James R. Berger
POW 1966 – 1973
Rank/Branch: O3/United States Air Force
Unit: 480th TFS
Date of Birth: 06 November 1938
Home City of Record: Mansfield OH
Date of Loss: 02 December 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 212000N 1055400E
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C #0753
Incident No: 0534
Other Personnel in Incident: Hubert Flesher, returnee
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME / copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
Shot Down: December 2, 1966
Released: February 18, l973
I arrived in Da Nang 22 October 1966 from Clark AFB school in the
Philippines. My first mission was 24 October 1966, 36 Wing, 480 Squadron. I
was Senior Guy in Backseat (GIB) and I crewed with Bud Flesher (Captain) in
a F-4 C. I had one C-123 and two O-1E missions, twelve in South Vietnam and
fourteen in North Vietnam.
On 2 December 1966, we were number three in a flight of four F4C’s on Mig
Caps just north of Thudridge. We swung wide to the right of the rest of the
flight with Mig 21 ‘s on our right and a SAM (surface to air missile) on the
left. We were at 14,000 feet, 913 MACH air speed, 100 left bank at SAM
impact. We immediately gained 500 feet in altitude. We were hit at the
aircraft’s center of gravity. We both ejected and were captured. l suffered
a spinal compression upon ejection, a broken arm and a concussion from an
old peasant who beat me over the head. I arrived at “Heartbreak” late the
same night. I endured rope sessions twice daily for a total of seven days
before I broke.
I stayed at the following prison camps:
Heartbreak 2 December 1966 – 19 December 1966
Zoo Barn 19 December 1966 – 15 May 1967
Zoo Office 15 May 1967 – 8 June 1967
Zoo Pig Sty 8 June 1967 – 11 August 1967
Plantation 11 August 1967 – 29 August 1970
Faith 29 August 1970 – 24 November 1970
Hanoi Hilton 24 November 1970 – 11 October 1971
Zoo Office 11 October 1970 – 29 April 1972
Hanoi Hilton 29 April 1972 – 13 May 1972
Dog Patch 13 May 1972 – 18 January 1973
Hanoi Hilton 18 January 1973 – 18 February 1973
Home! 18 February 1973
I was in solitary from 2 December 1966 to 19 January 1967. This was not long
but I had a broken arm. I lived with Ben Ringsdorf from 19 January 1967 to
10 December 1969 in a two man room except for two weeks in early 1967 when
Mike Kerr came in with us. Ben and I learned code through the wall from
Lilly (Major Warren R.) and Hivner (Lt. Col. James O.) in April 1967. Ben
and I were scribes for SRO (senior ranking officer) Rich Stratton (Cmdr.
Richard A.) in Plantation and delivered his notes as dictated. I originated
note drops in wash rack drains with a wire brace. I dug up a 20’ piece of
barbed wire, dismantled it and used it to drill holes in the brick walls for
communication. In the communication purge I was defiant and was struck in
the left eye with a fist. This resulted in a closed eye for ten days and
subsequent weakening of the eye muscles and astigmatism.
My basic job was scrounging. If anyone needed something I’d get it or a
substitute. Ask those I lived with for examples. I guess I was also rather
stubborn. But I maintained faith and did not talk anti-U.S. affairs as some
did. I felt I did my job and will do it again if necessary. I made my own
flag from a red American polo shirt, white handkerchief and blue cloth from
a piece of gook sweater. I was a constant dishwasher and anti-GOOK!
My wife’s name is Carole and we have two sons, Bill, born 25 November 1963
and Scott, born 1 May 1965.
James Berger retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He
and Carole reside in Virginia.
Jim Berger was born in 1938 in Charleston, West Virginia. He enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard on August 23, 1956, and served until entering the Army Reserve on August 23, 1959. Berger then transferred to the Air Force Reserve on May 18, 1960, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Air Force Reserve on June 10, 1961, going on active duty beginning October 7, 1961. After completing the Base Civil Engineer Officer Course, he served as a Civil Engineer in San Francisco, California, from December 1961 to June 1964, followed by Undergraduate Pilot Training from June 1964 to June 1965, when he was awarded his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas.
Lt Berger next completed F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training before serving as an F-4 pilot with the 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron at MacDill AFB, Florida, from January to May 1966. After completing Pilot Systems Officer training, Capt Berger served with the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, from October 1966 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on December 2, 1966. After spending 2,271 days in captivity, Maj Berger was released during Operation Homecoming on February 18, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Sheppard AFB, Texas, and then completed Recurrency Pilot Training and Instructor Pilot Training.
His next assignment was as an instructor pilot with the 88th Flying Training Squadron at Sheppard AFB, Texas, from April 1974 to August 1976, followed by service as Field Training Section Chief, Operations Branch Chief, and finally as Commander of the 3612th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Fairchild AFB, Washington, from August 1976 to January 1980. Col Berger served as Commander of the 92nd Services Squadron of the 92nd Combat Support Group at Fairchild AFB from January 1980 to April 1982, and then as Commander of the 305th Services Squadron at Grissom AFB, Indiana, from April 1982 until his retirement from the Air Force on May 1, 1984.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
Captain James R. Berger distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force over North Vietnam on 25 November 1966. On that date, on two separate missions, he conducted air to ground operations against a heavily defended surface to air missile convoy that had been discovered moving South toward the Demilitarized Zone. On the second mission of that day, Captain Berger’s aircraft was hit by hostile ground fire, but the crew continued to press multiple attacks until their ordnance was expended, then with complete disregard for their own safety and completely defenseless, they continued to make multiple dry passes against the defenses drawing enemy ground fire away from the other aircraft in his flight. This courageous and aggressive act against overwhelming odds resulted in the destruction of an important target. By his gallantry and devotion to duty Captain Berger has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.