AYRES, JAMES HENRY
Name: James Henry Ayres
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat Airbase, Thailand
Date of Birth: 30 June 1937
Home City of Record: Pampa TX
Date of Loss: 03 January 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 165400N 1055300E (WD940685)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Charles W. Stratton (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1990 with the assistance
of 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.
SYNOPSIS: On January 3, 1971, a flight of two aircraft departed Korat
Airbase Thailand for an operational mission over Laos. Both aircraft were
the reconnaissance version of the Phantom fighter bomber aircraft. The crew
aboard the lead aircraft was Major James H. Ayres, pilot, and Capt. Charles
W. Stratton, weapons systems officer.
During the mission, which took the flight over Savannakhet Province, Laos,
Ayres' aircraft was seen to crash and explode in a ball of fire prior to its
second pass over the target area. No parachutes were observed, and no
emergency radio beeper signals were detected. The loss occurred about 8
miles southeast of the city of Ban Muong Sen.
Ayres and Stratton are among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. During the
course of American involvement in the war, the Pathet Lao stated on a number
of occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners and that
those captured in Laos would also be released from Laos. Unfortunately, that
release never occurred, because the U.S. did not include Laos in the
negotiations which brought American involvement in the war to an end. The
country of Laos was bombed by U.S. forces for several months following the
Peace Accords in January 1973, and Laos steadfastly refused to talk about
releasing our POWs until we discontinued bombing in their country.
After the war ended, 591 Americans were released from communist prison camps
in Southeast Asia, but NOT ONE American held in Laos was released. Even
though family members of the men still missing did their best to keep their
men's plight in the public eye, these "tens of tens" were largely forgotten.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in
Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government, many of them
relating to men lost in Laos. Tiny steps towards recognition of the
communist Lao government have been taken over the years, but no effort to
negotiate the freedom of any Americans still alive has been made.
In 1988, however, the U.S. agreed to "grease the wheels" for the
humanitarian construction of medical clinics to help improve U.S./Laos
relations. In return, the Lao agreed to excavate crash sites on a regular
basis. Still, no acknowledged negotiations have occurred which would free
any living American POWs in Laos. If, as thousands of reports indicate,
Americans are still alive in Indochina as captives, then the U.S. is
collaborating in signing their death warrants. It's time we found the means
to bring our men home.
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