James Christof Becker was a First Lieutenant in the United States Army when he was killed in Laos on 15 August 1970. Becker was born on 18 April 1944, and his home city of record is Palestine, Texas. Becker's remains have not been returned.
On 15 August 1970, 1Lt. James C. Becker, pilot; CW2 Raymond W. Anderson, aircraft commander, SP4 Michael D. Christ, crewchief, and SP4 Peter A. Schmidt, door gunner, were flying a UH1H helicopter (tail number 69-15375) on a reconnaissance team extraction mission in Laos.
Because of the difficult terrain in the area of the planned extraction, the recon team was to be lifted out by ladder. The helicopter hovered 50 feet over the pickup zone and dropped the ladder from the right side of the aircraft. Five of the team members climbed onto the ladder, and the helicopter began to lift off. At about 100 feet the aircraft began to receive small arms fire and crashed.
The five team members were stripped off the ladder by the trees as the helicopter descended. After the crash, CW2 Anderson checked the two crewmen on the right side of the aircraft, noticing that 1Lt. Becker was upright in his seat, however, it seemed that he had hit his head into the overhead instrument panel in the force of the impact. Becker's helmet was gone, and there was blood on the floor. CW2 Anderson stated that Becker did not appear to be breathing. Anderson then unsuccessfully attempted to free Schmidt from the right gunnel. He noted no blood on Schmidt, but stated that Schmidt did not appear to be breathing. SP4 Christ checked SP4 Schmidt and noticed that he was breathing, but in short gasps, and was losing a great deal of blood. Christ had dislocated his collarbone, so was unable to free Schmidt from the wreckage.
Christ and Anderson returned to the pickup zone and were extracted. No attempts were made to return and recover Becker and Schmidt because of the location and hostile forces in the area. Although no other personnel are listed as missing from this incident, the fate of the team members on the ladder remains unknown. They were either recovered (dead or alive), or were indigenous personnel (and would not be listed on U.S. casualty lists).
Remarks e-mailed to pownetwork on 24 October 1998
I was 1Lt. Becker's platoon leader at the time of this incident, erest to his family. 1Lt. Becker and CW2 Anderson were flying a covert mission at the time of their loss. During this time in 1970 the 14th C.A.B. and the 71st A.H.C. were charged with providing aircraft to perform insertion and extraction missions for CCN (Command Control North) a covert operations group (1). I was flying a re-supply mission for the 196th Inf. BDE. Out of Kham Duc, approximately three kilometers east of the Vietnam, Laotian border. Although 1Lt. Becker & CW2 Anderson were operating on a secure radio frequency, their mayday call was broadcast in the clear. I was sitting at the POL point at Kham Duc, checking our aircraft for bullet holes, since we had just taken fire on our previous mission while coming out of the landing zone. The infantry commander came out to our ship and informed us that he was sending out troops that we could insert to secure the area where 1Lt. Becker's aircraft had gone down. I immediately cranked and prepared to load the packs. Other Rattler and Minute Man aircraft were arriving and refueling for the insertion and a gun team alerted. After a few minutes, we were informed by radio that we were "not to return to the crash sight and not to insert American troops". The infantry commander protested to Americal Division HQ and was threatened with court martial if he did not obey. Some weeks later CW2 Anderson brought a newspaper from home to the 71st Officers club. The headlines read something like "Laotian officials Protest at UN over US troops operating in neutral Laos". ... and the US categorically denied the allocations. Therefore, I believe that 1Lt. Becker and Sp4 Schmidt may have been captured by Laotian communist troops and not Vietnamese. Both of these individuals may have been rescued or at least recovered had division headquarters given the approval.
I have been unable to locate these survivors through all the veterans groups of which I am associated, (Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, 71st Association) to gather more details. I will post the report I downloaded from your page on the above association web sites in hope of finding out more information. We can not forget our Brothers in Arms.
Michael J. Beaumont (former Capt. US Army)
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.