Touch The Wall Fingers touching James W Herrick Jr's name on the Wall

James W Herrick Jr


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Tribute by Roger Herrick, Jim's Younger Brother
Amazing Tribute to Jim, from brother Paul's friend Larry McCormick
Chance meeting with Vietnam Veteran Dick Diller who last flew with Jim
The Sandy's Party Suit

Why I volunteer centers around my two current MIA's, James Herrick and Humberto "Rocky" Versace.

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James (Jim) Herrick, at flight training at Webb Air Force Base, Big Spring, TX
Photograph from the Herrick collection

Rank/Branch: 1st Lt - US Air Force
Unit: 602nd Special Operations Squadron, NKP
Loss Date: Missing in Action October 27, 1969
Country of Loss: Laos

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Jim's rubbing sheet from my database program

Tribute written by Roger Herrick, 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



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Last photograph taken of Jim in his A1H aircraft on October 26, 1969

Photograph from the Herrick family collection

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Another pilot took this last photograph of James flying his A1H aircraft over Laos on October 26, 1969,

Photograph from the Herrick family collection

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A rock taken from the runway from his last mission

Photograph from the Herrick collection

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Certificate of Authenticity of the rock from the runway on Jim's last mission

certificate from the Herrick family collection


Amazing Tribute to Jim, from brother Paul's friend Larry McCormick

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"Sharon, Larry McCormick is a good friend of our brother Paul. Just about one year ago he started building a remote-controlled scale model of the Douglas Skyraider. He painted it with Jim's squad insignia, put Jim's name plate on the side and used the tail number of the plane in which Jim made his last flight." (Roger Herrick's email June 26, 2008)

"The evening was sunny and calm tonight, although a little hot & muggy so my wife Pat (photographer) off into the wild blue. It was a very successful 1st flight. It consisted of take off, climb out, trimmed her for level flight, did some stalls - flaps and no flaps, set her up for landing configuration and brought her back safely to terra firma. I thanked God for a successful flight. I was thinking of you and of your brother who inspired me during the build of this model."

Permission granted from Larry McCormick and photograph's sent to the Herrick family collection

Chance meeting with Vietnam Veteran Dick Diller who last flew with Jim

In 2000, Roger and Cindy went to one of the traveling memorials in Haight Village where they encountered a volunteer, Dick Diller who asked if they needed any help. But there in a town where they did not reside, they found someone who could give so much information to help the Herrick family fill in some spaces missing in their quest to learn more about their Son and brother.

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Permission granted from Dick Diller and Amy J Van Horn sent to the Herrick family collection


Roger Herrick explains the story behind his brother's Party Suit

Fighter pilots in the Vietnam war wore camouflaged flight suits to help the pilot avoid being spotted in the event of a shoot down over enemy territory. For informal, non-combat occasions, many fighter pilot units had other, more brightly colored flight suits - uniforms the pilots called “party suits.” Each unit’s party suit was a different color to distinguish the units from one another.

It’s unclear how the orange flight suit was adopted by the 602nd squadron as their party suit, but it may be because some of the original 602nd pilots were Air Defense Command (ADC) background, a stateside command, where the orange color made it easier for rescue crews to spot a downed pilot. Many of the ADC units were single fighter squadrons located at bomber and tanker bases and ADC missions were scrambles to intercept unknowns coming into U.S. coastal areas. Thus the orange flight suit was a status symbol at the Officers’ Clubs.

Pilots had to be in the top of their class to get a fighter assignment, and were considered to be the “top dogs”. Pilots who were given the opportunity to choose the Skyraider assignment were the best of the fighter pilots. The 602nd was one of three Skyraider squadrons in the Vietnam war. Duties of the 602nd pilots included the well-known “Sandy” search-and-rescue missions.

This flight suit belonged to James W. Herrick, Jr. James grew up in Panora and graduated from Panora High School in 1963. He completed ROTC at Iowa State University and after flight training chose to serve in the 56th Special Operations Wing, 602nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand where he flew the Douglas A1 Skyraider. His plane crashed on October 27, 1969 in the rugged mountains of northern Laos near the border of North Vietnam. His body has not been recovered.

A Sandy's "first-hand" narrative on the "Party Suit"

About June of 1967, the 602nd moved from South Vietnam to Udorn RTAFB because the war was getting hotter. The action, as far as rescues went, was in North Vietnam and Laos. Udorn was considerably further north than any U.S. base in South Vietnam. My source for the early days, Bud Barlow of the 602nd, says that too many Thuds were dropping too many bombs, without FAC's, when the primary target was socked in. That resulted in too many friend lies being zapped in Laos, which Ambassador Sullivan did not like. Hence A-1's had a FAC mission, but I always thought that the 602nd moved to Udorn because of the rescue mission. The real reason probably rests somewhere between the two extremes and is a combination of both.

Anyway, when I got there the strike missions were used to get the newly hatched A-1 drivers used to being shot at - and to gain confidence in accurate ordnance delivery. We used the FAC/RECCE missions to season a "new-bee" for the Sandy mission. Most guys were good enough - after about three months - to assume Sandy alert. The new guys, of course, were wingmen. At that time we had airborne holding points in Laos so as to be closer to battle damaged airplanes if the aircrew had to eject. They got to be pretty good at tactical formation because, most of the time we burned gas, made noise, and did lots of orbits. That meant a bunch of 90 and 180 degree turns. That meant crossovers and smart flying. That's how they got to be pretty good tactical formation pilots.

Remember, this was the early days. Tactics changed, as did Sandy qualification standards, as time went on. Jim Herrick might have been among the last "602nd Sandy’s." Toward the end, and after my time, all three NKP A-1 squadrons took turns at Sandy alert - and the risk. As I recall, the other squadrons had party suits as well. Some were pretty bizarre. But remember, the 602nd was FIRST and not to be confused with the 1st ACS.

As to the origin of the 602nd party suit, the fighter guys at Udorn had party suits. They flew jets and we flew leaky, old, piston engine airplanes. We felt that we had to have party suits as well. Across the street from the main gate at Udorn was a tailor shop - Amarjit's. Since we were Sandy’s, we quite naturally, wanted sandy colored party suits. The closest to the sandy color was orange Teteron. We also wanted old fashioned helmets - with goggles embroidered thereon - to complete the illusion of the old - really old - fighter pilot days. Of course, in order to complete the picture we also had to have scarves. White and long flowing ones.

Turns out that Thailand have some unusual no-no's. One of which turned out to be a taboo with respect to touching someone else's head. In order to manufacture the helmet, one had to have one's head measured. That, of course, never happened. Hence, all party suits were orange Teteron, no helmets, but with a one meter white scarf.

John Carlson, 602 FS(C) April 19, 2007

Orange Flight Suit, Donated by the Herrick family to Panora City Library on July 1, 2006, From the Herrick family photograph collection, donated by Maria Herrick, daughter of Roger Herrick.

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Permission to use some information on James Herrick was granted by:
Mary and Chuck Schantag, P.O.W. NETWORK
Patty Hopper, Task Force Omega

My MIAs - Humberto Versace
My MIAs - Bracelets of my MIA's and POW's