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"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give"
                       Winston Churchill
          "In war, the first casualty is truth"
                     (c. 523-456 B.C.)


Name: James Neil Tycz
      Rank/Branch: Sergeant/US Marine Corps
      Unit: Company A,
      3rd Reconnaissance Battalion,
      3rd Marine Division (Reinforced)
      Khe Sanh, South Vietnam

      Date of Birth: 10 April 1945 (Milwaukee, WI)
      Home of Record: Milwaukee, WI
      Date of Loss: 10 May 1967
      Country of Loss: South Vietnam
      Loss Coordinates: 163706N 1064404E (XD845485)
      Click coordinates to view (4) maps
      Status in 1973: Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered
      Category: 2
      Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
      Other Personnel In Incident: Malcolm T. Miller; Heinz Ahlmeyer Jr.;
Samuel A. Sharp (missing); Clarence Carlson; Carl Friery and Steven Lopez



SYNOPSIS:  Because the war in Vietnam lacked a defined front line, the enemy
strategy made Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP) a needed tool to
gather intelligence about communist activities throughout Southeast Asia.
The ground commanders who fought the day to day war readily recognized the
need for special reconnaissance units at the onset of the fighting. During
1965 provisional LRRP units were formed with all assets they could spare.

When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam,
NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as
the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before.
This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies
and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more
than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all
assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving
south into the war zone.

On 9 May 1967, 2nd Lt. Heinz Ahlmeyer, Jr., team leader; Sgt. James N. Tycz,
assistant team leader; HM3 Malcolm T. Miller, corpsman; PFC Steven Lopez,
radio operator; LCpl. Samuel A. Sharp, Jr., Clarence Carlson and Carl
Friery, riflemen; comprised the 7-man long range reconnaissance patrol, call
sign "Recon Team (RT) Breaker." Their mission was to locate, identify and
report on enemy activity along a suspected infiltration route used by the
NVA as an extension of the Ho Chi Minh Trail through the rugged jungle
covered mountains northwest of Khe Sanh.

At approximately 1700 hours, the reconnaissance team was inserted by
helicopter onto a hilltop covered in elephant grass approximately 20 miles
south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separated North and South
Vietnam. The landing zone (LZ) was slightly over 1 mile east of a secondary
road generally running northwest to southeast through the mountains, 7 miles
northwest of Khe Sanh and 12 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border,
Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

After the helicopters departed, the team set out security then noticed that
the area was heavily dug in with bunkers and fortified positions Because it
was late, the team was forced to remain on the LZ instead of moving to a
different night defensive position. The NVA bunkers were placed in strategic
positions around this entire hill where they could overlook the valley
below. RT Breaker was right in the center of the crest of the hill. The
closest bunkers were approximately 10 meters (roughly 12 yards) away.

Unaware the Americans had been inserted into the center of their stronghold,
the NVA returned to their fortified position on top of the hill just after
mid-night. The members of RT Breaker waited until the enemy troops were
nearly upon them before opening fire and killing several of the closest NVA
soldiers. The rest of the communist force pulled back to the bunker complex
and immediately began throwing grenades and satchel charges at the
entrenched Marines. Within two hours, all but three of the Americans were
dead, and one of those still alive was unconscious.

In order to keep the NVA from overrunning their position, Steven Lopez, the
radio operator, kept calling in artillery fire support missions from the
batteries located at Khe Sanh. From time to time all night long as the
artillery came in he adjusted it around the hill to wherever he saw enemy
movement. PFC Lopez kept directing the artillery to come closer to their own
position because the enemy was continuously moving through the brush closer
to the team. Fearing they would kill their own men, the artillery gunners
refused to move their fire on top of the hill. According to PFC Lopez,
"because they were dug in at the crest of the hill, he believed the team
would have been safe from the close-in artillery fire."

