Name: WO1 James George Zeimet
Status: Killed In Action from an incident on 09/04/1968 while performing the duty of Pilot.
Age at death: 26.0
Date of Birth: 09/16/1942
Home City: Brookfield, WI
Service: AV branch of the reserve component of the U.S. Army.
Unit: 283 MED DET
Major organization: other
Flight class: 67-17
Service: AV branch of the U.S. Army.
The Wall location: 45W-037
Short Summary: Shot down around Dak To. Killed by small arms fire after escaping from the aircraft. Alan Fry was his platoon leader in A/4 AVN 4 INF.
Aircraft: UH-1H tail number 66-16947
Call sign: Dustoff 39
Service number: W3158445
Country: South Vietnam
MOS: 062B = Helicopter Pilot, Utility and Light Cargo Single Rotor
Primary cause: Hostile Fire
Major attributing cause: aircraft connected not at sea
Compliment cause: weapons
Vehicle involved: helicopter
Position in vehicle: aircraft commander
Started Tour: 12/02/1967
"Official" listing: helicopter air casualty - other aircrew
Length of service: 02
Location: Kontum Province II Corps.
Additional information about this casualty:
James G. Zeimet had recently transferred to the 283 MED from the 4th Div. He was allowed to resume status as an Aircraft Commander after a short training period. He was killed north of Ben Het on Hill 851 attempting a second pickup from an LZ his co-pilot (WO Steve Byers) had successfully found earlier on the first run and extracted 7 WIA. On the second attempt Zeimet made an approach up a ridge line too far North and came to a hover over an NVA position (suspected 51 cal.) which hosed the aircraft and blew off Zeimet's right leg. Byers executed a controlled crash and he and the crew exited along with an Infantry Lieutenant who had hitched a ride back to his unit, the 1/14 Infantry. They fought off the NVA returning to the site after the crash while the Medic (SP5 Palmer) attempted to save Zeimet. Palmer couldn't stop the bleeding and Zeimet bled to death. After the shoot down, Dienlin and Dustoff 31 flew from Plieku to Dak To and extracted the remaining crew and 4th Div. wounded. Zeimet's body was recovered several weeks later. This action is cited in the 4th Division After Action Report for Operation Mac Arthur. from Jon Dienlin, 6 December 1993.
Just read incident reports on the death of Dust-off pilot WO1 ZEIMET, JAMES GEORGE http://www.flyarmy.org/K12219.HTM
And if it is the pilot whose body and aircraft I recovered, the facts are incorrect. I never knew his name before.
In September of 1968, the Special Forces A-camp just south of mine in II Corps, Dak Seang, came under attack. I was leading an operation from my A-Camp Dak Pek (A-242) down south of my camp and close to Dak Seang near the Dak Poko River. The defenders at Dak Seang repelled the attack with sapperĘs bodies in their wire, but remained under siege for days. My friend and former weaponĘs sergeant from Dak Pek, SFC Charles V. Challela(dec) and Dak Seang team commander CPT Jimmy Chiles(sp?) both received the Silver Star for that action. I was a Special Forces 1st Lieutenant and was XO-CA/PO of A-242, Dak Pek, at the time. I had with me 100 Montagnard CIDG from Dak Pek and SGT Lawrence Vosen. The area got socked in by monsoons also for a week or so and additionally Dak Seang could not take any incoming aircraft as NVA mortar crews fired incoming every time an AC showed up. They had to be resupplied by parachute. I volunteered to bring my men across the river to Dak Seang to help out, but had a CIDG drown while we tried to cross the flooded-whitewater Dak Poko river. Not wanting to lose more men who might be weak swimmers, I chose to wait out the weather and combat assault into Dak Seang in HueyĘs. During the Dak Seang siege a 4th ID Infantry Dust-Off support helicopter flew over a ridge just west of Dak Seang, which was the next SF camp north of Ben Het and was shot down by heavy machine gun or AA fire. A 4thID Infantry BN combat-assaulted into an old FSB on top of that mountain to try to recover the body of the pilot and Dust-off remains. We were told that the BN was immediately extracted due to very hot fire from many NVA positions.
The B24 Mobile Strike Force was brought in from Kontum commanded by CPT Joseph Dietrich, as well as a company of CIDG from Mang Buk, due east of Dak Pek, and Dak Seang added SFC Challela and a young E5 and 60 CIDG Jeh fighters to my command. We were tasked with finding the pilotĘs body and Dust-off and destroy and/or salvage what we could of the AC. My 160 man company was sweeping west of the camp and were the furthest north of the three-pronged sweep.
