James Louis Carter – Colonel, United States Air Force

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

No. 582-05
Jun 10, 2005

Vietnam War Missing in Action Serviceman Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial at Arlington National Cemetery today.

He is Air Force Colonel James L. Carter of Johnson City, Tennessee.

On February 3, 1966, Carter was the aircraft commander of a C-123 “Provider” aircraft which had taken off from Khe Sanh in South Vietnam on a supply mission to Dong Ha, South Vietnam.  The plane was not seen again, and searches along the flight route did not find a crash site.

Joint U.S. and Vietnamese teams investigated potential crash sites in Quang Tri Province on three occasions between 1993 and 1999.  They interviewed Vietnamese villagers who took them to three different crash sites.  Only one of the sites revealed wreckage consistent with that of a C-123 aircraft.  Several of the informants said that the bodies of the crew and passengers were buried near the site where the aircraft crashed into a mountain in 1966.

Specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) conducted four excavations at the site between 2000 and 2003.  During these four excavations, they recovered human remains, personal effects and other debris.  Laboratory analysis of the remains by forensic scientists at JPAC led to Carter’s identification.  Comparison of dental records with the recovered remains was a key factor in the identification.

Of the 88,000 Americans missing in action from all conflicts, 1,833 are from the Vietnam War, with 1,397 of those within the country of Vietnam.  Another 750 Americans have been accounted for in Southeast Asia since the end of the war. Of the Americans identified, 524 are from within Vietnam.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.

Name: James Louis Carter
Rank/Branch: Colonel/US Air Force
Unit: 311th Air Commando Squadron
DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 26 October 1928
Home of Record: Pasadena, California
Date of Loss: 03 February 1966
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: C123C “Provider”
Other Personnel in Incident: Wilbur Brown; Edward Parsley and Therman Waller (all missing)

SYNOPSIS:   Though it had been declared obsolete in 1956, the Fairchild C123 Provider, which was a converted WWII glider, became one of the mainstays of tactical airlift in the Vietnam War. In 1962 the Provider was fitted with special equipment to spray defoliants. Later, it was modified with a pair of J-85 jet engines that increased its payload carrying capability by nearly one third. The first of these modified C123s arrived at Tan Son Nhut on 25 April 1967, and this venerable old aircraft proved to be among the hardest working aircraft throughout Southeast Asia.

On 3 February 1966, then Major James L. Carter, pilot, Captain Wilbur R. Brown, co-pilot, Sgt. Edward M. Parsley, loadmaster, and Sgt. Therman M. Waller, flight mechanic, comprised the crew of a C123C Provider (tail #55-4537) which was on a multi-legged combat airlift support mission over Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. There was an unconfirmed report that four foreign nationals may also have been aboard this aircraft.

The Provider departed DaNang at 1320 hours and arrived at Khe Sanh Special Forces Camp at approximately 1410 hours. It then departed Khe Sanh and flew to Dong Hai, then returned to Khe Sanh. The aircraft again departed Khe Sanh at 1655 hours and headed southeast of the base on a supply shuttle mission. During this portion of their flight, contact was lost with the aircraft and crew. An immediate communications search was conducted with negative results.

The area where the Provider was believed to have gone down was thoroughly searched by air, but no trace of the aircraft or its crew was found in the extremely dense mountainous jungle. During the search, 25 sorties were flown over a period of 74 hours and were finally suspended at 1400 hours on 10 February 1966. Because this area was known to be under the total control of the Viet Cong (VC), it was believed there was a good chance the crew had been captured.

The location in which this aircraft disappeared was on the north side of a rugged mountain with a long, narrow jungle covered valley just to the north approximately 2 miles south of Highway 9 and 5 miles northeast of Khe Sanh. The extended search area was bordered by the DMZ 23 miles to the north and the Vietnamese/Lao border 21 miles to the west. In March 1966, wreckage thought to be that of the C123C was located in this area and photographed from the air. However, after the photos were evaluated by US intelligence, that wreckage proved to be that of a missing helicopter and not the Provider.

In April 1969, a Communist rallier identified a number of photographs of missing Americans as men he believed to have been captured. Wilbur Brown’s photo was among those the rallier selected. After the war, CIA analysts questioned the rallier’s identification of Major Brown’s photo because no returned POWs reported having seen any of the Provider’s crew in any of the POW camps.

Remains of Vietnam war pilot buried
10 June 2005

The remains of a pilot who went missing over Vietnam nearly 40 years ago were returned to his family for burial at Arlington National Cemetery Friday.

Air Force Colonel James L. Carter of Johnson City, Tennessee, was commanding a C-123 aircraft on February 3, 1966, when the aircraft disappeared in south Vietnam.

Joint U.S. and Vietnamese teams searched for the wreckage on three trips between 1993 and 1999. A crash site was finally identified in 2000, and remains recovered for DNA testing on four excavations through 2003.

Around 88,000 Americans are considered missing in action from all conflicts, 1,833 of them from the Vietnam War. Another 750 Americans have been accounted for in Southeast Asia since the end of the war, 524 from within Vietnam.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 10/26/1928
  • DATE OF DEATH: 02/03/1966

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