Watson, Jimmy Lee
Name: Jimmy Lee Watson
Rank/Branch: Chief Warrant Officer 3/US Army
Unit: Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry; 1st Cavalry Division
DOB: 28 July 1946
Home of Record: Lucamo, NC
Date of Loss: 13 March 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163650N 1072618E (YD601383)
Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1 "Iroquois"
Other Personnel in Incident: Cleveland Evans and Steven Heitman (missing)
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 13 March 1968, Lt. Purda, aircraft commander; then WO2 Jimmy Watson, pilot; SFC Eugene Gubbins, crewchief; and PFC Larry Moore, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1H helicopter, tail #67-17254. Also onboard the helicopter were 6 passengers: Sgt. Cleveland Evans, Jr. from 3rd Marine Division; SP5 Steven W. Heitman from the 1st Cavalry Division, and 4 unidentified passengers from the 101st Airborne Division.
The flight originated at Hue/Phu Bai Airfield and was on an evening logistics mission to Camp Evans located approximately 27 miles northwest of the airfield, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.
At 1830 hours, the aircraft was approximately 5 miles southeast of Camp Evans when it came under enemy ground fire. Due to battle damage sustained in the attack, the Huey was forced to land in an area covered in grass with jungle directly to the west. None of the 10 men aboard the Huey were injured in the incident and all of them safely exited the aircraft.
Believing there was a better chance of two small groups making their way to Camp Evans rather then one large group doing so, they split into two 5-man teams in an attempt to evade to friendly lines. Lt. Purda and the 4 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division comprised one team; WO2 Watson, SFC Gubbins, PFC Moore, Sgt. Evans and SP5 Heitman comprised the second team. The two elements separated shortly thereafter taking slightly different routes toward the northwest and Camp Evans.
Lt. Purda and the four 101st Airborne personnel walked into Camp Evans at 2000 hours. Once the situation became clear, an immediate and intensive search and rescue (SAR) operation was organized to locate the rest of the flight crew and passengers. On 28 March, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division found two bodies in a shallow grave not far from the crash site. They were later identified as belonging to helicopter crewmen SFC Eugene Gubbins and PFC Larry Moore.
SAR efforts continued for the three men in and around the location where the two bodies were found, as well as between Camp Evans and the crash site, but without success. At the time formal SAR efforts were terminated Jimmy L. Watson, Cleveland Evans, Jr. and Steven W. Heitman were listed Missing in Action.
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.
Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fly and fight 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.