James Henry Ayres was a Major in the United States Air Force when he went Missing in Action in Laos on 03 January 1971. Ayres was born on 30 June 1937, and his home city of record is Pampa, Texas. Ayres' remains were identified and buried in 2007.
On 03 January 1971, a flight of two aircraft departed Korat Air base Thailand for an operational mission over Laos. Both aircraft were the reconnaissance version of the Phantom fighter bomber aircraft. The crew aboard the lead aircraft was Major James H. Ayres, pilot, and Capt. Charles W. Stratton, weapons systems officer.
During the mission, which took the flight over Savannakhet Province, Laos, Ayres' aircraft was seen to crash and explode in a ball of fire prior to its second pass over the target area. No parachutes were observed, and no emergency radio beeper signals were detected. The loss occurred about 8 miles southeast of the city of Ban Muong Sen.
After the war ended, 591 Americans were released from communist prison camps in Southeast Asia, but NOT ONE American held in Laos was released. Even though family members of the men still missing did their best to keep their men's plight in the public eye, these "tens of tens" were largely forgotten.
In 1988, the U.S. agreed to "grease the wheels" for the humanitarian construction of medical clinics to help improve U.S./Laos relations. In return, the Lao agreed to excavate crash sites on a regular basis. Still, no acknowledged negotiations have occurred which would free any living American POWs in Laos.
Biographical and incident of loss information was obtained from either POW/NET and/or Task Force Omega, Inc (unless otherwise noted). Additional information may be found via remembrances at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund or The Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial.