John Daniel Shewmake, Sr.
Other Personnel In Incident: Richard C. Dority; David L. Ginn; Arlie R. Mangus; Jerry D. Martin; Calvin A. Norris; James R. Pantall; Dennis I. Day; David W. Woods (all classified Killed/Body Not Recovered); Perry C. Kitchens; Billy H. Peeples (remains recovered)
REMARKS: LCU SANK-NO PARABEEP-NO PERS-NO SURV OBS AIR-J
SYNOPSIS: The 5th Transportation Command (Terminal) had the duty of running theextensive Qui Nhon port and served under the U.S. Army Support Command, Qui Nhon. The 5th Transportation Command was later deployed to Da Nang, and had Battalions serving Vung Tau and Cat Lai. Among its duties were support of amphibious operation and supplying ammunition and ordnance to operational units, primarily by heavy boat.
On the afternoon of November 2, 1970, Sgt. Dennis I. Day, Sgt. Richard C. Dority, Sgt. David L. Ginn, Sgt. Perry C. Kitchens, Sgt. Arlie R. Mangus, Sgt. Jerry D. Martin, SSgt. Calvin A. Norris, Sgt. James R. Pantall, SFC John D. Shewmake, Sgt. David W. Woods, and PFC Billie Hammond Peeples were the crew of a landing craft, LCU #63, which departed Da Nang en route to Tan My, South Vietnam on a resupply mission. The LCU was a heavy craft able to carry large loads of ammunition.
At 1010 hours on November 3, 1970, helicopter pilots sighted the craft capsized about 5 nautical miles south of Tan My port. In an initial search by air/sea rescue, however, no sign of the crew of the LCU were observed. There was no apparent hostile action, and the reason for the incident is unknown.
On November 6, the remains of Billy H. Peoples were recovered near Cu Loi Island, fully rigged in a life jacket. During the period of December 4-20, attempts were made to salvage the craft and locate the crew. Divers gained access to all compartments and voids of the craft, but no survivors or evidence of remains were found. Pieces of clothing, small arms ammo, cans and a radio were recovered.
On March 16, 1977, the body of Perry Kitchens was returned to U.S. control and subsequently positively identified. There has been no word of the rest of the crew. The missing eight men were all presumed to have drowned, and the U.S. Army believes there is no chance to ever recover the eight men missing from LCU-63.
There are several descrepancies in the case of LCU-63 which should be noted. First of all, the U.S. Army, the State Department and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Directory lists all the crew except Peeples as Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, or Sergeant First Class, which are ranks one grade above those listed by Defense Department and Joint Casualty Resolution Center records. The lower grades are listed as follows: Ginn, Martin, Pantall, Peeples - E3 or PFC; Day, Dority, Kitchens, Mangus and Woods - E4 - which can be either Corporal or SP4; Norris - E5 or Sergeant; Shewmake - E6 or Staff Sergeant.
Secondly, the Memorial Directory lists the entire crew with the exceptions of Peeples and Kitchens as missing on 4 November 1971 (a year and a day later than all other records).
Third, the military occupational specialties of all 10 men on whom information can be gathered are classified.
It was not uncommon for promotions to be given during the period between the time personnel went missing and the time they were declared dead. This group is classified as having had "non-hostile, died while missing" deaths, leading one to assume that for a brief time, at least, they were declared missing, so that it might be possible to have attained a grade increase during that period. It is uncommon, however for grade increases to be given to those whom are considered dead and non-recoverable. It was also uncommon for a group of 18 and 19 year-olds, as was most of this crew, to attain the rank of sergeant.
Strange things have been known to happen regarding missing men. One pilot was declared dead because his aircraft exploded close to the ground. Later, the pilot, who had ejected in a cloud of smoke, and landed on the ground even before his parachute was fully deployed, was released from POW camp. One Marine, Ronald Ridgeway, was declared dead and actually "buried" in a mass grave in the United States with other men from the same action, only to come home from POW camp in 1973. Mistakes were made, and errors in judgement occurred.
Given that the LCU sank with no witnesses, and sank in the proximity of an island, it is imaginable that the crew could have survived to be captured. This could be said to be supported by the fact that Peeples was found fully outfitted in his life jacket. It is, of course, only conjecture.
Tragically, thousands of reports have been received that indicate Americans are still being held captive in Southeast Asia. Whether the LCU crew is among them is certainly not known, but they could be. The evidence suggests that hundreds are alive, waiting for their country to free them. It's time we got answers.
As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must do everything possible to bring him home alive.
POW/MIA Data & Bios supplied by the P.O.W. NETWORK Skidmore, MO. USA