WASHINGTON (AFP) – The remains of a
A soldier of fortune, McGovern flew in China during World War II with the Flying Tigers and was credited with destroying two enemy aircraft in the air and five on the ground.
He was captured byduring the Korean war and was held as a prisoner of war for several months.
In Vietnam he worked under contract for the CIA-owned Civil Air Transport.
McGovern was killed May 6, 1954 on what was to be a final mission to air drop supplies to the last French forces holding out at Camp Isabelle during the battle of Dien Bien Phu.
“As the aircraft approached the drop zone, it was hit by anti-aircraft fire,” thesaid in a statement. “The pilots attempted to fly southwest to the relative safety of Laos, but crashed along the Song (River) Ma in Houaphan Province.”
A joint US-Laotian military team visited the site of the wreck in 1997 and 1998, finding small fragments of aircraft wreckage but no graves.
They returned in 2002 and excavated the site, recovering human remains from an isolated burial.
Using dental comparisons and mitrochondrial DNA, scientists identified the remains as McGovern’s.
The French lost the battle of Dien Bien Phu, losing some 3,000 French soldiers, with the Vietnamese dead estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000.
But the battle marked a turning point in the conflict, paving the way towards independence for Vietnam and ending almost a century of French colonialism in Indochina.
Memorial Day Tribute to “Earthquake” McGoon
By John E. Carey
James B. “Earthquake McGoon” McGovern Jr. was a World War II fighter ace with nine enemy aircraft to his credit. He flew for Gen. Claire L. Chennault and the 14th Air Force: the famous Curtiss P-40 Warhawk squadron with the tiger shark teeth painted on the noses of their aircraft.
“Earthquake McGoon” was a 1940s cartoon character that shook the earth when he walked. James McGovern earned the nickname “Earthquake” because he always lived his life bigger and bolder than most others.
James McGovern died in Laos plane crash in May 6, 1954, when his C-119 Flying Boxcar cargo plane was hit by ground fire while parachuting a howitzer to the besieged French garrison at Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam. The day after the crash and deaths of McGovern and Buford, the garrison at Dien Bien Phu surrendered.
At the end of World war II, James B. “Earthquake McGoon” McGovern Jr. went to work for Civil Air Transport (CAT), an airline formed by Gen. Claire L. Chennault and owned by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The airline allowed the United States to covertly support operations of military allies. McGovern died while supporting the French militarty in Vietnam.
The fact that CAT was owned by the CIA and the CIA was used to support the French military in Vietnam was classified until the 1990s.
During the American involvement in Vietnam, Cat becake known as “Air America” but remained a part of the CIA.
James B. “Earthquake McGoon” McGovern’s skeletal remains were discovered in an unmarked grave in northern Laos in 2002. They were identified in September 2006 by laboratory experts at the U.S. military’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. McGovern is credited as being one of the first two Americans to die in combat in Vietnam, the other being Wallace Buford.
On February 24, 2005, James McGovern was posthumously awarded (along with his co-pilot Wallace Buford, and 6 other surviving pilots) the Legion of Honour with the rank of Knight by the President of France for their actions to supply Dien Bien Phu during the 57 day siege.