My Uncle Jim, whom I never met, flew the Douglas A1-H "Skyraider" during Vietnam. He was an Air Force pilot with the 602 Special Operations Squadron out of Nakhon Phanom (NKP), Thailand. Jim flew in Search and Rescue as well as Search and Destroy missions in "the secret war" in Laos. On such a mission on October 27th 1969, we're told his plane crashed into a mountainside...
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Tribute by Roger (Jim's Younger Brother)
Insight into the Herrick Family begins when Jim and Ila were married in 1942. They were high school sweethearts and soon after graduation they were married and living on a farm. Although farming occupied most of their time, raising a family was highest priority. In 1943, Barb was born, followed barely 15 months later by Jim, born on October 28, 1944. Three other sons joined the family while they lived on the farm. They moved to the town of Panora, Iowa in 1953, where four more brothers were born. The kids were raised in a loving, virtuous home.
As kids graduated from school and moved out on their own, we became "an Air Force family" with Jim, Paul, Gary, Jerry and Don all enlisting in the Air Force. Seems everytime a holiday came around it'd bring one to three blue-uniformed brothers home with it. It was great and gave us an opportunity to enjoy our biggest family vacation, touring Webb and Lackland AFBs in Texas and Eglin AFB in Florida.
Jim graduated from Iowa State University (ROTC) and attended flight training at Webb. He also attended several other schools around the country for survival and other training. I believe it was May 1969 that Jim shipped out for an unknown place in SE Asia. He requested duty at an air base in Thailand where he could join a privileged few to fly the Douglas A-1 "SkyRaider". He flew with the Sandys as well as "recon". His letters to the Herrick family told us that he would simply fly overhead and take pictures. He couldn't tell us the truth because the U.S. Government was "not fighting" in places named Laos, Thailand or Cambodia. So when two Air Force men came to our door in October, we were simply told his plane had disappeared over Laos.
It has been a difficult road for us but Mom Herrick has eased most by saying that she knew something was wrong the day Jim disappeared. That was many years ago - where has the time gone? We all miss Jim terribly, and it still hurts a great deal but I guess we do what we have to. We are thankful for all of our friends who help lighten the load. Knowing that others care and remember helps more than words can say. So thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
- Roger Herrick
Friday, June 11, 2004
Letter From Barb (Jim's Sister)
I have never put these thoughts on paper. I have told a few bits and pieces here and there. This is how I thought after Jim was MISSING. Such an unGodly term!! Immediately after, I was so very sure he would walk out from his hiding and be recovered (after all during survival training in the Philippines they could not find him), that I called mom and dad every few days to see if they had heard anything. It sure made it hard on them. I felt so isolated (in Calif.) and I thought they just forgot to call me, even though I knew that wasn't true. I should have come home. (I was pregnant with Kathy just a few months plus having two other little ones.) I used to dream frequently that I was in Laos looking for Jim. Because I had no idea of the real circumstances of imprisonment, I always dreamed I was there looking through "BARS" for Jim. I never saw him, I was always looking. In the "day time" I always envisioned a fiery crash into the mountainside of Jim's plane. I guess that was Gods way of telling me the reality of it. I never really gave up hoping until I read the book that Jerry and Roger found and read, My Secret War in 1989. Then I understood better and believed. I lost some hope after the war ended and the Gov't told us (families) to back off and give them a chance to bring these men home. When we realized they were not going to bring home or account for everyone, I had not the heart or hope to go back to speaking two or three times a week as before. I had been fighting to bring home (Jim, hopefully and if not, at least) any prisoner of war.
I always had to expose my inner most feelings and pain in my speeches to strangers. Totally against my nature, at that time! When I lost hope I could no longer go back and do that. I do think it is unforgivable for our country not to do everything in its power to bring home our servicemen and to account for them. Jim is gone and I have come to terms with that. It still is not easy and brings tears to my eyes frequently. What a loss! We all loved him so. It helps that we are a close family and it helps we believe in God. Thirty years later, you would think it would be easier or better, but it is still hard. What a loss!!!! I have learned to be expressive regarding my emotions and not bottle them up mostly due to the loss of my Kathy. I did tell Jim how we all loved him as I knew we as a family did not always express it verbally. I wrote him a letter and stuck it in his suitcase before he left, to find later. He did. So, with these thoughts, I send my love to you, also.Barb