In his debriefing, Steven Lopez reported as daylight broke over the hilltop,
"I thought they were going to walk on us this morning about dawn and finish
us up, so I kept calling in the gunships. They strafed right next to us." He
added, "They had to; I had to let them strafe right next to us because they
(the NVA) were so close to us." One of the .50 caliber rounds from the Huey
hit the only other live and conscious Marine. At that point Steven Lopez did
not know if his teammate was dead or alive, but thought he was alone.Between
0220 and 0630 hours, three attempts were made to rescue the embattled
reconnaissance team. The first attempt came when Capt. Paul T. Looney,
pilot, brought in his CH46 Sea Night troop transport, call sign "Yankee
Tango 5," while it was still dark. The aircrew dropped flares all over the
area to light up the hill. Even with the artillery and Huey gunship
firepower pouring in the enemy positions, in the end the rescue attempt
proved an impossible task because the ground fire was so heavy. The NVA had
small arms and automatic weapons situated all around the hilltop, and
possibly an anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) gun dug in and hidden from view on
the east side of the hill.

Capt. Looney brought the Sea Night in to approximately 20 feet above the
ground when enemy fire erupted from all sides forcing the aircrew to climb
up and way from the hill. Later the survivors learned that all but the
co-pilot had been wounded. Paul Looney crawled from his seat with a severe
chest wound and died a short time later at the Khe Sanh aid station. When
inspected, the Sea Night had 23 holes in it from NVA small arms and
automatic weapons fire.

Another Sea Night helicopter made the second attempt to snatch RT Breaker
off the hill. Again the troop transport proved to be too bulky and sluggish
to rescue the team with the speed and agility required under the
circumstances. It was also driven back by the intense and accurate ground

At 0912 hours, the Marines tried to insert a ground team as a reaction force
to assist the beleaguered Americans. This insertion attempt also failed due
to the heavy volume of NVA small arms fire directed at their helicopters.
The reaction force returned to Khe Sanh in tact.

At 1007 hours, the last attempt to reach RT Breaker by helicopter was made.
This time the Marines used a force of three UH1 Huey gunships flown by
aircrews from helicopter squadron VMO-3. While two of the Huey's laid down a
withering carpet of machinegun fire to keep the NVA back, the third gunship
slipped in under fire to retrieve the wounded. Major Charles Reynolds and
Lt. David Myers, the aircraft's pilots; kept the Huey at a low steady hover
as Cpl. Jackie Acosta and Cpl. Ronald Zaczek jumped out to assist the three
survivors, Clarence Carlson, Carl Friery and Steve Lopez.The Huey was
overweight as it struggled to pull away from the hilltop battle site. Jackie
Acosta and Ronald Zaczek were the last Americans to see the bodies of 2nd
Lt. Ahlmeyer, HM3 Miller, LCpl. Sharp and Sgt. Tycz lying where the men fell
amid fires ignited by napalm that were located throughout the extraction
zone. Under the circumstance, it was not possible to retrieve the bodies of
the dead at the same time. Because there were a large number of NVA known to
be on the hill, airstrikes were called in after the rescue aircraft cleared
the area.

The survivors reported that Malcolm Miller and James Tycz died from
fragmentation grenade wounds. They also reported that Samuel Sharp and Heinz
Ahlmeyer were killed by small arms rifle fire. Because of the constant
communist presence in the area of loss, no ground search was ever possible
to recover their remains. At the time the formal rescue operation was
terminated, Heinz Ahlmeyer, James Tycz, Samuel Sharp and Malcolm Miller were
immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

In the late 1990s, Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) interviewed
the RT Breaker's survivors along with the aircrews who participated in their
rescue. In May 1998, a Joint Field Activity (JFA) search team reached the
summit of this remote hill and found small remnants of American uniforms.
While there, JFA personnel interviewed local mountain tribesmen and learned
they kept away from the area, considering this isolated hilltop to be
haunted. During this JFA, the team was able to conduct a site survey, but
not able to begin any recovery work.

While the fate of HM3 Miller, 2nd Lt. Ahlmeyer, Sgt. Tycz and LCpl. Sharp is
not in doubt, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his
family, friends and country if at all possible. For other Americans who
remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite

At a Glance

Since the end of the Vietnam War, over 21,000 reports of American Prisoners,
missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government.
Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining
captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fly and fight in many dangerous
circumstances, and were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It
probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country
they so proudly served.

Unsolicited testimonial.

I commanded DET2, JTF-FA from JUL2002-JUL2003 and am glad to see that the Marines and the Navy Corpsman from the LRRP patrol to hill 665 are finally coming home.  In this case we were blessed with success in our efforts to account for and recover our MIAs. God grant us such success in the future. It was a great privilege to play a small part in this endeavor for the year I was in Vietnam.

LTC Steve C. Hawley