When we left Dak Seang, we immediately started taking incoming 82mm mortar fire from NVA on the ridge due west of the camp at the rate of 2 rounds every five minutes. We determined that the NVA were moving their mortars from position to position, as I was directing indirect fire onto each firing position right after they fired. I finally called for volunteers and had a squad of 4 Montagnards strip down to loincloths and went west of our location, barefoot through the jungle, and returned to me to report the NVA were firing, then hiding on the steep western slope of that ridgeline in reinforced one man bunkers, and a new crew would fire from a different location.
The mortaring stopped after we got inside the dense treeline, as we were no longer visible crossing the defoliated valley floor from the ridge. We made our way towards the location where the Dust-Off had been shot down. We had a massive ambush sprung on my point and lead elements and a hectic firefight ensued. The NVA were even using spiderholes and detonating American Claymore mines on my men. I counter-attacked and maneuvered my elements, with the courage and efforts of SGT Vosen and SFC Challela and the Montagnards and almost completely surrounded the NVA by forming a large horseshoe and sweeping along the ridge with their only escape to the west towards Laos, and even got my Yards to fire and yell the French word ōAllez!" over and over psyching out the now-running NVA. I was directing artillery and mortar fire onto them the whole time and the escape funnel mouth, but also called for TAC air. I got my right wrist wounded during this action, and called for Dustoffs out of Dak To to take out my dead and wounded. 2 Dustoffs came in, and I lost one of my best Montagnards, giving him mouth to mouth and having him die when the first Dustoff touched down. I sent the E5 from Dak Seang back to CPT Chiles and reported the man was a coward,( actually stronger words than that) and needed to be kicked out of Special Forces.
We kept working up the ridgeline and finally made the downed Dust-Off, which had been pretty much stripped by the NVA. I used HE hand grenades and thermite grenades I carried to destroy the rest of the chopper that was usable. There were NVA anti-craft positions all over that ridgeline, as well as bunkers, a few tunnels, and spiderholes. I had my men spread out, and we searched for the chopper pilot WO1 Zeimet. I personally discovered the pilotĘs body not far from the aircraft lying on his own gurney. He may have bled to death as the E5 stated, but his leg was NOT shot off as your report stated. He did indeed have a large bullet hole through his leg, which could indeed have been made by a .51 caliber machine gun, but his joints had all been broken, and he had a bullet hole shot through his forehead blowing the back of his skull off. His body was lying on his own stretcher, face-up, arms-outstretched, and I very strongly believe he had been taken captive. The bullet hole in his forehead was made while he was lying on the stretcher, as the bullet and parts of his skull passed through the canvas of the stretcher under his head. Maybe he had bled to death like the crew reported, and the NVA simply carried his body like a trophy and then shot him post-mortem just to be gruesome or make sure, but he was definitely shot after being placed on the stretcher, plus his joints had been broken by a rifle butt or clubs. That is another reason I felt he was captured alive. I do not know for sure that he was alive when the NVA got him, but that would be my definite bet. He had been dead too long to tell though. I did not have a regular body bag as I had indigenous with me, and did not waste menĘs energy or enthusiasm carrying bodybags. I literally folded his body at the elbows and knees to put it in the smaller indigenous bodybag I had.
When I reported that I had recovered his body and the Dustoff, a man who identified himself as his CO was very excited over the prick-25 radio and said, "This will boost every oneĘs morale so much! Thank you so much. I promise you, you are getting a Silver Star for this, young man! We will send a Dustoff right away to pick up the body."
Saying "Young man" led me to believe he had to be a lieutenant colonel or colonel. The former CO of the 1st Brigade 4th Infantry Div out of Dak To did not recall it, and kept good records, so it was not him.
