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James Herbert Mikels Jr.
Courtesy Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


James Herbert Mikels Jr.

"Marines die, that's what we're here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever. And that means YOU live forever."

Phil Hartman

James Herbert Mikels Jr. was born to James H. Mikels Sr. and Edith M. Taggart Mikels on October 30, 1947, in Wheeling, West Virginia. His parents were married on October 29, 1938, in West Liberty, West Virginia, when his dad was 18 and his mom was 16. James was an only son and the youngest of four children. He had three sisters: Betty Lou Mikels Ennis, Nancy Mikels Ritchea, and Marjorie Mikels Ennis. ("Sgt James Herbert Mikels Jr.," Find A Grave, accessed 24 March 2021,

Growing up, James was commonly referred to as "Jimmy" by his family and friends. Jimmy attended Clinton Grade School until the third grade. He then attended West Liberty from third grade to tenth grade when it was closed. He then attended Warwood High School in Wheeling, West Virginia. Jimmy would later receive his high school diploma from the U.S. Marine Corps soon after enlisting in April 1965. Prior to his enlistment, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserves for six months.

Jimmy grew up near West Liberty in Ohio County, West Virginia, which is a small town close to Wheeling. Wheeling was always one of the bigger cities in West Virginia with a population of around 58,900 people in 1950. Wheeling was a major industrial site for steel mills and coal mines. According to documents found, Jimmy's father, James, worked for Gunite Construction Company. ("Population of Wheeling, WV," Population U.S., 2016, accessed 24 March 2021,; "Timeline of Wheeling, West Virginia," Wikipedia, last edited 13 January 2021, accessed 24 March 2021,,_West_Virginia.)

The Vietnam War lasted from November 1, 1955, to April 30, 1975. The United States entered the War with Vietnam in an attempt to prevent the spread of communism. When the North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked two United States destroyers on August 5, 1964, in the Gulf of Tonkin, it gave the U.S. president new authority to wage war, creating the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. More than 500,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Vietnam by the year 1969. On March 29, 1973, the U.S. soldiers left Vietnam. The casualties of the war included over 58,220 Americans, 1.1 million North Vietnamese soldiers, and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers killed.

Jimmy served for three years on active duty in the Marines. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, for jungle warfare training prior to his deployment to Vietnam. After the completion of his training, he was one of 12 sergeants to be assigned to an infantry unit. On August 20, 1967, he began his tour in Khe Sanh, South Vietnam. His military occupation skill (MOS) was 0141 (Administration Man) and his service number was 2137733. He was the chief office clerk where he served in the H & S Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Amphibian Force. On February 28, 1968, he was one of the 19 passengers along with the two pilots and two crew chiefs onboard a Boeing Sea Knight helicopter (CH-46D, Tail Number 153360). Jimmy was returning from rest and recuperation (R&R) leave after visiting a childhood friend, Phil Todd, who was also in the Marines and from West Liberty, West Virginia, where they met up in Okinawa, Japan.

Jimmy was making his way back to his duty station in Vietnam when he was hitching a ride on this helicopter, as it was on a mission to bring a repair crew in for a damaged aircraft when they were hit by enemy heavy automatic weapons fire. At 1229 hours, the CH-46D was shot down, seven kilometers West-Southwest of Thon Khe (the Rock Pile) while en route to Dong Ha then on to Khe Sanh. They were near the border of Cam Lo and Hoa Huong Districts when the helicopter caught fire, crashed, and burned on impact, killing 23 men onboard the helicopter. There was one survivor who was severely burned and succumbed to his injuries within days of the crash. Unfortunately, at just 20 years of age and only six months into his tour, Sgt. James H. Mikels Jr. was one of the 23 men killed on that fateful day.

His remains were recovered a few hours after the crash and were returned to the U.S., where he was buried at Short Creek Methodist Church Cemetery, West Liberty, Ohio County, West Virginia. These are some of the awards that Sergeant Mikels Jr. could have possibly earned while he was a Marine: Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal. ("James Herbert Mikels Jr.," Honor, accessed 24 March 2021,
Military marker for Sgt. James H. Mikels Jr. in Short Creek Methodist Church Cemetery. <i>Find A Grave</i> photo courtesy Antonio Gonzales

Military marker for Sgt. James H. Mikels Jr. in Short Creek Methodist Church Cemetery. Find A Grave photo courtesy Antonio Gonzales

Taken at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. <i>Find A Grave</i> photo used with permission

Taken at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Find A Grave photo used with permission

Sgt. James "Jimmy" H. Mikels Jr. is memorialized and will always be remembered as his name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Panel 41E, Line 69. He is also honored on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston, West Virginia, for his ultimate sacrifice to our country.

Article prepared by Abagail Thaxton and Benjamin Thaxton, George Washington High School JROTC
March 2021


James Herbert Mikels Jr.

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