WHITED, JAMES LAFAYETTE
Name: James Lafayette Whited
Rank/Branch: O4/US Army
Unit: HHC, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group
Date of Birth: 02 December 1923 (Detroit MI)
Home City of Record: Oklahoma City OK
Loss Date: 19 November 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 145338N 1070349E (YB384532)
Status (In 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published
sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2012.
Other Personnel in Incident: James M. Johnstone (missing)
SYNOPSIS: On November 19, 1966, Maj. James L. Whited, pilot and Capt.
James M. Johnstone, observer, were the crew of an OV1A Mohawk aircraft
(serial #13115, call sign Project 6) that departed Hue/Phu Bai airbase on a
reconnaissance mission over Laos. Johnstone was from the 20th Aviation
Detachment (see note below).
The crew had completed its aerial search and was beginning a routine
reconnaissance in an area of high ridges and valleys. The aircraft was
observed by the crew of the cover aircraft to climb, as if to fly over the
top of a ridge, keeping close to the trees. It then crashed. The cover
aircraft saw no parachutes, nor was the overhead hatch seen to eject. The
cover aircraft took extensive photographs of the area while searching for
survivors. Army helicopters searched the area and saw what was apparently
one body, but photo interpretation revealed nothing. Observers did not feel
that either crewman survived the crash.
The last known location of the plane was in Attopeu Province, Laos, about 10
miles east-northeast of the city of Muong May. Defense Department records
list Whited as missing in Laos, while Johnstone is listed missing in South
Vietnam. Their loss coordinates place them both over 25 miles from the
border of Vietnam and Laos. Why Johnstone is not listed missing in Laos is
The OV1A was outfitted with photo equipment for aerial photo reconnaissance.
The planes obtained aerial views of small targets - hill masses, road
junctions or hamlets - in the kind of detail needed by ground commanders.
The planes were generally unarmed. The OV1's were especially useful in
reconnoitering the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Johnstone and Whited are among nearly 2500 Americans who did not come home
from Southeast Asia at the end of the war. Unlike the MIAs of other wars,
many of these men can be accounted for. Tragically, nearly 6000 reports of
Americans still in captivity in Southeast Asia have been received by the US,
yet freedom for them seems beyond our grasp.
NOTE: The 20th Aviation Detachment existed until December 1966, at which
time it was reassigned as the 131st Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation
Battalion (Combat Support). The 131st Aviation Company had been assigned to
I Corps Aviation Battalion since June 1966, when it arrived in Vietnam. In
August 1967, the 131st Aviation Company was reassigned to the 212th Aviation
Battalion where it remained until July 1971, whereupon it transferred out of
There were a large number of pilots lost from this unit, including Thaddeus
E. Williams and James P. Schimberg (January 9, 1966); John M. Nash and Glenn
D. McElroy (March 15, 1966); James W. Gates and John W. Lafayette (April 6,
1966); Robert G. Nopp and Marshall Kipina (July 14, 1966); Jimmy M. Brasher
and Robert E. Pittman (September 28, 1966); James M. Johnstone and James L.
Whited (November 19, 1966); Larry F. Lucas (December 20, 1966); and Jack W.
Brunson and Clinton A. Musil (May 31, 1971). Missing OV1 aircraft crew from
the 20th/131st represent well over half of those lost on OV1 aircraft during
U.S. Army records list both Nopp and Kipina as part of the "131st Aviation
Company, 14th Aviation Battalion", yet according to "Order of Battle" by
Shelby Stanton, a widely recognized military source, this company was never
assigned to the 14th Aviation Battalion. The 131st was known as
"Nighthawks", and was a surveillance aircraft company.
Video At Site:
OKLAHOMA CITY -
The remains of one of Oklahoma's Finest were finally returned home for
burial on Tuesday, nearly 50 years after Major James Lafayette Whited
was killed in the Vietnam War.
This day has been a long time coming for Major Whited's family. Forty
six years ago, his plane went down in the Vietnam War, and for decades,
his body was never found. Then just a few years ago, a recovery mission
led to finding his remains. On Tuesday, an overdue hero's welcome home
happened for Major James Whited.
"He had a passion for flying and a dedication to his country. That was
one of his true loves, as a pilot, he was both rotary wing and fixed
wing qualified," Major Whited's son, James Whited, said.
Originally from Detroit, Norman, Oklahoma was the place Major James
Lafayette Whited called home.
It's where he joined the National Guard, serving as an Army pilot in
Korea and Vietnam.
On November 19, 1966, on a reconnaissance mission over Laos, his plane
went down. His son, James, was 20 years old.
"My father's crash was in a rainforest," said Whited, "they can only go
there in the dry season. They can't go there in the rainy season, so
there's a lot of logistics involved in this."
During a Joint Prisoners of War recovery in Laos between 2005 and 2009,
dental records finally identified Major Whited's remains.
"We went out and visited the folks at JPAC and got a briefing on the
process. [It's a] very, very interesting group that's responsible for
recovery of remains for all services for all conflicts," Whited said.
Major Whited's body was returned to Norman, closing the book on decades
of questions for his family.
"It was a very good welcome home," said Whited, "we're very happy."
Major Whited was 42 years old. His wife is still living in Norman and
says she's thankful she finally got to welcome her husband home she'll
turn 90 on Sunday.
Major Whited will be buried with full military honors this Friday.
Graveside services will be held at Sunset Memorial Park in Norman.