Another Soldier Comes Home for Christmas
I wonder when they finally took his Christmas stocking down.
What year did the family remove his vacant chair from the Christmas dining room table?
His name was Lt. Commander James R. Bauder.
The date was September 21, 1966.
Bauder and his fellow pilot , Lt. JG James B. Mills, took off in their F4B Phantom fighter jet, for a bombing run over North Vietnam.They were accompanied by a fellow Phantom.
At some point in the bombing, Bauder’s plane went missing. There was no air to ground fire or explosions according to the second plane. There was no radio communication or radar from the carrier.
After an extensive air search with no results, both Bauder and Mills were delcared M.I.A.
That’s Missing in Action.
September 21, 1966.
It was a Wednesday in the United States.
That’s 51 years ago.
MIA. A status that, at least temporarily, lingers between life and death.
It leaves a family and loved ones in limbo. I cannot imagine the anguish of not knowing.
The years went on. No trace of the plane or pilots.
In the years since the war’s end, there has been cooperation between the Vietnamese and Americans over recovering the remains of U.S. MIAs. An underwater search team spent part of Spring 2017 meticulously searching the area where the plane might have gone down. Sadly, nothing was found.
A few months later (this was reported in a subsequent NPR program) a Vietnamese fisherman snagged his nets on an underwater object.
It was Bauder and Mill’s plane. The mystery was solved after 51 years.
A femur bone was recovered that matched the DNA of Bauder’s sister, Jane.
The remains of an American soldier, in this case, a naval aviator, began its long journey home.
I have no idea how the process works of repatriating the remains of an MIA hero to their family.
I’m sure it’s done quickly and with great dignity.
And whether he’s buried in Arlington Cemetery or among California family members who lived and died wondering about his fate, I hope they brought James Bauder home before Christmas.
Merry Christmas, Captain.
Capt. James R. Bauder
I don’t travel to Washington, DC often, but always make a visit to the Vietnam Wall. It is by far the most memorable monument in an area of national icons. There are several names I always make sure to touch. Men from my community who paid the ultimate price in a far-off and unpopular war.
I’m adding Captain Bauder’s name to that list.
If you beat me there, take time to find him and touch his name.
He’s waiting for your visit.
Panel 10E, Row 126
More Reading/Bibliography on the Bauder/Mills MIA plane