Dear Sun Spots: I have a prisoner of war missing in action bracelet for Sgt. James Jackson 9-21-69. He was one of 1,500 Americans either a prisoner of war or missing in action in Southeast Asia. Can you tell me if he was ever found? – No Name, No Town.

According to, Jackson was classified as missing in action and carried in that status until Aug. 7, 1980, when the secretary of the Navy approved a presumptive finding of death. Jackson’s disappearance remains unexplained.

According to, the hours leading up to his disappearance can be followed, through interviews and depositions given by members of his unit. But about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21, 1969, Jackson seems simply to have ceased to exist. On that day Jackson was a 21-year-old rifleman serving with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. Lima Company was on a remote hilltop known as Fire Support Base Russell in northern I Corps northwest of the rock pile near the DMZ. The scene of some fierce, deadly fighting over the previous year, Russell was being abandoned.

That was to be its last day in friendly hands. Demolition charges were being wired to blow the bunkers and trench lines, and excess powder bags for the 105 mm artillery pieces were being dumped in a pit to be burned. At some point one of the unit’s two Bru scouts is believed to have dropped or thrown a lit cigarette into a pit containing the powder bags.

The resulting fire touched off a series of explosions that scattered burning ammunition all over the top of the hill. The two scouts were killed instantly. Two Marines, both badly burned, also died. Fifteen others, including Jimmy Jackson, were wounded. Jackson’s appeared to be minor.

The wounded were gathered below the crest of the hill, away from the fires and explosions. When the CH-46 Sea Knight medevac choppers came in, the most seriously wounded were sent out first. Jackson was among the last to leave.

When the helicopter touched down at 3rd Medical Battalion a dozen Navy corpsmen rushed from behind the blast barrier that protected the door to the emergency room and hopped aboard. Two corpsmen lifted Jimmy Jackson to his feet and helped him walk slowly out the back of the helicopter. Shortly after Lance Cpl. James W. Jackson Jr., a corpsman on each arm, turned the corner and went into the hospital. It was the last time anyone saw him alive.

It was six weeks before it was discovered Jackson was missing. His parents thought he was with his unit. His unit thought he was in the hospital. The hospital had no record of him so had no reason to look for him. Not until parents and friends began calling and writing Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, asking why Jackson had not written, was a search initiated.

The initial search showed he was not with his unit, not in the hospital at Quang Tri and not on the hospital ship USS Repose. He was, in fact, nowhere to be found in Vietnam. The Marines had been confident that they would find Jackson, especially since it’s drilled into a Marine from the moment he arrives at boot camp that Marines look out for one another and don’t abandon fellow Marines, especially on the battlefield.

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