My B-Team executive officer MAJ Gordon Rozanski, got on the horn right away and ordered me to maintain radio silence. Then as I listened, as did the radio operators at Ben Het, Dak Seang, Dak Pek, Mang Buk, and many 4th ID personnel, as he called the Dustoff commander, he tried to make it sound like he was with me and was the commander on the ground, because he heard the man say I was getting a Silver Star. He coordinated the body pickup while he flew in a Huey from Kontum with his unfired M-16 and starched fatigues to greet the Dustoff with me while they took the body out. MAJ Rozanski had been assigned to us from the 1st Cav Div but was a leg, not even airborne-qualified, yet he illegally started wearing a Green Beret from the day he came to Kontum. That did not go over well with any of us who were real SF or some of his other little deeds. So, he lands and the Huey takes off and there I am CAR-15 in my hand, and nothing but pro-me Montagnards with me. Boy, was I tempted and made that pretty clear to the good Major. They took the body off and then he flew out right away, probably concerned about getting perspiration or wrinkles in his jungle fatigues (Or more likely worrying about getting shot). Because of my wounded wrist, I was doing everything left-handed, not only then but for the next several weeks, refusing to even declare myself wounded over the horn so they would not medevac me out, and SGT Vosen and I had been out in the jungle with our Yards for about 2 straight weeks before even volunteering to go to Dak Seang for another week or two, not shaving or bathing that whole time with one tiger suit uniform and 2 pairs of socks each. We were totally done in when we went back to Dak Pek.
Anyway, after that, all the medals I had been put in for got trashed, according to the B24 S1, by Rozanski, so after I was medevaced back to the States a few months later (March, 1969) I started an appeal on all my medals and the appeal is still ongoing to this day. RozanskiĘs attorneys threatened to sue me and the army, too, if I kept on, but I would welcome bringing witnesses to that court room. I still do not know who the CO was, but I never got the Silver Star as promised, as well as 4 Bronze Stars for other things (3 w/V device and 1 meritorious, my Purple Heart, an Arcom w/V, 2 Air Medals, and a VN Cross of Gallantry w/Bronze palm). If you can connect me with any of the Dustoff pilots who flew support for me that day, the CO of that unit, or any other witnesses I sure would appreciate it. Right is right and wrong is wrong.
Right after that, CPT (later COL) Joe Dietrich who had commanded the Mobile Strike Force (Mike Force) company became my boss at Dak Pek. A few months later, he and I and ten Montagnards captured a Soviet 2,000 kilo truck in the Plei Trap Valley, and the CG of the 4th ID, Chinooked it out, and placed it in front of his DIV HQĘs as a war trophy, and neither Joe or I even got a thank you" for that. That is the nature of Special Forces, the "silent professionals." No problem, but what happened to me because of Rozanski was very, very wrong and dishonorable, so that is why I have pursued it and still care after all these years.
I do not want to cast any aspersions on those crew members who were shot down with Mr. Zeimet, and who bravely fought their way out of there and back to Dak Seang, but I believe the man, at least briefly, was a POW before being KIA. His family deserves to know that, too. I also want to clear the record as your record says Ben Het, but the A-Camp was Dak Seang that they fled to and were shot down closest to. Your record actually says north of Ben Het, and that is true, but way north of Ben Het. Can you hook me up with any of them? I have not found any reports of any other medevacs being shot down with the pilot lost around that time, so this must be it.
This is actually a short version of what happened back then. Even during the mortaring, Challela, Vosen, and I all earned Purple Hearts "using the John Kerry standards." In other words, we each got nicked and scratched. Thank you for your own service and welcome home. From: Don Bendell, April 2006.
I happened to run my name on aol search and it had the info on ZEIMET. In this article Bendell claims a lot of things that are not factual and complete fantasy. I had contact from the Pentagon sveral years ago about a letter they had received from Bendell about not getting awards and how he wanted to kill me in RVN and still wanted to. My attorney answered the letter to the Pentagon describing how much of a nut case he is and that his Rambo complex has taken over. As for the recovery of the remains, he is partly correct. Myself and the Ops Sgt for B24 went to the site of the crash and recovered the remains. I photographed the remains which were laid on a stretcher and covered with parts of the aircraft. I determined that he was shot once in the forhead, his helmet and pistol were absent, he still had his dog tags and chest plate on his person. His,Ibelieve left foot had been severed and the boot was placed on the stretcher with him. Due to the advanced state of decomp I put everything in the body bag which we carried and folded it and lashed it so the Ops Sgt and I could carry it down to a pickup site. After a discussion with the pilots who were helping us we flew to Dak To and turned the remains over to the Medical unit along with the film of the site and the remains before I had bagged them. As far as the great firefight, it never happened, and as for my unfired M16, I never in all my tours carried an M16. From: Maj Gordon Rozanski
Reason: aircraft lost or crashed
Casualty type: Hostile - killed
married male U.S. citizen
Religion: Lutheran (Missouri Synod)
Burial information: PINELAWN MEMORIAL PARK, WAUWATOSA, WI
The following information secondary, but may help in explaining this incident.
Category of casualty as defined by the Army: battle dead Category of personnel: active duty Army Military class: warrant officer
This record was last updated on 09/23/2010
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