June 1968
"Sergeant James D. Locker distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as a rescue specialist on an HH-3E helicopter in Southeast Asia on 9 June 1968. On that date, Sergeant Locker participated in the attempted rescue of a downed pilot in one of the most heavily defended areas in Southeast Asia. Despite intense, accurately directed hostile fire which severely damaged another aircraft, Sergeant Locker, with undaunted determination, indomitable courage, and professional skill, stood in the open helicopter doorway awaiting deployment to assist the downed pilot when his aircraft was downed by hostile fire. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Locker has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."


13 February 2003

From: POW-MIA InterNetwork

Area soldier's remains may have been found
by Tom Barnett staff reporter Sidney Daily News

February 13, 2003 - Remains recovered from a Southeast Asia military helicopter crash site, undergoing forensic testing at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, could bring closure to the families of a Sidney pararescueman Sgt. James D. Locker and three other crew members.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Tuesday military officials say they are "almost 100 percent certain" they have found the site of the June 9, 1968 crash of the Green Giant 23 HH-3E rescue helicopter and the remains of its crew.

The helicopter went down under heavy enemy fire in Laos, crashing and exploding while attempting to rescue a downed airman.

The rescue 'copter was piloted by U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jack Rittichier, 34, of Barberton. Crew members were Capt. Richard C. Yeend, 29, of Mobile, Ala., the co-pilot; Sgt. Locker, 21 of Sidney; and  Staff Sgt. Elmer L. Holden, 24, of Oklahoma City.

Contacted at their Sidney home Wednesday, Sgt. Locker's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Locker, said they have received no word from the military regarding the location of the crash site or the possibility their son's remains may have been located.

The crash site, a six-hour drive and 90-minute helicopter ride from Vientiane, the capital of Lao People's Democratic Republic, was discovered in November, Air Force sources said.

In addition to human remains and helicopter pieces, search and recovery teams reportedly found personal effects. They include a pocketknife, part of a watch, a boot sole and a bar ensign believed to have belonged to either Capt. Yeend or Lt. Rittichier.

Prior to locating the crash site, a villager had turned a dog tag and remains reportedly belonging to Lt. Rittichier over to a public security office in Dong Ngi Province, Vietnam.

Positive identification of the remains will not be made for several months, a military spokesperson said.

James Douglas Locker, 21, a graduate of Sidney High School, entered the Air Force July 5, 1962 and trained as a rescue and survival specialist.

His awards and decorations include: Silver Star with two oak leaf clusters; Distinguished Flying Cross; two Purple Hearts; Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters; POW/MIA Medal (missing while serving in the defense of freedom in Southeast Asia); Military Merit Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, RVN Gallantry Cross with palm and RVN Campaign Medal.

The Air Force has dedicated two buildings to the memory of Sgt Locker at Keesler AFB, Miss. and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.

His name is included on the 500-foot granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and on the Korean-Vietnam War Veteran's monument on the southwest corner of the Courtsquare in downtown Sidney.

20 September 2003

Ohio Beacon Journal

Missing vet's remains found in Vietnam
Associated Press

SIDNEY, Ohio - Thirty-five years ago a helicopter carrying Air Force Sgt. James Locker crashed while trying to rescue a downed pilot in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

The pararescueman didn't come back and was listed as missing, but two of his comrades vowed to never give up the search. Their persistence paid off when Locker's remains were unearthed at the crash site in February. Now Locker's parents say his remains will be returned to his home in Sidney in western Ohio and buried with full military honors.

"It's resolved now. We finally have closure," said Dorothy Locker, the soldier's mother.

James Locker enlisted in the Air Force in 1965 shortly after graduating from Sidney High School. His job during the Vietnam War was to man a helicopter machine gun and help rescue downed pilots by operating a cable lowered to the ground.

30 September 2003

New York Times
Remains of 4 MIA's Identified

Remains of four servicemen whose helicopter was shot down over Vietnam while on rescue mission during war are identified and being returned for burial with full honors; included is only Coast Guardsman missing in action, Lt Jack Rittchier, and three Air Force personnel, Capt Richard Yeend, Staff Sgt Elmer Holden and Sgt James Locker; 1800 Americans remain unaccounted for from war.


 

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