James Edward Pleiman

Airman First Class
United States Air Force
15 January 1944 - 14 March 1966
Russia, Ohio
Panel 06E Line 007

Silver Star (2 awards)

USAF Aircrewman

Purple Heart, Air Medal, Good Conduct, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
James E. Pleiman

The database page for James Edward Pleiman

7 Nov 2001


A1C Pleiman received posthumous awards of the Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.

Please visit my
memorial to A1C James Pleiman

A memorial from his niece.
E-mail address is not available.





Airman Second Class James E. Pleiman distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force over North Vietnam on 1 November 1965. On that date, Airman Pleiman was instrumental in effecting the safe and expeditious recovery of a United States Air Force RF-101 Pilot from hostile waters in the Gulf of Tonkin. With complete disregard for his safety, and with armed hostile swimmers within one hundred feet of him, Airman Pleiman jumped into the water to assist the pilot. This courageous and aggressive action promulgated against overwhelming odds, resulted in reducing the time the aircraft and crew were exposed to hostile fire. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Airman Pleiman has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.







Airman First Class James E. Pleiman distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force near Thanh Hoi, North Vietnam on 14 March 1966. On that date, Airman Pleiman performed as a Pararescueman aboard an unarmed HU-16 aircraft which executed a hazardous open sea landing in the face of an oncoming fleet of twenty-five armed sampans and fierce opposition from nearby shore batteries and mortar emplacements to rescue two downed USAF pilots. Without regard for his personal safety, Airman Pleiman courageously carried out his duty in the face of overwhelming odds as he dove into the sea in the midst of exploding shells in an heroic attempt to rescue one of the downed airmen. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Airman Pleiman has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

15 Dec 2004

"Of every one hundred men (in battle),
Ten shouldn't even be there,
Eighty are nothing but mere targets,
Nine are real fighters...
We are lucky to have them...
They the battle make -
Ah, but the one, one of them is a WARRIOR...
and he will bring the others back."
Hericletus, 500 BC

You were the first, my Friend, so young and full of life.
We all miss you.

From a very good friend,
Jon A. Sigsby
457 Harr Drive Apt A , Midwest City , Ok. 73110

Notes from The Virtual Wall

The HU-16 ALBATROSS was developed in the late '40s as an amphibious aircraft for over-water reconnaissance, transport, and search-and-rescue. Although the Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard all operated the HU-16, only the Air Force used it in Vietnam, with aircraft and crews assigned on temporary duty from the 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. The HU-16s usually were based at Danang Air Base in northern South Vietnam, and conducted SAR missions off the North Vietnamese coast from an orbit point ("CROWN BRAVO") well north of the Demilitarized Zone. From that location HU-16 crews could respond quickly to SAR requirements offshore southern North Vietnam. The Navy provided SAR support with helicopter-equipped destroyers - the "South SAR" off Cap Mui Ron and the "North SAR" further north off Haiphong - but each SAR unit provided back-up for the others, and the carriers on Yankee Station had additional helicopters if needed.

On 01 Nov 1965, an Albatross crewed by

  • Captain David P. Westenbarger, pilot;
  • Lt Walter Hall, co-pilot;
  • Captain Donald Price, navigator;
  • SSgt Clyde Jackson, flight engineer;
  • A1c Robert L. Hilton, radio operator; and
  • A1c James E. Pleiman, pararescueman,
was on station when an RF-101C (tail number 56-0174) of the 15th Tac Recon Squadron at Udorn RTAFB was hit by AAA fire while conducting a photo recon run over Haiphong. The pilot, Captain Norman T. Huggins, headed for the safety of open water and managed to get 25 or 30 miles south before ejecting from the stricken Voodoo. Huggins came down a little ways from a small island and swam ashore - but rapidly returned to the water when villagers started shooting at him. In a rescue reminiscent of an old movie, the cavalry (in the form of Westenbarger's Albatross) arrived shortly before the villagers caught up with Huggins and shot it out with the bad guys while A1C Pleiman jumped into the water and collected Huggins.

A bit over 4 months later, on 14 March 1966, the same crew was manning CROWN BRAVO in HU-1B tail number 51-0071 when an F-4C (tail number 64-0740) of the 480th Tac Fighter Squadron was hit by AAA fire while conducting an armed reconnaissance mission south of Than Hoa. The F-4C crew, Major James M. Peerson and Captain Lynwood C. Bryant, managed to get over water before ejecting in the vicinity of a small island chain just offshore North Vietnam, almost equidistant from Than Hoa to the north and Vinh to the south. The HU-16 and Navy SAR forces were activated with Peerson and Bryant about a mile offshore.

The UH-16 was first on station, supported by fixed-wing aircraft. When Westenbarger landed, the Albatross drew artillery and mortar fire from emplacements ashore as well as small-arms fire from sampans headed out to capture the downed F-4 crewmen. As the UH-16 crew, with A1c Pleiman in the water, attempted to assist Major Peerson aboard, the HU-16 was hit by an artillery shell and exploded in flames, leaving eight men in the water. A Navy SH-3 helicopter from HS-4 was able to pick up Major Peerson before being forced from the area with combat damage. A second SH-3 (also HS-4), operating under cover of supporting fixed-wing aircraft, picked up Bryant, Westenbarger, Hall, and Jackson, and a Navy UH-2 from HC-2 later picked up Captain Price. The rescued HU-16 crewmen stated that A1c Hilton was killed before the Albatross was abandoned and that A1c Pleiman was floating face-down in the water afterwards. Neither Hilton nor Pleiman were recovered.

Both Hilton and Pleiman were classed as Killed in Action/Body not Recovered. On 15 Dec 1988 the Vietnamese turned over remains which, on 13 Apr 1989, were publicly identified as those of A1c James E. Pleiman. A1c Robert L. Hilton has not come home.

Additional information is available on-line from two narrative descriptions of the event:

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 03/07/2011