The database page for Jimmy Lee Coleman
Pfc Jimmy Lee Coleman was born in November, 1949, in Sylacauga, Alabama and would die in the jungles in Vietnam before reaching his 20th birthday. He was in C Company, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division (Old Reliables). The 4/47th was based out of the small port town of My Tho, just south of the then-capitol Saigon. The 9th Division had the responsibility of defensively guarding the Capitol, and offensively ensuring that the enemy never got to it. They would also be the only military force, in any US war, to join daily operations with the US Navy for patrols. The area was known as the 'Mekong Delta', with large rivers running inland from the South China Sea and thousands of smaller canals that were roadways for the NVA and Viet Cong to transport troops, ammunition, and supplies. Known collectively as the Mobile Riverine Force, men of the 4/47th might be on patrol boats one day to be inserted into the jungles - and helicopters the next day for insertion.
On 6 March 1969, platoons of Charlie Company were back into the field. His squad had been walking through the rice paddies, single-file with Pfc Coleman leading the way, when they came to a small canal with a hand-built bamboo bridge. From experience, they knew to fire rounds over to the other side to try and draw a response from any enemy presence. But the Viet Cong had also gained their own experience, and quietly laid in the trees in ambush.
Leading the way, Pfc Jimmy Lee Coleman started to cross the bridge - and a barrage of bullets erupted from the other side just as he was half-way across. His fellow soldiers ducked for cover, and when they looked up, Coleman was gone. Blood was present at the spot he was at, and a logical assumption was made that he had fallen over into the water. Reinforcements were called in to secure the area as the VC slipped into the jungle, divers went down to look for him, and an exhaustive search was made downstream to try and locate him......all to no avail.
Throughout the war, there were hundreds of drownings in the Mekong Delta area - some accidental, some from hostile fire - but the Army knew that the remains would usually show up and be found. Pfc Coleman was placed on the Missing in Action list, and it wasn't until over 8 years later that he would be reclassified as presumptive dead - and promoted to Sergeant First Class (E6) rank.
His remains were never found, and no one knows whether he was killed on that day - or merely wounded and subsequently captured by the enemy. Shortly after the incident, a Viet Cong soldier turned himself in to US forces - and recounted seeing Pfc Coleman being shot and falling over into the water.....but had no knowledge whether any of his other Units had found him.
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20 Jan 2005
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 01/20/2005