Name: James Michael Lyon l058p
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Army
Unit: Headquarters, Headquarters Company,
2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division

Date of Birth: 08 March 1948
Home of Record: Indianapolis, IN
Date of Loss: 05 February 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163045N 1072824E (YD494093)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Prisoner of War
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1 "Iroquois"
Other Personnel In Incident: Tom Y. Kobashigawa, John W. Parsels, Daniel H. Hefel (returned POWs)


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 5 February 1970, Capt. James M. Lyon, pilot; Capt. John W. Parsels, co-pilot; SP5 Tom Y. Kobashigawa, crewchief; and SP4 Daniel Hefel, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1H helicopter (serial #68-16441) on a maintenance mission from Hue to Phu Bai, South Vietnam.

When the Huey failed to arrive at its destination on schedule, a ramp check of all the bases and airfields in the area where it could have diverted to was conducted. However, none of them could provide information on the missing aircraft. A search and rescue (SAR) mission was immediately initiated, but found no trace of the Huey or its crew. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, James Lyon, John Parsels, Tom Kobashigawa and Daniel Hefel were listed Missing in Action.

Meanwhile, at 1530 hours, when the aircraft was approximately 18 miles southwest of the city of Hue, the helicopter caught fire due to a malfunction and crashed into the rugged jungle covered mountains. Capt. Lyon was thrown clear of the aircraft and was burned extensively over his body. Further, his right leg was severed four inches below the knee. The other crewmembers were also injured in the crash, but not as seriously as Capt. Lyon was. Because of their injuries, none of the men were capable of taking evasive action. At 1630 hours, NVA troops reached the crash site and immediately captured the Huey's crew. Probably because of the hour, they spent the night near the crash site.

Throughout the night, the other Americans heard James Lyon yelling and moaning in pain. At 0600 hours the next morning, one of the crew heard Capt. Lyon moan and then heard a shot from his position, which was 30 feet from the aircraft wreckage. No other outcry was heard from Capt. Lyon, and the other Americans believed that a guard had killed him at that time.

Two weeks later, Capt. Parsels was told by 1st Lt. Lee Van Mac, the NVA commander of their POW camp, nicknamed "Camp Farnsworth" by the prisoners, that Capt. Lyon died from his wounds and was buried at the crash site. 1st Lt. Lee Van Mac gave Capt. Parsels the personal effects of Capt. Lyon, including his ID card and several photos that appeared to be of James Lyon's wife.

Over the next 3 years, Capt. Parsels, SP5 Kobashigawa and SP4 Hefel were held in several POW camps from their place of capture to those in North Vietnam. On 27 March 1973, John Parsels, Daniel Hefel and Tom Kobashigawa were returned to US control during Operation Homecoming. In their debriefings, each man reported they believed the NVA shot James Lyon and that it was a mercy killing. Further, the survivors said they doubted that the seriously injured pilot could have survived with his injuries.

While Capt. Paul Lyon apparently mercifully died at the hands of the NVA, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. Likewise, there is no question the Vietnamese know where James Lyon was buried and could return his remains any time they had the desire to do so. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate 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.