• phillipsburg
  • Warren
  • October 04, 1948
  • October 09, 1969
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • SGT
  • MIA
  • South Vietnam


James L. Suydam was born on October 4, 1948. His home of record is Phillipsburg, NJ. A 1966 graduate of Phillipsburg High School, James enjoyed bowling, golf and basketball.

James Suydam was inducted into the US Army where he attained the rank of Sergeant (SGT). He was assigned to Company A, 2nd Platoon, 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade.

Suydam was listed as missing in action on October 9, 1969, when the aircraft he was in crashed into the river. He was a passenger on the aircraft that was attempting to extract soldiers from a mined pickup zone in eastern Tay Ninh Province, near the shores of the Song Dong Nai River. The helicopter's blades struck trees, which resulted in the crash.

He was awarded numerous medals and decorations including the Purple Heart, the National Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Military Merit Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm.

Synopsis (from the POW Network) as to the circumstances behind being listed as MIA:

On October 9, 1969, a UH1H helicopter crew and passengers were attempting an extraction from a mined pickup zone in eastern Long Khanh Province, South Vietnam near the shores of the Song Dong Nai River.

During the extraction attempt, the helicopter's rotor blade struck trees, causing the loss of rotor RPM's and lift capability. The helicopter began losing altitude, turned right and headed west and downriver in an attempt to regain air speed. Shortly thereafter, the aircraft struck 15-20 feet of water in an almost level altitude, and sank on its left side in less than 10 seconds.

Immediate and continuous air and water searches, loudspeaker broadcasts, and pamphlet distributions were conducted during the period of 9-15 October and 19-21 October, suspended October 16-18 only because of poor weather conditions. No recovery was made of any of those missing from the aircraft, but the remains of two personnel aboard were located and subsequently identified.

A LRRP swimmer trying to inspect the site had difficulty staying afloat even with a rope. The individual reported that equipment seen on the shore after the crash appeared to be alternately submerged and then reappear. It could not be determined at the time how many persons escaped the aircraft. One who was known to escape (unnamed in Army records) reported that he could not make it to shore and went under. Another survivor reported seeing him go down within 3-4 feet of him, but never saw him again. One of the individuals who was initially seen to survive, later drowned or was lost in the indicent.

The only survivor of the original crash was WO Kilbourne, the pilot. The two remains located were identified as the crew chief, who had survived the immediate crash, but later drowned. CW4 James W. Bailey, the aircraft commander, was lost and remains recovered.

The waters of the Song Dong Nai River were swift and treacherous. It is particularly tragic that men who survived an aircraft would drown trying to reach safety. Driver, Garbett, Moore and Turner were listed as Killed, Body Not Recovered. Since their remains were never found, they are listed with honor among the missing.

Suydam is listed as missing in action.

Sources: Frank and Alice Suydam (parents), POW Network, various websites and NJVVMF.


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